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Release Upendra Nayak


The Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) condemns the arrest of peoples’ advocate Upendra Nayak by the Paralakhemundi police in Odisha, on the night of 20 February 2018. Nayak was produced before the Mohana, Gajapati ­judicial magistrate on 21 February, and subsequently sent to R Udayagiri jail. Shockingly, he has been arrested in connection to 10 criminal cases, under serious charges like sedition, waging war against the state, and under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), wherein he himself was the advocate defending the accused.

Nayak is more than 65 years of age and a regular legal practitioner in the courts of Gajapati, one of the southern districts in Odisha, where Adivasis constitute 51% of the population. Nayak has been defending innocent tribals of Gajapati, who have been arrested in fabricated cases, as part of anti-Maoists operations. All these cases were registered in 2009 and 2010, in which he successfully defended a number of innocents, including Arati Majhi, Pasanti Patamijhi, Munita Lakshmi, with all the trials ending in acquittals. 

However, this type of arrest, where the state has identified a lawyer with the cause of his client, is becoming a common practice in the so-called “terrorist cases” or Maoist trials. The IAPL observed, in earlier fact-finding missions to Chhattisgarh and Madurai, how advocates Rekha Praganiya and A Murugan were arre­sted in connection with criminal cases in which they themselves had been defending other ­accused. Special anti-terror laws such as UAPA with broad and vague definitions of conspiracy, association, and culpability ­often help the state to carry out such arrests.

This practice is in violation of the ­“Basic Principles of the Role of Lawyers,”­ adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, which clearly states that “lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.” By hindering Nayak from fearlessly practising his profession and defending his client, the state has also violated Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution, a fundamental right, that guarantees a person the right to practise any profession.

In the light of these injustices, the IAPL demands: the immediate and unconditional release of Nayak; a stop on the practice of identifying lawyers with the causes of their clients; and the repeal of the draconian UAPA.

Surendra Gadling, Sudha Bharadwaj

Indian Association of People’s Lawyers

Updated On : 1st Mar, 2018


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