ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Threat to Dissent

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We, in the women’s movement, state our strong and unequivocal protest against the first information report (FIR) registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against Lawyers Collective, in which they have clearly targeted senior advocates Indira Jaising and Anand Grover for their work as lawyers, and role as defenders of human rights. Their track record of defending the rights of the marginalised, discriminated and oppressed is long and indisputable.

Jaising, since the 1980s, has unwaveringly stood by the Constitution’s fundamental rights and taken up cases for women’s groups as well as women who faced the brunt of gender inequality. Her commitment to women’s rights is seen in her involvement with the 1983 changes in the rape laws, in securing inheritance rights for women as in the Mary Roy case, in securing guardianship for single women in the Githa Hariharan case, against sexual harassment in the Rupan Deol Bajaj case and campaigning for the formulation and enactment of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. Besides women, Jaising has defended evicted pavement dwellers and the Bhopal gas tragedy victims.

Anand Grover took up cudgels for two decades on behalf of the LGBTQI+ people in 2001 when a public interest litigation was filed against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. He and the Lawyers Collective have been important actors in the advocacy and campaigns for the articulation of the rights of sexual and gender minorities as well as drafting anti-discrimination legislation for public health. He has represented the Cancer Patients Aid Association and individuals against the patenting and pricing of drugs, and played a key role in the formulation of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017.

The Lawyers Collective’s Grover and Jaising as legal practitioners have provided legal representation and voice to the most vulnerable and have sought accountability from the most powerful. The FIR targeting Lawyers Collective is not only a blatant attempt to silence them, but also meant to impede access to justice for the most marginalised.

We must assert that defending the democratic rights of citizens has acquired a new meaning as a direct result of the work of Jaising and Grover. Why should these two stalwarts of human rights, whose role in society has been crucial to guaranteeing and safeguarding democracy and the rule of law, be targeted by the government? Over the past few years, both these advocates have also fearlessly spoken out against the government’s actions which have been corroding the spirit of the Constitution and the problems within the judiciary. They have consistently raised the issue of governmental accountability. That seems to be the reason that they are being harassed.

To accuse such lawyers and their organisation of receiving funds for activities not listed as objectives in the memorandum of association reflects a very poor understanding of the Constitution and a sinister design to roll back the gains of women’s movements in India. It is our collective loss, not theirs alone, just as the threat is to us all, through them. We stand with them in this fight for accountability since we believe that a democracy needs dissenting voices and the freedom of expression to begin widespread public conversations.

We condemn this brazen targeting of senior advocates and human rights defenders, and call upon the union government and its instruments to cease the harassment of the Lawyers Collective and withdraw the case against them.

Forum Against Oppression of Women

MUMBAI

Updated On : 24th Jun, 2019

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