Anti-CAA protesters in Delhi lifting a banner which says reject CAB and boycott NRC.
Representational image of anti-CAA protest | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint
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New Delhi: A group of former civil servants, including prominent former IAS officers such as Aruna Roy and Wajahat Habibullah, have penned an open letter expressing concern over the growing “assault on the Rule of Law in India and on its citizens’ rights to free speech and dissent”.

In a letter titled ‘Assault on the Rule of Law and Article 19 of the Constitution of India’, 99 civil servants lamented the “erosion” of the rule of law in the country and urged all Indians to “unite” in defence of the rule of law and Article 19 — the Right to Freedom of Speech, which they said are “basic elements of any democracy”.

The collective known as the Constitutional Conduct Group, is known for voicing concerns regarding socio-political developments in the country and includes several prominent ex-IAS, IPS and IFS officers.

Prominent IAS officers who are part of the group include Aruna Roy, P.S.S. Thomas, Vijaya Latha Reddy, Meena Gupta and Wajahat Habibullah.

Some of the well-known Indian Foreign Services officers in the group include Shivshankar Menon, Madhu Bhaduri, Deb Mukharji and Shiv Shankar Mukherjee. A.S. Dulat, Amitabh Mathur, Aloke B. Lal are some of the Indian Police Services officers who are signatories to the letter.

Also read: Indian citizens and media have been terrorised enough with sedition. SC must end it now

‘Misuse’ of sedition law

The letter talked about the blatant use of the sedition law and how the rule of law “militates against the actualization of the freedom of speech”.

It cited the arrest of 11 activists, including Kafeel Khan, Safoora Zargar, Akhil Gogoi, Sharjeel Imam, and the murder of Karnataka-based journalist Gauri Lankesh to highlight the corrosion of Article 19 under the government.

The letter added that the government cannot use the current pandemic as an excuse to curb media freedom across the country.

According to the letter, the law of sedition, which it terms a “colonial relic”, has seen a sharp increase in use. The letter alleges that “any criticism of the government is considered ‘anti-national’ and invites punitive wrath”.

The former civil servants also blamed the government for attempting to clamp down on the media and note India’s fall in the Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders.

India ranked 142nd out of 180 countries covered in 2020. In 2019, it was ranked 140.

The letter alleged that the government has used the pandemic as a means to silence the media, giving examples of 55 journalists who were singled out for writing about mishandling of the crisis, and the criminal case against Siddharth Varadarajan, the founding editor of TheWire, for writing against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

Also read: After SC, how Tripura High Court added muscle to freedom of speech & expression

Disregard for Article 19

The signatories of the letter also argued that the “gulf” between the “rhetoric and reality” in the rule of law is widening.

They mention the government-imposed curfew in Kashmir and the use of the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) against people who participated in the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens.

The letter further alleged that the police establishment has become a proxy at the hands of the political party in power.

According to the letter, the arrest of activists such as Sudha Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen, Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde under the UAPA is choking their freedom of expression.

Commenting on the Northeast Delhi riots, the letter noted, “The investigations into the riots in north-east Delhi have betrayed an institutional bias against the minority community.”

This was in reference to Dr M.A. Anwar, the proprietor of Hind Hospital, being mentioned in a chargesheet by the Delhi Police.

Dr Anwar had reportedly provided crucial medical services to the victims of the Delhi riots.

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  1. Like Oceans 11 , These are Pappus 99.
    They keep periodically reemerging on the horizon.
    Best is to neglect them.

  2. Govt must check the assets and connections of all such anti-india agents. There is a pecuniary angle to their lamenting, either they are black mailed by their ex-patrons into saying this or they are paying off their debts of favouritism. Either way, 99 does not make India but could well lead to the closet with the skeletons.

  3. what is that these so called crying hoarse . they r writing against itself is enough proof to counter their own arguments eveybody and anybody is spaking against PM nothing has happened to these great visionaries they dont have any business to complain when some of these gentleman supports chins as version , Nakshalism etc
    if Kashmir is suffering today it is the creation of confused rulers

  4. Most of these people were never Civil when in service. Many of them kowtoed before their political masters. While I do not support the happenings that are a blot on our democracy and constitution, these so called citizens for liberty did not bat an eyelid when incidents happened during their service

  5. All of them are failure . They let down us the natives of this land . Today demographic jih@d of kerala , bengal ,assam is terrorizing us . But this terror sympathsizers only care for terrorist .Glad they are out of their closet .

  6. Freedom of Speech cuts both ways….. If there are people who have been calling the present regime and its supporters Communal, Bigoted, etc…. But the moment you call these people Anti-National, they get offended….. these guys invoke freedom of speech, Article 19 etc…. I find this ludicrous… Well what these guys are playing is Politics…. so let them do it….

