16, Oct 2016
Abhay Bhardwaj who has the ignoble record of defending all those accused of massacring 69 persons in the ghastly Gulberg massacre that took place under Narendra Modi’s watch as chief minister, Gujarat has told a television channel, owned by the Ambani group, TV 18 that the Indian Evidence Act should be modified to follow the Shastras and Vedas, not modern Constitutional jurisprudence.
The lawyer who is unashamed of his legal brief in defending the accused in the Gulberg massacre was recently (end September 2016)appointed as a part-time member to the Law Commission of India. His selection had kicked up a row since Bhardwaj was the lawyer who defended the accused in the Gulberg Society massacre of the 2002 Gujarat riots. Bhardwaj, proudly described himself as an RSS swayamsevak, said reforming the Indian Evidence Act – the corner stone of the criminal-justice system – along the lines of ancient religious texts would “usher in an era of positivity in judiciary”.
“The evidence act can be reformed on the lines of the ancient Vedas, Upanishads and Shastras. Various means of evolution of evidence has been from the ancient Hindu texts. In Jain Shastra, there are seven shlokas of evidence, and if the judges apply these shlokas, then there will be no difference in judgment from the trial court to the Supreme Court,” he told News18. This appointment comes in the long line of controversial appointments by the Law Ministry under Modi. Ravi Shankar Prasad, senior BJP member who represented ‘Ram lala’ (read the supremacist RSS-Vishwa Hindu Parishad(VHP)) in the Babri masjid case holds the crucial law ministry portfolio under Modi.
The 21st Law Commission was instituted last year and is being chaired by the former Supreme Court judge, Justice Balbir Singh Chauhan. Although advisory in nature, the law commission comprising of its full-time and part-time members are the ones appointed to draft legislations and submit them to the Ministry of Law & Justice for perusal. The Commission generally acts as the initiation point for law reform in the country. In this interview to the channel Bhardwaj openly laid claim to discriminatory citizensgip. He is reported to have said that India was originally “a land for the majority community” and it was time that minorities stop being rigid about their beliefs and embrace other ideologies as well.
The Rajkot-based lawyer also slammed critics who had opposed his appointment to the Law Commission citing his legal defence of Gulberg accused. “This perception needs to change that whenever someone defends a Hindu, eyebrows are raised. Did anyone question Shanti Bhushan when he appeared for Yakub Memon? Does anyone question Indira Jaisingh? Did anyone question the apex court judges who woke up at 3am to deliver a verdict in the Yakub Memon case? Then why are questions raised only when a Hindu is defended?” he said.
Abhay Bhardwaj joins the law commission at a time when the panel is deliberating on the possibility of implementing the Uniform Civil Code in the near future.
The Law Commission chairman had put out a questionnaire last week seeking public comments on the adoption of a Uniform Civil Code. On Thursday, a slew of Muslim community leaders held a press conference in Delhi where they accused the panel of working for the Narendra Modi government instead of being an independent body.
Bhardwaj (who spoke to News18 before the allegations were levelled) insisted that the Uniform Civil Code is the only way out for a peaceful democracy like India.
Earlier, former Gujarat HC judge Ravi R Tripathi was appointed as member of the panel. Bhardwaj, who has an RSS background, said that he will take the charge soon. “The 21st Law Commission of India is working on several aspects of law which needs to be repealed and bringing new laws. This is for the first time that a lawyer from a small place like Rajkot has been appointed in the commission where normally senior lawyers practicing in higher courts used to be appointed for consultation,” he said.
Abhay Bhardwaj became the second controversial appointment after Satya Pal Jain, a former BJP parliamentarian from Chandigarh who was party leader LK Advani’s counsel in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case, was inducted in June.
Like Bhardwaj, Jain too is a part-time member and their appointments have drawn widespread criticism.