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PUCL: ‘Conviction of Seema Azad is a glaring travesty of Justice’

PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES
Founder: Jayaprakash Narayan
270-A Patparganj, Opposite Anandlok Apartments, Mayur Vihar- Phase I,
Delhi 110091

New Delhi,
15th June, 2012

‘Conviction of Seema Azad is a glaring travesty of Justice’

Convention on 26th June, on the anniversary of Emergency

Press Release

New Delhi, 15th June 2012: “The conviction of civil rights activist Seema Azad for terrorism, unlawful activities, sedition and waging war against the state is a glaring travesty of justice.” This was the view shared by all the speakers at a press conference today. Justice Sachar argued that judgment of the session’scourt is based on little evidence and little application of mind. The only allegation against her is that she was in the possession of literature that the prosecution argued was illegal. But between possessing literature and committing an offence is a wide chasm that cannot be bridged by the flimsy arguments brought forth by the prosecution and accepted by the judge.

Senior Advocate Ravi Kiran argued that filing of the criminal case against Seema Azad was premeditated. This is clearly visible from even a cursory reading of the FIR. Even after the arrest of Seema Azad, the prosecution continued with its sinister motives. The literature ostensibly seized from Seema Azad which had been sealed as evidence, was opened by the prosecution without any authorization. In normal circumstances this would make the entire evidence suspect. But the judge continued to rely on this evidence. Furthermore, he argued that Seema Azad was given on police remand after the completion of the statutory period of 90 days. It is in this illegal custody that the police claim to have two cell phones which are also being used as evidence against her. Given the delay and the circumstances of this custody, the possibility of wrongdoing by the prosecution cannot be ruled out.

Senior Journalist Anand Swaroop Verma has been spearheading a campaign against the verdict in the Seema Azad case and arguing for her release. He argued that the judgment was prejudiced and is an attempt to silence protest against government policy. He argued that Seema was being targetted since she was a bold voice against the takeover of farmer’s lands and livelihood and exposing the reality of the witch-hunt of Muslim youth promoted by the government and its security establishment in Azamgarh.

Writer and poet Neelabh, who met Seema more than 6 times since her incarceration urged all writers and cultural activists to come together and put their weight behind this unjust conviction and ensure that Seema and Vishwavijay are released urgently. He also said that Seema Azad’s case should become the rallying point for all to come together and begin a discussion on how we can prevent the State from becooming vindictive.

A large number of academics, journalists, and representatives of various social organisations have already pledged their support to campaign for the immediate and uncinditional release of Seema Azad and her husband. Justice Sachar pointed out that it is within the powers of the state government to withdraw prosecution. He urged the new government in Uttar Pradesh to nullify the wrongdoings of the predecessor government and withdraw the false charges against activists’ lodges by that government.

Mahipal Singh & Kavita Srivastava ( national secretaries)

For further details contact: Kavita Srivastava – 09351562965

Update in the Seema Azad Case

13th June 2012

This is short note to give you a quick update in the Seema Azad case.

At a few hours notice a meeting was called on the 13th of June, 2012 at the Gandhi Peace Foundation against the conviction by a trial court sentencing the Seema Azad and her husband Vishwa Vijay to life imprisonment. the meeting was called to share the travesty of justice in the flawed judgement condemning Ms Seema Azad and her husband Vishwa Vijay for life in prison on ridiculous grounds. Seema Azad the organising secretary of PUCL, Uttar Pradesh is a cultural and literary activist based in Allahabad. She was the editor of Dastak, a monthly magazine.

The Delhi meeting was attended by more than 35 persons who included Justice Rajinder Sachar, ex chief justice of the Delhi and Sikkim high Court, and former president of the PUCL, Ravi Kiran Jain, Vice President PUCL and Senior Counsel Supreme Court & Allahabad High Court and was her lawyer for Seema; Shri Anand Swaroop Varma, Editor of Teesri Duniya and writer; Neelabh, poet and writer, Harish Dhawan of the PUDR, Chhittranjan Singh, Mahipal singh and Kavita Srivastava from the PUCL, Harsh Dhobal from HRLN, Madhuresh from NAPM, Roma and AShok Chowdhary from the National Forum for forest workers and forest people, journalist Bhasha Singh, Literary critic Ajay Singh, Adiyog from Lucknow, ND Pancholi from PUCL Delhi, Mahtab Alam from the CPHRD along with several other activists, lawyers and literary persons.

The meeting began with Mr. Chittranjan Singh welcoming all and stating the two fold agenda of the meeting, which was mainly sharing of the critique of the judgment and planning the campaign activities.

Mr. Ravi Kiran jain presented the critique. the 70 page judgement, showed no evidence. According to Mr Jain the case at no stage went never went beyond the FIR. Infact the incriminating piece of evidence that the police had tried to show, were mainly books and pamphlets and other “Maoist” literature that they were supposed to be carrying and had on their body at the time of their arrest on the 6th of February, 2012, Mr, Jain clarified that under no circumstance any of this could be counted as evidence, as the police had broken the seals of the packets without taking the magistrates permission and therefore tampering and planting of material could not be ruled out.

