This comes as an urgent appeal to you seeking support and solidarity for Mr. Prabhakar Gwal. Gwal has been a well known people’s judge from Chhattisgarh. Gwal a Chief Judicial Magistrate who was known for his integrity was dismissed in April 2016. He was last posted as Chief Judicial Magistrate in Sukma where from he was dismissed from his services by state government.
Who is Prabhakar Gwal?
Prabhakar Gwal has been born in a Dalit (Ganda) community in a small village namely Nanakpali, near Saraipali of Mahasamund district. A community and region which has a history of bonded labour He has come up through all the pains his parents faced and bore the burden of the social system of caste in every day life from his childhood. After completing his early studies, he joined for law and become a lawyer. He practiced for 10 years after which he joined the judicial service in 2006. Life as an untouchable has given him the orientation on socio-cultural and political patterns of Indian society, which reflected in his tenure as a judge.
Gwal had reputation of an upright judge who had become an eyesore for the powerful politicians and bureaucrats, as he took cognisance of corruption related complaints and took strong action. He has questioned the manner in which the police have been indiscriminately arresting tribals in the conflict zones of Chhattisgarh.
What was his crime for the termination?
Gwal came into limelight after his remarkable judgement in which he sentenced five persons to six years imprisonment each in a case relating to leakage of question papers of PMT, being conducted by Chhattisgarh Professional Examination Board or Vyapam, in 2011. He passed the order as Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Bilaspur.
In August 2015 he passed orders for to file an FIR and subsequent investigation into the role of the then SP and current IG of Raipur, Deepanshu Kabra and another police officer for their role in attempting to suppress evidence in the case. After this, an attempt was made to intimidate him by a local BJP MLA who had been a subordinate of the SP.
He has had a history of exposing corrupt officials and politicians. While Gwal was posted in Bilaspur, he had ordered an inquiry against government officials and Police officers, for the infamous ‘Bhadaura Land-Scam’. The land scam is known for involvement of a senior minister of BJP (Amar Agrawal). Similarly, he had ordered for inquiry of Bilaspur RTO officials. He was then transferred to Raipur, where he rejected to accept Closure Report in the case of IPS Rahul Sharma’s suicide.
Gwal had filed a complaint of intimidation against the BJP MLA and DeepanshuKabra in his personal capacity at the local police station. After this all hell broke loose and instead of action against the BJP MLA and Kabra, the High Court issued a show cause notice to Gwalwhich claimed that he has violated rules under C.G. Civil Service Conduct Rule, 1965, under which they claimed that he was required to seek permission of the High Court before filing such an FIR against the BJP MLA and the police officer. An adverse order was passed against him without any inquiry and his one-year annual increment was cancelled as penalty.
As a punishment, Gwal was transferred to Sukma district as CJM, in Bastar division. In September 2015, he took charges where he was subjected to unfair treatment by police and administration right from the beginning. The police and local administration did not provide him the usual security allocated for judges in conflict areas. In his tenure as a judge in Sukma, he realised early on how the police were carrying out large scale arrests and surrenders of what seemed to be innocent Adivasis. Not only did he conduct fair and speedy trials, he also brought to the notice of the higher judiciary the conduct of the police in Bastar region.
He has had a history of exposing corrupt officials and politicians. While Gwal was posted in Bilaspur, he had ordered an inquiry against government officials and Police officers, for the infamous ‘Bhadaura Land-Scam’.
In keeping with his fearless attitude and his adherence to the facts and the law, Gwal also passed orders indicting a school in Sukma district for taking inordinately high fees. After he took cognizance in this case he received a call (of which he has an audio recording) from the District Collector who said that he should consult him before passing such judgments. After receiving this call, Gwal wrote to the District Judge and Chief Justice of Chhattisgarh, notifying them about the phone call from Collector where he explained that there was an attempt to interfere in judicial process and to influence the court. No action was taken upon his complaint. Instead he received multiple show cause notices as a response to his complaints against some of the sitting judges in the lower judiciary.
This was because this upright and dutiful judicial officer would insist on asking the name, age, village, father’s name and all relevant details of those arrested; mostly poor and innocent Adivasis who were produced before him. Rather than accepting the regular practice till then of permanent warrants produced by the police which contained no other details other than the name of the arrestee, Gwal chose to stick to procedure. He would also make it difficult for the police by cross examining about the alleged seizures including weapons and their activities. When it became obvious that the police could not establish any crime against those arrested, he would conclude that those arrested are ordinary villagers. Gwal went to the extent of communicating directly to those arrested through a Gondi interpreter, the language the arrestee understood.
This judge was so fearless that he would term the arrests of thousands of people being produced before him as Maoists as fake arrests; he wrote to the District Judge and even Director General of Police Kalluri that the police is implicating innocent people. He went to the extent of issuing warnings to Thanedars that he would send them to jail if they framed innocent people.
In short, the BJP-led government in Chattisgarh prepared an all-out war pro-people officials and Prabhakar Gwal turned out to be a victim of the nefarious design. The people of Bastar viewed a ray of hope in Judge Prabhakar Gwal, in otherwise bleak scenario of displacement and large scale repression. In a conflict zone like the Bastar, where due systems and guarantees, and law and order have been completely torn off, it needs a great amount of courage to challenge the vested interests and powerful sections to remain independent in a polarised atmosphere. The casual removal of a district judge, in contravention of procedure appears to reveal the interference of the government and the police in the judiciary to the worst.
The Termination Process
On the April 4, 2016 Judge Prabhakar Gwal received an automated message on his phone. He was in fact removed by an order of the High Court on April 1, 2016. The message said he had been dismissed from his post as Chief Judicial Magistrate, Sukma, Chhattisgarh in ‘public interest.’ The official letter, that he later received, stated that the State Government on the recommendation of the full bench of the High Court of Chhattisgarh had dismissed him under Article 311 (2) of the Indian Constitution. The order stated no reasons or charges for his dismissal apart from that his removal was in public interest. Prior to his dismissal, Gwal had faced a series of irregular transfers; show cause notices, though what lead to this dismissal is still unclear.
The Present Crisis
Prabhakar Gwal’s plight did not end up with his termination. His woes continued to haunt him on a consistent basis. Life is too difficult for him and he is a person of integrity and self respect that he would not express it to anyone in the world. Many of his dues have either not been provided or got entangled in procedural circus. Financial crisis is haunting him day in and day out as the day-to-day expense is turning out to be a serious affair. His two children studying in schools are at the verge of being thrown off the school. He appeal in the High Court has been dismissed. This is the context under which this appeal comes.
LET US TOGETHER UPHOLD THIS BOLD AND BRILLIANT DALIT JURIST!
NP: Kindly speak to him in Hindi