  7. This so called beaurocrats are acting against the wish of the nation…they are very corrupt and their children are very well settled in western countries…whether they helped to the poor and any time….In this difficult times like Covid and Indo- Chima stand off…..they are trying to creating some sort of unrest ….after completion of thier job they are speaking like this…Indias are fools or these signed beaurocrats are fools ?

  8. India very much respect freedom of speech evident from the venom spewed by the wire, the print , swara bhaskar…. and so on. They only know my way or highway justice. They should be condemned in every way.

  9. I have only one question for these so called guardians of democracy. Where the hell were you when you were in service? Probably kissing their Political Masters’ ass.

    • These 99 idiots and nonsense are as toxic as the wire.
      I have never seen a media house as destructive as the wire.
      Good sense should prevail on these traitors of motherland.
      Covid 99.

  10. All the greats first need to tell us their about their assets and where their next is settled and then talk of Assault on the rights.

  11. Gone through comments of people. If it’s the States of mind of common people for intellectuals, then intellectual should introspect. Know introspection is a difficult tusk. Ultimate finger direction goes to opposite direction only

  12. Are they non-partisan? How many times have they raised their voices during UPA govt.? These bureaucrats might have watched the video speech of Sarjeel Imam, how can they say it was not seditious. Is this video doctored? Please do not make mockery of IAS community. This is my freedom of speech

  13. Why comments are discarded and not published here ? Is The Print afraid of different opinion ?

  14. This right ( Article 19)is, however, not absolute and it allows Government to frame laws to impose reasonable restrictions in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency and morality and contempt of court, defamation and incitement to an offence.

    We people of India have elected Government by the their manifesto / promise made by them to serves us. If some feels that that if it is violation of Article 19 they can bring anyone to court.

  15. Whenever any person or any group comes to power (some group inevitably does) they steer the country in the direction of their own vision. Now since in a democracy, a majority has brought them to power …. It can be assumed that the people share their vision unless you mean to say that they fooled the majority into voting for them ……
    Now criticism and the right to criticise is good but it has limited use unless you are actually offering and doing something positive also.

    Yes today there are groups who are actively trying to claim that India was never just one country and are raising questions on national integrity. Yes ! Such opinions in the name of freedom of speech cannot be allowed and must be brutally crushed especially keeping in mind the current level of social evolution our country is in and the unimaginable harm such voices can do. This is not a first world country where sensitive intellectual debates can happen in the proper forum and format without adverse impacts.
    In the spirit of Gandhism and fraternity….. The danger posed by many groups cannot be overlooked ….. They are even funded by powerful sources whose well known ideology is one of expansion at the cost of the National integrity of other countries ……

  16. There should be freedom of speech. But at the same time if the speech proves, it’s not based on fact and reality is something else, there should be strongest punishment for misguiding citizen. Hence so called intellectual should takes responsibility what they speak. We all know, intellectuals are responsible citizen and not talking from AC Room. Hope they will lead indian to positive direction.

    • In that case all the speeches done by various Opposition leaders between 2012 to 2014 are misleading.
      But no one put sedition charges on Opposition leaders.
      It’s now after 2014 all this is happening.
      It has to be stopped.

  17. As even at the age of 7o Mr Modi is relentlessly trying to serve India by touring picnic place and world bhraman at the expense of Rs 6500 crore exchequer money, Atleast renowned person mentioned above have some achievement for serving this country and we hope they are doing great to serve the community and country.

  18. 99 read civil servants who have finished their luxurious life, want more !! So this is one of the ways to get the life back !!

  19. It defies common sense why these people would cause trouble at a time of crisis (LAC & Covid). There is only one explanation – these traitors are the Fifth Column. They have sold their souls to China & Pakistan.

  20. govt should should treat all Indians equally and let democracy on top among us. govt should not mis use the power.

    jai hind

  21. I wonder, though these signatories had worked in very high places are standing with tukde gang. Whose freedom of speech and expression cortailed by present govt. The persons who want to choke ASSAM, 7 STATES of essetial services and rest of india of products like oil, rice bamboo are supported by this gang actually all these should be put behind the bars.

  22. What is new in this ? Every few months these same people write such letters to stay in the news. They speak selectively and hence have no credibility. The UPA government torchered a lady called Pragya Thakur, damaged her spine, eyes in custodial torture, made unsubstantiated allegation against her and kept her in jail for 9 years without a chargesheet. It was under which law they kept her in jail ? What were these worthies doing then ? Did anyone express concern over this lawlessness ? No. Same happened to a Military Intelligence officer called Purohit. He too was incarcerated on false charges, tortured in custody in the most cruel manner and became permanently disabled. In fact both of them became disabled. Which of these people named here appealed for them. None. In fact everyone cheered when the torture was being inflicted. Now when the shoe is on other foot they are shouting and trying to derail justice. Utter non sense.

