Former Supreme Court judge banned from entering Ratnagiri

Monday, October 25, 2010

MUMBAI: Retired supreme court judge P B Samant, former admiral L Ramdas, retd high court judge B G Kolse-Patil and Vaishali Patil, the Medha Patkar of Konkan, are among those who have been banned from entering Ratnagiri district in view of the 'jail bharo' agitation on October 29 at Jaitapur, where India's biggest nuclear power plant (10,000 MW) is to come up.

According to Kolse-Patil, they wanted to go to Jaitapur to oppose the nuclear plant on environmental grounds and express solidarity with the villagers who have steadfastly refused to part with their land and have rejected the compensation cheques. In fact, the villagers lit bonfires of the revised compensation package announced on October 16 by revenue minister Narayan Rane, whose son Nilesh is the Congress MP from Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg.

Terming it a mockery of democracy, Kolse-Patil has said he would move the high court against the prohibitory orders issued by the district magistrate under section 144(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). ``If that fails, we will go ahead with our visit and court arrest,'' he said.

Section 144(3) of the CrPC empowers a magistrate to impose restrictions on the personal liberties of individuals, whether in a specific locality or a town itself, ``where the situation has the potential to cause unrest or danger to peace and tranquility''.

Human rights lawyer Mihir Desai said the ban was completely unjustified as people have the right to protest peacefully. ''Section 144(3) is misused day in and day out,'' he said.

Several organisations such as Human Rights Lawyers' Collective, Konkan Vinashkari Prakalp Virodhi Samiti, Lokayat of Pune and Yusuf Meherally Centre, have condemend the ban.

Kolse-Patil recalled that during the anti-Enron agitation in 1997, he and Medha Patkar were similarly banned from entering Guhagarh. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch had condemned the ban. Earlier this year, Kolse-Patil was banned from entering Thane district when he joined residents of a Bhayander village in their agitation against a dumping ground in their village. The ban has been stayed by the high court.

The government has initiated land acquisition proceedings for 981 acres from the villages of Madbhan, Karel, Niveli, Worliwada and Mithgavane and there has been fierce resistance to this from the locals for the past four years.

According to Vaishali Patil, the villagers had filed 500 objections during the public hearing conducted by the Ratnagiri collector and union environment minister Jairam Ramesh had assured them that the project would not get the environmental clearance till all the villagers' questions were answered satisfactorily.

The latest compensation package includes Rs two crore for each of the affected villages with a recurring amount of of Rs 25 lakh per annum per village, a permanent job for farmers' kin or Rs 5 lakh and amount equivalent to 375 or 750 days of agricultural wages for lifetime.

Posted in |