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Noam Chomsky, Other Eminent Academics ‘Deeply Disturbed’ at SC’s Zakia Jafri Judgement

International scholars have urged the Supreme Court of India to release Teesta Setalvad, RB Sreekumar and “expunge the derogatory remarks” contained in the judgement.
Noam Chomsky, Other Eminent Academics ‘Deeply Disturbed’ at SC’s Zakia Jafri Judgement

Zakia Jafri. Image Courtesy: NDTV

Prominent academics from the West have come out sharply against the recent judgements delivered by the Supreme Court in the Zakia Jafri case, which led to the arrests of activist Teesta Setalvad and former Gujarat Director-General of Police RB Sreekumar. They believe that this judgement will have a direct bearing on the future of civil liberties and human rights in India.

In a statement released on Friday, intellectuals like Noam Chomsky (MIT), Sheldon Pollock (Colombia University), Wendy Brown (Institue of Advanced Studies Princeton), Bhiku Parekh (House of Lords, UK), Arjun Appadurai (Max Planck Institute, Germany) and others found three worrying aspects of SC’s judgement in the case related to the 2002 Godhra riots.

“First, since the petitioners (Teesta and Zakia) had challenged the findings of the SIT (Special Investigation Team) report that gave a clean chit to the Gujarat government for the riots following the Godhra incident, and asked the Supreme Court to order an independent investigation, for the Court to dismiss their appeal on the basis of the very same impugned SIT report seems to us to be unjust.”

“Second, while dismissing their appeal, the Court has quite gratuitously and wholly unfairly attributed ulterior motives to the petitioners. This has even emboldened the executive to arrest co-petitioner Teesta Setalvad, along with witness RB Sreekumar, both of whom have also been denied bail.”

The statement added, “If any patient, prolonged, peaceful, and entirely legitimate pursuit of justice through the due process, is called ‘keeping the pot boiling’, then this remark, quite apart from being offensive, discourages people from approaching the Court on any matter relating to excesses or dereliction on the part of the executive.”

Finally, the third point highlighted by the academics was that the SC had passed these uncalled-for obiter dicta “without even giving a hearing to those against whom these remarks are directed; this sets an unfortunate precedent in jurisprudence.”

The statement has surged the SC to take suo motu notice of the fall-out of the judgement, in this case, to expunge the derogatory remarks contained in it, and to dismiss the cases against those who have been arrested on the strength of these remarks.

The undersigned include Carol Rovane (Colombia University), Charles Taylor (McGill University, Canada), Martha Nussbaum (University of Chicago), Robert Pollin (University of Massachusetts), Akeel Bilgrami (Colombia University), and Gerald Epstein (University of Massachusetts).

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