By Anirudh Singla
The results of the elections in Uttar Pradesh has provided a lifeline for several politicians in the state associated with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). BJP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has moved a bill to withdraw over 20,000 ‘politically motivated’ cases which are pending against numerous politicians and officials. The CM himself is facing hate crime charges in the Allahabad High Court. This is despite attempts by the new government to portray a cleaner image of its administration.
Yogi Adiyanath made an announcement that the cases would be withdrawn on Thursday in the state assembly, after which a bill was tabled specifying that cases registered under Sections 107 and 109 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) would be withdrawn. Both CrPC sections cover breaches of the peace. In the cabinet meeting of December 5, 2017, the decision to withdraw the cases was suggested, however, the idea was kept secret while another act—against organized crime—was announced publicly. In the discussion on this bill, entitled the Uttar Pradesh Control of Organised Crime Bill (UPCOCB 2017), the house was assured that there would not be any misuse of the existing law.
The Chief Minister was quoted as saying, “This government has neither misused any law nor will it misuse this one. We are here to provide security to people. The opposition is making statements against the proposed law. Opposing it would mean defending those indulging in organised crime.” In response to this speech the leader of the opposition, Ram Govind Chaudhary of the Samajwadi Party, retorted ominously that under the new legislation, “Newspapers and news channels will have to take prior permission from the police to publish news items. Such restrictions were imposed on the media during the Emergency.”
Charges against the Chief Minister
Yogi Adityanath has been accused of being the prime instigator of communal riots that broke out in Gorakhpur in 2007. In addition, the deliverance of several hate speeches against members of particular communities based on religion and caste have also led to the charges currently pending against the Chief Minister. Prem Nath Rai, a member of the Communist Party state secretariat, has warned the government about ignoring these charges, “In principle, we agree that politicians are often targeted with false and unjustified cases. But government needs to come out with clear details on the issue. There should be no attempt to help criminal politicians in the garb of this move.”
All the original police case diaries and government records involving the hate charge have been demanded by the court. It has been noted that the government’s decision on the 20,000 withdrawn cases may also impact this case against Yogi Adityanath. However, there is a difference in that the information report (FIR) that led to the charges was filed by a local resident of Gorakhpur and not the government prosecution service. Manohar Singh, a Senior Advocate in the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court, has noted the anomaly, “This case is different as the FIR in this hate case was filed not by government but by Parvez, a resident of Gorakhpur. But the government can take a stand that this is a political case and Yogi was not directly involved with this.”
BJP is going on the offence
Defending the government’s stance on the withdrawal of charges, BJP state general secretary Vijay Bahadur Pathak urged that the “UP government’s decision should be welcomed by opposition parties. There is no need to be suspicious about its move. Chief Minister’s statement is a proof that BJP government is committed to strengthening democracy and political discourse.”
Sources in the government are claiming that the process of data collection in these cases has begun and that they are already being handled under a newly defined ‘political’ category of charges. The Law Department has also been instructed to prepare a list of such cases, however, according to legal procedure, it is ultimately the trial court’s discretion as to whether or not to accept the government’s plea that charges be withdrawn in certain cases. However, Congress state spokesman, Virendra Madan, has raised questions about the process, “It needs to be seen what government actually means by political cases. Possibility is that the move can be aimed at also bailing out BJP workers and leaders from cases of serious crime.”
It is ironic that this comes at a time when the government is taking steps to portray a cleaner image of themselves. There are many angles to a large number of cases against government officials and supporters in Uttar Pradesh, but the angle that the government is currently presenting to the public is far from satisfying.
Featured Image Source: Flickr
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