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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 31 New Delhi July 20, 2019

CBI Onslaught on Eminent Lawyers

Saturday 20 July 2019, by Arup Kumar Sen

Acting on a complaint from the Ministry of Home Affairs, the CBI conducted searches on July 11, 2019, at the residence of senior eminent lawyers, Indira Jaising and her husband Anand Grover, and in the Delhi and Mumbai offices of Lawyers Collective, a rights issue NGO run by them, for alleged violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act and offences under sections of the Indian Penal Code and Prevention of Corruption Act. Jaising told reporters: “Mr Grover and I are being targeted for the human rights work that we have done over the years”.

We do not know the legal foundations of the allegations against the two eminent lawyers. But, Indira Jaising’s statement to the media is not without foundation. In 2017, while introducing Jaising’s work, the well-known British magazine, The Guardian, wrote that she fought some of the most high-profile legal cases of the last half century, and represented those with no voice.

Indira Jaising’s profound understanding of jurisprudence and ethical moorings propelled her to raise fundamental questions about the politics of Hindutva and the verdicts of the Supreme Court on a number of occasions. While commenting on the total ban on cow slaughter, she observed with her associates (The Wire, August 18, 2016):

...cow vigilante groups all over India are wreaking havoc on the secular liberal ethos of the country, committing unspeakable violence against Dalits and Muslims. The problem is plainly evident in the case of Una, Gujarat where four Dalit boys were mercilessly beaten and stripped by local gau rakshaks.

The fact that this heightened cow vigilantism, or rather lumpenism, is using India’s apex court to justify some of its behaviour, makes the issue even more perplexing. The reason is the (in)famous Mirzapur judgment (2005) of the Supreme Court in which a 7-judge Bench of the Court overruled 45 years of almost settled jurisprudence on the slaughter of bulls and bullocks in India.

Indira Jaising was the only woman lawyer who argued in the Supreme Court on the Triple Talaaq Case. She was unhappy with the Supreme Court verdict in the case. In an interview, she said: “I am disappointed that the Supreme Court of India failed to acknowledge that they were talking about the lives of real women...The human dimension is missing from this judgment.” When asked about the political dimension of the case, Jaising said: “It was a highly political case. It was a big weight. The first weight was to decide whether to enter the court or not to enter the court. We all knew that the issue had been raised by the BJP Government. And we knew that the BJP Government has no real sahanabhooti (empathy) with the minorities. This was rather obvious from the fact that there is no representation of minorities in UP, it is obvious from the lynchings, and so many factors.” (HuffPost India, August 25, 2017)

The silencing of dissent in contemporary India gives credence to Indira Jaising’s press statement: “Mr Grover and I are being targeted for the human rights work that we have done over the years”.

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