The Kerala High Court on Tuesday stayed the transfer of two Assistant Public Prosecutors in Lakshadweep Island, who were directed to attend work in a government department instead of carrying out their duties in the courts. Staying the transfer order reportedly issued by Additional District Magistrate, the High Court has also sought explanation from Lakshadweep Administrator Praful Patel on the matter.
According to reports, the two Assistant Public Prosecutors were deputed to the legal cell at the Lakshadweep Secretariat for completing ‘urgent work’. The court granted the stay on a PIL by a resident Mohammed Saleem challenging the administration's directive to the APP posted in Andrott and Amini islands, to attend to legal works of several departments, including preparation of chargesheet to help the police. Lakshadweep is under the jurisdiction of the Kerala High Court. Considering the plea against the transfer, the Kerala HC had sought details from the sub-judge in the island and after going through this report, the court stayed the transfer.
The petitioner alleged that the order was a rampant abuse of power and an absolute failure of the justice delivery system, particularly in the Criminal Justice System of Lakshadweep. During the hearing, the High Court orally told Counsel for the administration that the affairs in Lakshadweep were being noticed by it. Justice Vinod Chandran observed that the court is well aware of what has been happening in Lakshadweep and that the court does not have to rely on the social media or media reports for this, instead they have their own way to know things.
During the hearing, the petitioner stated that due to the transfer of the Assistant Public Prosecutors, no criminal trial could be completed in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, reports KC Gopakumar of The Hindu. According to the residents, scores of people were booked under various criminal cases during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Several residents of Lakshadweep have voiced their outrage over the rule of the present Administrator of the Union Territory and there is a huge outcry to recall Praful Patel. From proposed land reform, which gives absolute control over private land to the government, to a directive that does not allow people with more than two children to contest in elections, a slew of reforms made by Administrator Praful Patel, is said to be targeting the people of the Island.
Non-BJP parties have alleged that Patel unilaterally lifted restrictions on the use of alcohol in the Muslim-majority islands, banned beef products, citing Animal Preservation and demolished fishermen's sheds built on the coastal areas, saying they violated the Coast Guard Act. Leaders of opposition parties and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also came out against the administration's reform measures.
"News reports from Lakshadweep are quite serious. Challenges imposed on their lives, livelihoods and culture cannot be accepted. Kerala has a strong relationship, a long history of cooperation with LD. Unequivocally condemn devious efforts to thwart it. Perpetrators should desist," Pinarayi Vijayan said in a tweet.
Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP KC Venugopal shot off a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind, urging him to recall the administrator. "The local people fear that all these unilateral and anti-people decisions would ultimately lead to the destruction of traditional livelihood and unique culture of Lakshadweep.This has created huge unrest and protest among the local population there," he said in the letter.
Leader of the Opposition in the Kerala Assembly VD Satheesan and other Congress leaders from the State including Ramesh Chennithala and Adoor Prakash have also sought the recall of the administrator.
Although the BJP stood firmly behind the administrator, some fissures surfaced with a senior BJP functionary in Lakshadweep urging the Centre to review the reforms being introduced in the islands by Patel. BJP's Lakshadweep unit General Secretary HK Mohammed Kasim told PTI that he was not opposing the reforms undertaken by the administration but those measures should be implemented after winning the hearts of the people.
(With agency inputs)