  23. Read the report on opinion of 99 ex senior Govt officials as also comment thereon by 18 ‘ordinary’ public that precedes my this letter. Of course, comment of just 18 ‘ordinary’ public is not exactly representative but it certainly brings out the people’s support for the present Govt’s actions and also more importantly the anger of the general masses for the appeasement and other related policies followed by the past govts.
    It is however, gratifying that we get to read the opinion of 99 ex senior Govt officials and other dissenting voices, if we so wish. Looks like our Democracy has indeed taken deep roots.

  24. They are also the persons who got influence by Kashmir azaadi concept,jnu tukde tukde gang concept and anti-national concept.
    Dear agrawal ji stop writting thest articles because india is fully influenced by nationalist ideology going on.
    Ok dear

  25. All are either lefty background {jnu style} or reactionist ,those are not getting unlawful advantages from present govt . We know how they enjoyed and hacked unlawfully advantages from previous upa govt . , and also we know how they kill all truth and freedom of our country only for money and power , not only under table but also from their foreign boss like chaina etc . So we Indians are ignoring their comments and so called letter.

  26. These officers have no standing. They wanted to be re-engaged. But they failed.
    If they have any originality, then they go to people and be their representative.
    But they have always remained un-accessable to common men, have lavish parks in public money and made tall tslkings from comfortable AC chambers.
    They are parasites.

  27. The sorry state of India is their own administration. What they have done to clear the mess.After becoming ex and their perks diminished they really worried about India. Some of them are very great even jail will not accommodate them

  28. Put these retired officials under house arrest
    Investigate decision during their assignments

    Find out wrongs done during that period

    They are communal Nd anti India anti Hindus
    They should be snubbed and who the basterds
    Courts will see

    They must have links with those involved in sedition.

    Investigate keep track of their movement

  29. These retired officials seems to have not imparted justice during their assignments.
    What the hell they are asking. Who they are.
    They Are allowed to bark from the roof tops.
    What more evidence is required.
    It means these are behind groups paid by divisive forces to break India.

    Why accept their version?
    How come CAA dharna and riots.

    They should stop interference in running the nation

    Courts will see in case of need.

    Snub these trouble makers

  30. These are known for their connection with PF And Palestinian supported tukde tukade gang. The paper should be thrown in the gutter where kidas get wisdom. We have wise PM, and he doesn’t need advise of naliku ke kida

  31. Ias , IFS , IPS hai toa haar baar right honge kya inlok kbi kashmiri hindus genocide , Bengali hindus genocide ke brre me nhi bola aur waise bhi inlok ne India ke kya kiya . Agr Constitution law hai toa lggu hona chahia , Constitution ke age kuch bhi nhi ye baised IAS, IPS , IFs bhi nhi .

  32. India is still under age -old British rules although not by Britishers ; one should not compromise the communal harmony & sovereignty of state in the name of freedom of speech; being one of the softest democracy, mother India gives her citizen ample freedom in all aspect,let alone speech,irrespective of community; comments by handful of ex civil servants,who were serving the orders of their political masters during their prime is blurred & seems somewhat religiously biased one

  33. Why don’t these officers raise their voices when so called Nationals ask is it necessary to say Bharat Mata ki Jay to become National and supports Afzal Guru….us waqt SB k mu me…kuch Jake baithta he kya???

  34. So Modi can further mess India up like he has been doing for the past few years ? No thanks .

  35. They are all leftists, I think. They have every bit of power, I don’t think any such situation is prevailing in the country. The current government is protecting national interest, is it bad?… Just think over

  36. These people are slamming the government day in and day out and still “assault on freedom of speech”. I think they are out for cheap publicity.

    • Well said mate! I wanted to add many things here but u shut my mouth in just couple of lines!

    • Lol they have only done for themselves – not for India. Their main professional accomplishment has been self promotion and self indulgence . Today they have begun to believe their own propaganda and see themselves as “civil society” from “civil service”. They forget that they are not the arbitrators of truth or justice and neither were they ever the voice of the nation. They were and shall always remain Govt servants enjoying Govt pensions – no different than any of the lakhs of file clerks across India. A fancy name and Lutyens residence doesnt make them matter more than the vegetable seller or chai dukan wallah in their neighborhood!

      The Print and its presstititues always eulogize and propagate their own echo chamber Lutyens zone crooks – this article is another example of the same.

    • They won’t stop until either they breath their last or they see their goal achieved, that’s destruction of India. They have not done anything remarkable in lfe for the country rather are squarely responsible for the persisting owes the people of India are facing today like unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, health & drinking water problems, naxalism, terrorism, secularism, communalism, casteism, regionalism et. all. Had they done their duties well, when at the helm, these issues would have settled long ago. But instead, they indulged in cycophancies & hypocrisies to secure their selfish ends. Now when the Modi regime is cleaning the stable, they have great pains. They are senile, wicked & crooked men, ugly relics of a dismal past, ever eager to play in the hands of anti India planks like ‘ Wire’.

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