New Delhi: A group of 100 former civil servants, including IAS, IPS and IFS officers, has written an open letter to Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, urging the government to notify a date to bring into force a constitutional amendment on preventive detention cleared by Parliament in 1978.
The amendment sought to “provide for (an) impartial and independent advisory board to examine the justification for preventive detention”, in order to prevent the abuse of the provision for preventive detention by governments.
Currently, under Article 22 of the Constitution, any advocate who is qualified to be a high court judge can be appointed to the advisory board, which decides if someone can be kept in detention longer than three months.
However, the 44th constitutional amendment decrees that the advisory board be headed by a sitting judge of that high court and have at least two serving or former judges of any high court as members, “in accordance with the recommendations of the chief justice of that high court”. No one can be kept in preventive detention longer than two months unless the board says so, it adds.
In the letter, written Saturday, the former civil servants said it would be travesty if a date was not notified.
“At present, any advocate who is qualified to be a judge of a high court, can be appointed to the advisory board. In effect, any advocate with ten years or more of practice can sit on an advisory board. This provision is, thus, vulnerable to abuse by governments which, instead of appointing neutral, independent members to the board, may appoint persons of their choice, including those owing allegiance to the political party in power,” the letter reads.
The group, which refers to itself as the ‘Constitutional Conduct Group’, includes prominent names like A.S. Dulat, former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and former Intelligence Bureau (IB) special director, Wajahat Habibullah, former chief election commissioner, G.K. Pillai, former Union home secretary, and former foreign secretaries Shyam Saran and Sujatha Singh.
The former civil servants said they had no affiliation to any political party and only believed in “impartiality, neutrality and commitment to the Constitution of India”.
“The unconscionable delay of 43 years in the issue of this notification has resulted in a brazen abuse of preventive detention laws in gross violation of human rights and a progressive erosion of our cherished democratic values,” the letter states.
(Edited by Neha Mahajan)