Tribunal Strikes Down SIMI Ban – But Communalism Continues in Courts

On 5 August 2008, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal headed by Justice Geeta Mittal struck down the ban on SIMI. The judgement was greeted in characteristic fashion by the Hindu Right led by the BJP and a major section of the corporate media, who cried hoarse that SIMI is a terrorist outfit – no matter what the evidence says. However, this was expected from the Hindutva brigade and its corporate propagandists. Mukul Kesavan, in his column in The Telegraph on 7 August wrote-"There is something reassuring about a mainstream judge....resisting the anxieties of the time, to insist that the government meets the standards of evidence set out in the law. The reason this is important is because it allows us to re-invest our faith in the system." Justice Mittal’s verdict was indeed a valiant one considering the tense atmosphere created by the Bangalore and Ahmedabad blasts and with investigating agencies hinting at a possible SIMI involvement(though without any proof) in both the outrages. But unfortunately for Kesavan and others who seek reassurances to “reinvest our faith in the system”, the day before the article was published (presumably after it was written), the Supreme Court reinforced the ban and sought a reply from SIMI – in effect characteristically putting the onus on the accused to prove his innocence, thus turning on its head the judicial norm of “assumed innocent till proven guilty.” The very next day Justice B N Aggarwal, the second senior-most member of the judicial aristocracy refused to hear the Ghaziabad General Provident Fund scam when confronted by senior lawyer Shanti Bhushan after the judge refused to allow proceedings against the accused judges without the permission of the Chief Justice of India. And on 8 August, in line with the anti-people judgement in the Singur land acquisition case by the Kolkata High Court, the Supreme Court gave the go ahead to the Posco and Sterlite projects in Orissa, in spite of overwhelming opposition of the local people. Those verdicts, if anything, reinforced the increasingly anti-people bent and character of the Indian judiciary.

Subsequently, the state machinery and media have gone all out to pin the blame for the Ahmedabad blasts on the SIMI. It will again take years to prove if this time around, there is any evidence to indict SIMI.

SIMI is, no doubt, a fundamentalist outfit. We are not called to agree with its views. But the persecution of its members, and branding of them as ‘terrorists’ without a shred of evidence for the last 8 years (since the ban on SIMI by the NDA Government in 2001) can never be condoned. No organization should be banned just because the state wants it banned. There should be sufficient grounds and incontrovertible evidence before an organization is declared illegal. Surely a good place to start is the VHP and the Bajrang Dal, two organizations whose overt involvement in the 2002 genocide in Gujarat is something which they themselves do not deny?

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