NBA Press Note

April 23, 2001

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity! NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
B-13, Shivam Flats
Ellora Park,
Tel: 0265-282232
58, Gandhi Marg,
Badwani, Madhya Pradesh
Tel: 07290-22464

Contempt Case Adjourned till August 7
Medha, Arundhati assert rights of people and right to criticise the court

Supreme Court today (23.4.2001) adjourned the case against Prashant Bhushan, Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy in the Contempt of Court issue, for August 7th. A divisional bench comprising of Jst.G.B.Patnaik and Jst.J.U.Banerjee didn't hear any arguments of all three, representing activism at three fronts mass movements, judicial and literary, who were ready to present their case and reply to the petitioners' accusations and claims through eminent lawyers, Shri.Shanti Bhushan and Ram Jethmalani, the two former Law Ministers of India. Arundhati Roy filed her affidavit in person.

In the morning the respondents, along with over 300 representatives from the Narmada Valley and organisations from different parts of the country marched from the Mandi House towards the Supreme Court in the morning. The people were stopped by the police a little before the Court and the people sat there on dharna till late afternoon till Arundhati, Medha and others returned from the Court.

It is obvious from the three affidavits ( quotes annexed) that the so-called accused didnot see any reason to apologise. The charges in the ( FIR (annexed), which was not registered by the sensible police officials, are utterly false and concocted, to say the least. The court has done the greatest mistake in admitting the case, which is baseless. Mass-protest at the Supreme Court on 13th December is also seen as a duty of the three activists committed t life and people's power beyond law and the system. They rather preferred to uphold their action of critiquing the Apex Court's judgment on Sardar Sarovar Project that denied the right to life and livelihood to the thousands of tribal an peasant families in the Narmada Valley as well as 'victims of development' and eulogised large dams without a rational, scientific evidence. The judgment that they appealed the court to review, they believe has to be challenged by every citizen with faith in the Constitutional values and judiciary's role and responsibility towards the downtrodden.

Contempt as a charge retained in the 22nd century, by the proponents of open societies, is necessarily an expression of fear that the judiciary would lose its dignity and authority both, needs to be questioned. The freedom of expression, guaranteed under the Article 19 of the Indian Constitution provides the space, the three activists believe, to analyse and criticise any judgment that is seen as unjust and unconstitutional. The issues raised by NBA and the supporters related to Sardar Sarovar Project and other big dams include the one of the democratic rights and hence can't be distinguished form the broader challenge and appeal to the judiciary to revoke the judgment and ensure justice.

Flouting all rights of the common citizen, the Court authorities today denied permission to eminent people and friends of NBA, to enter the visitor's gallery of the Court. Due to the "orders from top" (as the clerk put it) Veteran social worker Swami Agnivesh, Magsaysay Award winner Aruna Roy, senior socialist leader Surendra Mohan, former Commissioner of Scheduled Caste and Schedule Tribes Dr.B.D.Sharma, noted feminist Devaki Jain, film personality Pradip Kishan and others had to stand outside the Court room and some even at the gates. They expressed shock and anger in such undemocratic and insulting behavior of the Court.

It is in the context of a number of blows experienced by the people's organisations such as the victims of the Bhopal Gas tragedy and Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha. What was faced by the small industries in Delhi at the hands of the Court through a judgment callous of the impact is one while the punishment by the High Court of Madhya Pradesh to the human activist and journalists criticising the court's acquittal of the accused in the Niyogi murder case is another face of the same judiciary.

It's against such non judicial actions committing contempt of common people that the activists are committed to fight and fight through non-violent, democratic means.

The struggle to save Narmada, its people and nature, will continue to be fought at many fronts from the field to the fori of justice.

Joe Athialy