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Katju: I will not tolerate police harassment of journalists

In a stinging letter to the Union Home Secretary, Justice Markandey Katju, chairman of the Press Council India has demanded the immediate suspension of all police officers responsible for harassing and detaining senior journalist Iftikhar Gilani and his family on Saturday (9 February), hours after the hanging of Afzal Guru, convicted in the 2001 Parliament attack case.

Markandey Katju. IBN Live.

Markandey Katju. IBN Live.

Justice Katju’s letter is in response to a detailed two-and-a-half page complaint by Gilani to the Press Council of how he and his wife were detained for five hours at his father-in-law’s house while his children were locked up separately at his residence. Gilani is the son-in-law of hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

In his complaint, Gilani writes: “I repeatedly asked them (officers of the Delhi Police Special Cell) to explain the reasons behind my detention. All the time, they were very rude, threatening and warning me of dire consequences. I also pleaded with them, even if they want to detain me, why at the house of Syed Ali Geelani and not at my own home or a police station? And why had they kept my children away from us?”

Likening the police action to “methods of the Gestapo during Nazi rule”, the Press Council Chaiman has said that if the allegations are correct, “the police officers who committed these high-handed illegal acts, as well as those higher ups who are instrumental in ordering these shameful and odious acts are prime facie guilty of serious crimes…and are also guilty of gross and blatant abuse of their powers.”

The former judge of the Supreme Court has demanded that within 48 hours (the hard copy of the letter was delivered to the Home Secretary’s office today), the concerned police officers and higher ups who gave the orders be suspended, criminal proceedings be initiated against them and that Gilani and his family be suitably compensated and apologized to.

Firstpost spoke to Justice Katju about his strongly-worded letter to the government and his demands to punish to the police.

Excerpts from the interview:

You have written a hard-hitting letter to the government. You feel very strongly about the way Iftikhar Gilani has been treated by the Delhi Police.

Yes, I feel very strongly because I believe that Iftikhar Gilani has been treated in the most undemocratic, arbitrary and despotic manner. The Delhi Police officers who confined him and his children, they behaved like Gestapo during the Nazi rule.

I have written to the Union Home Secretary R K Singh, with a copy to the Delhi Police Commissioner that those police officers who were responsible for the harassment of Gilani, and the senior officers who ordered it must be suspended and charge-sheeted and that criminal proceedings should be instituted against them. Gilani should be given compensation and apologized to.

Fourthly, even now I am being told that surveillance is being done on him. That must be stopped. There is a direct judgment of the Supreme Court (in the Kharak Singh Vs State of UP AIR 1963 Supreme Court and the subsequent decision) that all this surveillance is illegal, it is against Article 21 of the Constitution.

I’ve given 48 hours to the Union Home Secretary to take action as I’ve demanded.

What if the Home Secretary does not take action?

That is not necessary to say right now. Yesterday I sent the letter by email to both the Union Home Secretary and the Delhi Police Commissioner. Today I sent the hard copies, which were delivered to the offices of the Home Secretary and the Police Commissioner.  I’ll wait for two days. Let us see.

Just because Afzal Guru was hanged and Iftikhar Gilani is the son-in-law of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who is a Hurriyat leader, there is no justification for arresting him. Iftikhar Gilani says he has nothing to do with the politics of his father-in-law.

Earlier too, he was put in jail for seven months on false charges, false evidence. It was found to be bogus and he was acquitted.

This time I am not going to tolerate it. I want to see that the police officers who behave like this are severely punished because the duty of the police is to uphold law and order, not break it. Here they are breaking the law by arresting an innocent person.

In the letter, I have given the example of Nuremberg trials where the Nazi war criminals took the plea that they were only following orders of their superior Hitler. But that plea was rejected by the International Tribunal which said that those were illegal orders and they should have disobeyed them and they were hanged.

I have sent a warning to all police people all over India that you must disobey illegal orders whether they are given by higher police officers or politicians. Suppose a police man is asked to commit murder or rape or dacoity by a superior officer or a minister, should he carry out that oder?

No, he should not obey illegal orders. And if he does, he will be charge-sheeted, found guilty and given severe punishment. That is what appears to have happened in this case also. So let’s see the reply. I’ll wait for two days and then take appropriate action. But I’m not going to tolerate this kind of harassment of journalists.