Advocates form Collective to Provide Free Legal Assistance to Journalists and Farmers part of Farmers’ Agitations

Around 3000 advocates from various courts in Delhi, have come forward in support and aid of those arrested.

Collective

There have been a number of FIRs filed against farm leaders after the events that unfolded at the Red Fort in Delhi. Many journalists have also had FIRs lodged against them. Around 3000 advocates from various courts in Delhi have come forward in support and aid of those arrested. In an interview with Workers Unity, three members of the collective detailed how many have gone missing or have been arrested in Punjab, with many currently in Tihar jail. They aim to identify missing persons and their families, as well as identify how many of them have landed in Tihar jail. For those who have not been found in Tihar Jail, they plan to file a Habeas Corpus petition in court. In addition, they plan to represent missing persons for free, against whom FIRs have been wrongfully lodged by the police. 

Since January 26, 2021, around 500 people have gone missing, out of this 300 have been identified in Tihar jail. The Delhi police have been attempting to fabricate stories around journalists and farmers leaders, claiming that they have instigated violence in the border areas as well as at the Red Fort. In the case of the arrests of journalists, many who have been reporting at the border were attacked by members of Hindutva groups, with many reports of such attacks coming out on social media. In cases that took place at Singhu Border, journalists were arrested, and produced in court without a lawyer, after which they were put under judicial custody.

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The members also mentioned that they aim to represent these journalists as well. They stress that journalism acts as the fourth pillar of democracy: “with this pillar being removed via the arrests of journalists and activists, how can democracy continue?” Advocates are planning to conduct a peaceful protest tomorrow, in opposition to the tactics of law enforcement that has led to these arrests. The members assert that the FIRs lodged by the police, against farmers and journalists must be withdrawn. On speaking to a member from the collective, ensuring the right to legal aid emerges as fundamental to the collective. “Many of the people coming to Delhi for the farmer’s protests, have never approached a lawyer before. These are people who are marginalised, they cannot afford legal representation, which is difficult to access due to limited resources.” The organisation aims to address this inaccessibility by means of providing free legal aid, helplines, setting up desks at protest sites, etc. 

In the interview with Workers United, members also stated that they will be going to meet the journalists who have been put under judicial custody, to help with their case, as well as pay for their bail. They also mentioned that they have issued a helpline number for those who have disappeared, so as to track and come in contact with them. A desk of advocates will also be stationed at the protests sites in the Delhi borders, for those in need of free legal aid. They have already spoken to a few families of those who have disappeared to try and gauge how they can provide legal assistance. While speaking on those who are missing but also not found in jail, they are suspicious that the police have been illegally holding these people.

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Members have plans to take action against custodial violence by police on those who have been arrested. While many of these Public Interest Litigation (PILs) will come under the jurisdiction of the Delhi High Court, they also want to approach the Punjab and Haryana High courts, as it has come to light that the Delhi police have been conducting raids in Punjab and Haryana, and harassing families of those who have disappeared. 

They plan to issue daily press releases, so as to provide updates on these cases to the general public. They plan to create a website to publish these updates, along with other resources.

 

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