HRDA has issued an urgent appeal to the National Human Rights Commission of India on March 8 regarding the arbitrary arrest of Mr. Upendra Nayak for defending tribal victims implicated in false cases by the police in Odisha. Mr. Nayak is a well-known pro-bono advocate in the Gajapati district of Odisha. He has taken many cases under the District Legal Service Authority for the poor tribals who have been implicated by the police in false cases.
On February 21, 2018, at about 8 pm, personnel from the local police station came to Mr. Nayak’s house and arrested him based on a non-bailable warrant (NBW). When he and his associates queried about the NBW, the police stated that between 2009-2010, he was defending cases for some tribal youths in the Mohana Judicial Magistrate Court. In that FIR, there were names of 62 other persons as accused. The police, taking advantage of this, recorded a statement of one of the tribal youth, Mr. Abhya Sahu, under Section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code, where he has allegedly stated the names of other persons who are associated and has also implicated Mr. Nayak. On the basis of this statement, the police made a non-bailable warrant and arrested him.
After his arrest, he was produced before the Mohana Judicial Magistrate Court by the Gajapati district police and was remanded to judicial custody. Then, he was sent to R. Udayagiri Jail. He has been charged under Section 121(waging war against the government), 121-A (conspiracy against the government), 124-A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code, and various sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. A bail application was filed in the trial court which was dismissed. Later, a bail application was filed before the Sessions Judge. It was rejected. As per sources, Mr. Naik was unwell. Thereby he was shifted to a hospital. It is pertinent to note that he is a cardiac patient.
It is becoming a worrying trend that human rights defenders, lawyers in particular who work to secure justice and fair trial for people accused of false charges, are being falsely implicated using similar charges by the police.