Open Letter to A Co-worker Who is Presently the Attorney General For India

venkataramani attorney general of india

Dear Venkataramani,

Recall that 40 years back in 1983-84 we – including you and me – were all active members of Jhuggi Jhopri Nivasi Adhikar Samiti (JJNAS). Many of the members of JJNAS contribute articles for e.g. Walter Fernandes, Prof. Shamsul Islam, Dr. Aurobindo Ghosh, Tapan Bose, Sumanta Banerjee, PUCL,  PUDR and Ankur to name a few. CC is edited by Binu Mathew.

A fact-finding team of three of us had gone to Derawalan Nagar, North Delhi to enquire into the razing of dwelling units by bulldozer. The team included your good-self; Dr. V. P. Srivastava and myself. We had prepared the report and made a demand on the administration inter alia to rehabilitate the victims made homeless. Remember a girl child named Parvati had died during this demolition drive. JJNAS had roundly condemned the demolition without notice.

I also recall your concern and efforts when JJNAS learnt of the death of a slum dweller, Wilson who had died due to police torture on the mere suspicion that he had stolen a ceiling fan. I cherish those times when a movement against demolition of dwelling units became a force to reckon with. Then 1984 genocide of Sikhs happened and most of us got involved in relief and rehabilitation of these victims.

Under the present regime demolitions (without notice) of dwelling units have become a practice especially after acts of social violence get reported. I am sure all this must be weighing heavy on your heart because I worked with you for years at that time. You were a source of inspiration to me.

I understand that the post of Attorney General for India is a political appointment. But recall India’s first Attorney General for India, M. C. Setalvad who could stand up to the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru on issues where Mr. Setalvad differed. Yesterday’s issue of carries a piece by a perceptive and sensitive journalist Mr. Vidya Bhushan Rawat. The title of the piece is ‘The Supreme Court Must Stop Bulldozer Raj’. You may find time to go through it.

On 4 January 2019 the Indian Express carried a piece titled ‘The country’s counsel’ written by C. Raj Kumar, Dean, Jindal Global Law School and Khagesh Gautam, Associate Professor, Jindal Global Law School.

“The Constitution does not provide for Attorney General of India. It provides for Attorney General for India. This would seem to indicate that the AG’s client is not the government but rather the people of India.” and

“The AG is “Attorney General for India”, not attorney general for the government of India. In that, the AG is special for he acts “for India” and not the government. There is a constitutional expectation on the AG and other legal officers to exercise independent judgement and provide wise counsel to the government,..” and also

“In our system, the AG is obliged to speak truth to power and help the government to adhere to the Constitution.”

My friend Venkataramani, you have the powers to summon the files pertaining to the Nuh violence and the subsequent demolition. The buck stops at you. You alone can decide how justice could be done to Muslims. This one time exercise by you could send a message to the administration, police and local government to treat Muslims as human beings firstly and Indians in the same breath. If you can do that you will be remembered in history as someone who saved the country from a potential civil war. Of course you must weigh the risks involved in taking a principled stand. Besides I make this demand of you to stand up to the stature of Justice H. R. Khanna. After all during the JJNAS movement you inspired a lot of activists.

As for me, my friend Venkataramani, I am precisely where I was 40 years back. I have no status to speak of but my conscience is clear. I may be dimwitted but I do understand that power and prestige are big factors for most individuals. I am not apologizing for any liberty I may have taken in addressing you this letter. I do not know much about protocols. If my letter merits legal action against me so be it.

Thanks and best wishes,

P.S. Sahni

(Presently I am a member of PIL Watch Group and ABVA Collective.]

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