Ranchi: The Jharkhand high court on Tuesday rejected the state government’s request to ban media from publishing Maoist surrender events.
The government is charged with according ‘heroic’ reception to surrendered ultras and misutilising public money doled out to these ‘hardcore criminals’ under the provisions of the state surrender and rehabilitation (S&R) policy. A court’s direction has been sought to scrap the S&R policy.
The matter pertains to a public interest litigation (PIL) initiated by the court on media reports highlighting how the dreaded Maoist Kundan Pahan, infamous for serial killings, was given a heroic treatment after he officially surrendered on Sunday and Rs 15 lakh paid to him through cheque.
A division bench of chief justice PK Mohanty and justice Ananda Sen asked the government to clarify its stand by filing a detailed reply in the matter. The bench fixed the case for next hearing after vacation.
Earlier, advocate general Binod Poddar argued that the instant PIL was nothing but a ‘publicity interest litigation’ which ought to be rejected. He contended that the media should be gagged to publish reports of Maoist surrender events.
The bench, however, observed that media could not be suppressed for publishing such news. It said it was the court which had initiated suo moto PIL on media reports and appointed lawyer Hemant Sikarwar as amicus curie to assist the court on its behalf. “Therefore, this PIL can’t be termed as publicity interest litigation,” the bench said.
Lawyer Sikarwar alleged that Pahan, who owns 2,600 acres of land, was an accused in as many as 128 criminal cases, 77 of them being murders. Besides others, he was involved in the killings of a DSP, an ex-minister and a special branch inspector and looted Rs 5.5 crore cash from a bank van, he alleged.
Sikarwar said instead of punishing this hardcore criminal, the government treated the rebel like a Robin Hood and provided him red carpet welcome to pay Rs 15 lakh to him.
“It’s surprising that the government is glorifying these ultras, who showed no respect to the rule of the land,” the lawyer contended, adding, “This system will motivate the existing criminals and youths to join rebel groups.”
He urged the court to declare the state’s S&R policy null and void and instruct the authorities to stop encashment of the cheque given to Pahan.
Over the last one year, at least six top Maoists have laid down arms before the police and availed benefits in crores. Family members of the people killed by these Maoists have been denouncing the state’s friendly approach towards the ‘killers’ and have been seeking legal justification of the acts.
HC directs govt to file reply in response to PIL challenging Maoist surrender policy which advocates payment of hefty public money to surrendered rebels
HC rejects govt’s suggestion to gag the media from publishing surrender events
It was alleged that the existing system of glorifying ultras would inspire youths and criminals to join the rebel outfits