Human Rights Defender
HRDA has issued an urgent appeal to the National Human Rights Commission of India on 30 April regarding the slapping of the Goondas Act against Human Rights Defender Mr. Thirumurugan Gandhi (42) and three others, namely Mr. D. Arun Kumar (27), Mr. M. Tyson (27), of MGR Nagar, Ilamaran @ U. Jagan (32), of Coimbatore. Mr, Gandhi is an activist who is always active on the issues of justice in the case of custodial murder of migrant labourers, water rights of the farmers, tribal, transgender, workers’ and refugee rights, rights of the disabled, campaign against death penalty, and rights of the linguistic and religious minorities,
The ‘May 17 Movement’, as in the past, organized a gathering on 21 May 2017 (Sunday) to remember the Tamil martyrs who were massacred by the Sri Lankan Army in Mullaivaikal in 2009. They had planned to hold a candlelight vigil as homage to the dead. Earlier, the police had denied permission for the gathering citing prohibitory orders under Section 41 of the Madras City Police Act. Yet, about 300 members participated in the vigil.
The police foisted a case against the members who had assembled peacefully under Section 147,148,188,341,506(2) IPC 7(1), a criminal law amendment act and Sec 3 of TN property (prevention of Damage and loss) Act in Cr No: 480 of Mylapore. The police remanded Mr. Gandhi, along with four other members, to judicial custody. Later, on 29 May 2017, the City Commissioner of Police charged them under ‘The Tamil Nadu Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Drug Offenders, Goondas, Immoral Traffic Offenders and Slum-Grabbers, Act’, 1982, on 29 May, 2017.
The above act describes a ‘Goonda’ as a person, who either by himself or as a member of a leader of a ‘gang’ habitually commits, or attempts to commit or abets the commission of offences, punishable under chapter XVI or chapter XVII or chapter XXII. In the Constitution of India, Article 19 (1) (b) guarantees every citizen the right to peaceful assembly without disturbing the public order.
The arrest and remand of the defenders is totally arbitrary and in contravention of the established domestic and international standards related to the freedom of peaceful assembly by the United Nations. Mr A.K. Viswanathan, IPS, has, in his ignorance and disrespect for rule of law, equated human rights defenders as ‘goondas’.