The Indian Association of People’s Lawyers condemns the arrest of peoples’ advocate Upendra Nayak by the Paralakhemundi police, Odisha on the night of 20th February 2018. He was produced before the Mohana, Gajapati Judicial Magistrate on 21st February and subsequently sent to R. Udaygiri Jail. Shockingly, he has been arrested in ten criminal cases under serious charges like sedition, waging war against the State and provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, wherein he himself was the advocate defending the accused.

Advocate Nayak is more that 65 years of age and a regular legal practitioner in the courts of Gajapati. One of the southern districts in Orissa, Gajapati is where Adivasis constitute 51 percent of the population in the district. Advocate Nayak has been defending innocent tribals of Gajapati who have been arrested in fabricated and false cases under the name of anti-Maoists operations. Apparently he has been sent to jail for his alleged involvement in the ten cases. All registered way back in 2009 and 2010 in which he successfully defended number of innocents including Arati Majhi, Pasanti Patamijhi, Munita Lakshmi and the trial ended in acquittals. The case of Arati Majhi is well documented by the Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) (https://wssnet.files. wordpress.com/2013/11/arati- majhi-case-from-challenging- impunity.pdf).

However this type of arrest wherein the State has identified a lawyer with the cause of his client, is becoming a common practice in so-called terrorist cases or Maoist trials. IAPL had observed in earlier fact findings to Chhattisgarh and Madurai how Advocates Rekha Praganiya and A. Murugan had been arrested in criminal cases in which they themself had been defending other accused. Special ant-terror laws such as UA(P)A with broad and vague definitions of conspiracy, association and culpability often help the State to do so.

This practice is in violation of the “Basic Principles of the Role of Lawyers, 1990” (Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders) which clearly states that “Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions”. By hindering Advocate Nayak to fearlessly practice his profession and defend his client, the State has also violated Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution, a fundamental right, that guarantees a person the right to practice any profession.

IAPL demands:

  1. RELEASE Adv Upendra Nayak immediately and unconditionally.
  2. STOP identifying lawyers with the causes of their clients.
  3. REPEAL the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act

Signed,
Adv. Surendra Gadling, General Secretary, IAPL
Adv. Sudha Bharadwaj, Vice-President, IAPL