The Wages of Impunity - Power, Justice and Human Rights

The Wages of Impunity - Power, Justice and Human Rights

Product ID: 13524

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Author: K G Kannabiran
Publisher: Orient Longman
Year: 2004
Language: English
Pages: 372
ISBN/UPC (if available): 812502638X


The Wages of Impunity consists of essays on human rights and civil liberties in India. Reiterating the indispensability of fundamental rights, read in the context of the Indian Constitution's Directive Principles, the essays focus on aspects such as secularism, socialism, and right to life, liberty, free speech and association. Using the Constitution as the point of departure, the author opens up the complexity of rights through incisive analyses of case law on each of these aspects.

Examining the basis of repressive legal regimes in India and their history, K G Kannabiran traces discourses on rights along multiple channels, all inextricably linked yet separate and autonomous-the courts (both the judiciary and the bar), the government, and politics (progressive and reactionary). What is particularly striking about the essays is the manner in which each addresses a distinct point of law, but all of which converge on a single point that is in fact the core of rightlessness-the habit of impunity.

On one track, the book looks at the origin of preventive detention laws in the country in the context of the debates during the colonial period on the issue. Arguing that, starting from 1950, the Constitution has been interpreted by the courts in a manner that breaks the critical link between it and the aspirations of a newly liberated people, The Wages of Impunity traces the whittling down of civil liberties in the emergency, which saw the suspension of free speech and freedom of association. The book shows that the years after 1980 saw the use with impunity of preventive detention in the political and legal fabric of governance and justice delivery through the enactment and validation of a series of antiterrorist laws. On a second track, the essays look at the practices of politics-the undermining of mass struggles and left movements and the rise of right-wing nationalism. On a third track, the essays explore possible remedies to a seemingly hopeless situation. These include absolute accountability, transparency and the rule of law in institutions of governance and justice and in political praxis.


The veteran Indian human rights hero, K G Kannabiran recounts a lifetime of fighting harrowing human rights violations in India. This work describes how human rights are repeatedly violated in a society that is otherwise governed by a constitution and the rule of law. Anecdotal and didactic in turn, this volume highlights the virtue of the author's relentless integrity in the pursuit of the democratic rights of the disenfranchised. No one concerned with the future of human rights in India can ignore this eminent voice in a rapidly globalising country that is being buffeted by the forces of Hindutva.
-Upendra Baxi, Professor of Law, University of Warwick

Kanna, as Mr Kannabiran is known by all, is first a human being, second a fighter for true democracy, and a lawyer only third. His experiences compel him to a brutally frank view of the exent to which the constitutional vision of India has been achieved. Examining the relationships between law, violence and dominant power structures, these essays portray depth of feeling and intellectual commitment. The views expressed concerning the meaning of justice, the relationship between justice and law, the debate concerning law and violence, as well as the relationship between dominant power relations and the legal system make for serious, moving reading. Above all, they point to the possibility of a better future, Kanna truly cares.
-Justice Zak Yacoob, Justice of the Constitutional
Court of South Africa



The Saga of Impunity
Justice Must be Seen to be Done
Colonial Baggage
Personal Liberty after Independence
Progressive Decay of democratic Institutions
The State as Terrorist
TADA: More repressive than Rowlatt
Crime and Punishment
The Weird Jurisprudence of a Dead Act
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958
A Lament for the Constitution
Why a Human Rights Commission?
Granting the Freedom to Misuse Freedom: Secularism and Minority Rights
Sanjay Dutt in the First Person
Can Anti-Secular Parties Govern?
Narendra Modi's Hindutva Laboratory
Scheduled Castes: Who's Afraid of the Law?
Mr President, the Game was Unequal
We, the Other People
Competent but Uncommitted Judges
What is Wrong with Judicial Activism?
What Shall We do with Our Judiciary?
A Code of Conduct for Judges
On the Selection of Judges: An Open Letter to the Chief Justice of India
Collective Action: The Andhra Pradesh Lawyers' Strike
Governors and Politics
Privilege and Obligation
Political Justice through Concerted Protest
Defining Right as Wrong: Reflections on Associational Freedoms and Free Speech
Coca-Cola and the Peoples War Group
Veerappan and the Rule of Law
The Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee
Koyyuru: Reflections on a Kidnap
In the First Person

List of Cases

List of Statutes

Select Bibliography