Secondly, the police had taken Seema’s remand illegally after the completion of ninety days, which is not permissible. During this two day remand they had taken her to her house, where they showed the recovery of two mobiles and some more literature. Apart from the fact that the remand itself was illegal and had been challenged in the Allahabad High Court where a recall application was pending. The proper search was not carried out as according to CrPC rules and therefore planting of material was possible. .

Apart from this there was no other shred of evidence, although the prosecution tried to string together Seema’s case with one other case made out in Gorakhpur and 2 cases of Kanpur, where according to the police they picked up several Maoists, who were actively involved with the CPI (maoist) party. They tried to show how they had seized the same literature and there were some confessions of some other prisoners which showed that they were Maoists. Which goes against the Indian jurisprudence where confession in front of police is not addmissable as evidence.

It was shocking to read that Seema had been convicted for sec 13 (punishment for indulging in unlawful), 18( punishment for conspiracy), 20 (being a member of a terrorist gang), 38 (membership of a terrorist gang), and 39 (providing support to a terrorist organisation ) of the UAPA amended 2004 and 2008, and u/s 120, 121 and 121(A) of the IPC.

It also came as a rude shock to all that that Seema had been sentenced to 10 year rigorous imprisonment in most of the above sections along with fines of 5000 to 10 thousand rupees. except in 13 where is it was 5 years rigorous imprisonment. She was also sentenced to life u/s 121, waging war against state.

For those who are not aware rigorous imprisonment means working in either the factory of the jail or in the kitchen

Mr Ravi Kiran Jain shared with all that the criminal appeal would be filed in the Allahabad High Court very soon. Although they have sixty days but they would not wait in this case.

Mr Anand Swaroop Varma and Neelabh Ashk shared the possible campaign that we could undertake.

It was decided that
1. 15th June: Press conference exposing the travesty of justice condemning Seema to life, will be addressed by Justice Sachar, Ravi Kiran Jain, Anand Swaroop Varma and Neelabh Ashk will address, Ravi kiran jain will present the legal critique.
2. 26th June: Emergency Day : PUCL Convention against the judgement in the Seema Azad case, all groups will be invited to participate . Along with condemning the judgement a campaign for the release of Seema Azad will also be planned. A poster will also be released for this purpose. A critique of the judgement will be presented which will be prepared by Ravi Kiran Jain, Harish Dhawan, Neelabh Mishra and Anand Swaroop in English and Hindi and will not be longer than 5-6 pages.
3. 25th June: Delhi activists to protest against UAPA and sedition.
4. The entire judgement will be translated in English, which is being coordinated by Harish Dhawan.
5. It was also planned that Allahabad and Lucknow must have protests, probably several groups are already planning this. Also a letter to Akhilesh Yadav against this conviction.

Case of Seema Azad: Crushing Voices of Dissent

The conviction of civil rights activist Seema Azad and her husband Vishwavijay under provisions of UAPA for allegedly waging war against state by the lower court of Allahabad has once again proved that this system is adamant at crushing voices of dissent. A penalty of Rs. 70,000 has also been imposed upon this couple besides life imprisonment order on8th of this June. These former student union leaders and active social activists have been alleged of being a member of CPI(Maoist) and involvement in ‘illegal activities’.

Seema Azad and Vishwavijay were arrested by UPSTF in Allahabad on Feb 6, 2010 when Seema returned from World Book Fair in Delhi and Vishwavijay had gone to receive her at railway station. STF claimed to have recovered maoist literature from their possession and also claimed that both were related to maoist party. STF then transferred this case to UP anti-terror squad.

Seema Azad is the editor of bimonthly ‘Dastak’ magazine, organisation secretary of PUCL-UP and social activist involved with civil rights movement. Her husband Vishwavijay has been a student union leader and activist of Inquilabi Chhaatra Morcha. Seema Azad and Vishwavijay have consistently raised their voice against human rights violations in Eastern UP repectively through their journalistic writings and political activism. They have mostly worked in the plains of Allahabad and Kaushambi where politico-mafia-police nexus is illegally mining sand, hoarding black money and in the proces exploiting and harassing workers. The couple raised their voice against politico-mafia-police nexusthat put them at the establishment’s target. Their activities could not be termed as illegal in any sense, never did they involve in any activity that was outside the perview of constitutional right to freedom of expression accorded to citizens of this country. The bimonthly ‘Dastak’ edited by Seema Azad investigated the Ganga expressway project in detail that was looming large upon the farmer’s livelihood and shelter. This magazine published detailed reports on the witch-hunting of muslim youth coming from Azamgarh. The arrest and recent judgement is basically prejudiced and an attempt to create a precedence that whosever will raise voice against wrongdoings of establishment and stand with the oppressed will be dealt with in the same fashion. It is noticeable that the court has no evidence whatsoever to prove the conviction charges.

We strongly condemn this judgement and appeal to the masses that they uncover the whole episode thoroughly and expose the anti-people face of governments. We demand to scrap the colonial laws under which arrest of social activists and charging them with sedition or waging war against state has become a daily routine, after which they are cursed to pass years behind bars without being given the legitimate right of hearing. Thousands of youth charged with sedition and toiling in jails are in this impasse. The case of Seema Azad and Vishwavijay is a challenge upon all the democratic minded citizens and has to be dealt with great fervor.