CPI(ML) dips its flag in tribute to leading socialist activist and campaigner for civil liberties, and former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, Justice (Retd.) Rajinder Sachar, who passed away on April 20, 2018 at the age of 94.
As as a judge of the Delhi High Court, the petition filed by human rights activists seeking justice in the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom matter came before him and he issued a notice to the police. But the roster was changed and the case transferred away from his Bench – no doubt because the then Congress Government knew that he would defend justice instead of protecting the powerful accused! Justice Sachar spoke about this episode often.
After his retirement, all his life, Justice Sachar was a tireless campaigner for justice, working for the People’s Union of Civil Liberties, heading fact-finding teams into incidents of communal and anti-Dalit violence, and writing regularly on every democratic concern, right till the very last months of his life. As late as 23 March 2018, we all received an article from his pen titled ‘India Needs Draupadi Not Savitri’ reflecting on the rights of women, and other issues concerning democracy. It is worth quoting an excerpt from that piece:
“the Socialist party of J.P. and Dr. Lohia had proposed a policy regarding police firing in independent India. It was a straight one namely that in a free democratic country like India, any police firing leading to the killing of citizens must automatically lead to the resignation of the State government. The leaders should promise that in Independent India, no State government or Central Government should have legal sanction to open fire on the crowds. And if a situation reaches that stage it shows the complete incompetency of State government which should lead immediately to the resignation of the government.
In fact Socialist Party had to face this situation early in free India. …The Socialist Party was even then able to form a government in only then State of Travancore with Chief Minister Thanu Pillai. Some time later there was agitation in Travancore and police firing took place leading to the death of some demonstrators. Immediately Dr. Lohia and many others like us demanded resignation of our government of Thanu Pillai. I am still of the view that in free India police killing of the demonstrators by police must automatically lead to resignation of the government if human right violations are to be avoided – and this has been proved by subsequent events in India, as is shown by official figures released by Government of India that at least over 50,000 people have been killed by the police firings – this happened because correct human right standards were not accepted and followed, namely the automatic resignation of State government in such an eventuality.”
Justice Sachar headed the Sachar Committee appointed by the UPA Government that published the path-breaking report on the status of Muslims in India. The report painstakingly documented the extremely weak economic and social status of Muslims in India and low Muslim representation in education and dignified, secure employment, putting paid to allegations of ‘Muslim appeasement’ and making a convincing and irrefutable case for affirmative action.
Justice Sachar was among the eminent speakers to speak at a Convention demanding Justice for Bathani Tola in April 2012, against the acquittal of all the accused in the Bathani Tola massacre case. He also spoke at a National Convention organized by the All India Left Coordination (AILC) to commemorate the centenary of the Ghadar movement.
Justice Sachar’s life is one to be celebrated and emulated. His voice will be sorely missed in times when judicial accountability is facing a grave crisis in India.