INDIA: Human rights activist arrested for writing down judge’s name


Urgent Appeal Case: UA-188-2007
ISSUES: Administration of justice,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from its local partner, MASUM, a human rights organisation working in West Bengal, India regarding the arrest of one of its activist. It is alleged that Mr. Gopen Sharma, a staff of the MASUM working in Murshidabad district of West Bengal was ordered to be arrested when he was noting down the name of the presiding officer of the 2nd Fast Track Court, Baharampur, Murshidabad, on 12 June 2007.


Mr. Gopen Chandra Sharma, son of late Mr. Gopal Chandra Sharma is a human rights activist working with MASUM. Gopen is also the District Human Rights Monitor, Murshidabad district, for the National Project on Preventing Torture in India. He is also working for a project managed by the UNDP and the Ministry of Law and Justice.

According to the information received on 12 June 2007 at about 12.30 pm Gopen was noting down the name of the presiding officer of the 2nd Fast Track Court, Baharampur, Murshidabad. The name of the presiding officer was posted on a nameplate. This act caught the attention of the presiding officer. Gopen was summoned by the judge and the officer asked him why he was taking down the name. The presiding officer was not satisfied with the answer provided by Gopen and ordered his arrest.

Upon the order of the judge, the police officers present in the court informed the Beharampore Police Station to take custody of Gopen. When informed about the arrest MASUM contacted the Beharampore Police Station and was informed by the officers that Gopen has been taken into custody by the order of the judge and is with them at the police station. However the police officer refused to provide any further details regarding the reason why Gopen was arrested. The police officer also informed MASUM that Gopen was arrested for an offense under Section 107 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 of India. Gopen was later released from custody after furnishing a Personal Release Bond.

Section 107 of the Code is as follows: When an Executive Magistrate receives information that any person is likely to commit a breach of the peace or disturb the public tranquility or to do any wrongful act that may probably occasion a breach of’ the peace or disturb the public tranquility and is of opinion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding, he may in the manner hereinafter provided, require such person to show cause why he should not be ordered to execute a bond [with or without sureties] for keeping the peace for such period, not exceeding one year, as the Magistrate thinks fit.

As evident from this Section the law is to be used for a suspected breach of peace, which as used in Gopen’s case is an example for pure misuse of law and procedure. Additionally, the law in India mandates that a person arrested must be informed the reason for his arrest and served with a memo of arrest. The law also requires that a person related or of the choice of the detainee must also be informed about the arrest and the place where the person will be detained. In Gopen’s case all these legal mandates were violated. It is a crude irony however that in this case it is the court itself that has violated these legal mandates.

Such an act by the court has in fact a more damaging effect upon the system as well as the human rights activists in particular. When there is a breach of procedure by the law enforcement agencies it is upon the court that the ordinary people look up to seeking redress. But as evident from this case in India the courts often breach the law and there is no procedure to take action against the judges who violate the law and procedure. Such attitude of the judicial officers encourages the law enforcement agencies to violate the law.

Gopen is reporting cases of human rights violation, particularly those related to custodial torture from Murshidabad district since the past few years. Due to this Gopen is not appreciated by the law enforcement agencies in that district. For further information please see UA-59-2005, UP-44-2005, UA-161-2005, UA-237-2005, UA-375-2006, UA-045-2007, and UP-025-2007. However, this is the first time Gopen has fallen a victim of the judiciary. While it is not known the exact reason why the court ordered Gopen’s arrest, other than he being questioned by the presiding officer, the AHRC calls for your urgent intervention to ensure that an inquiry is ordered into this case.


Please write a letter to the relevant authorities mentioned below, particularly to the Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court to ensure that Mr. Gopen Sharma is released from custody. The AHRC is also writing a seperate letter to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear _________,

INDIA: Human rights activist arrested for writing down judge’s name

Name and address of the victim:
Mr. Mr. Gopen Chandra Sharma s/o Late Gopal Chandra Sharma, Dayarampur village, Murshidabad district, West Bengal state
Alleged perpetrator:
The 2nd Fast Track Judge, Baharampur, Murshidabad district, West Bengal

I am writing to you to express my concern about the conduct of the 2nd Fast Track Judge, Baharampur, Murshidabad district, West Bengal. I am informed that the presiding officer of this court had ordered the arrest of Mr. Gopen Sharma, a human rights activist for writing down the name of the presiding officer.

I am informed that Gopen was asked by the judge why he took down his name for which Gopen answered and that the judge not being pleased with his reply ordered Gopen’s arrest. Gopen was detained at the Beharampore Police Station from where he was released after furnishing a personal security bond. I am informed that Gopen’s arrest and short detention is in violation of all procedural mandates required to be followed by law.

I am informed that Gopen was not informed the reason why he was arrested, the crime for which is detained and the place where he will be detained. I am also informed that Gopen was also not provided with an arrest memo.

I wish to express my concern regarding the fact that in this case the court itself was responsible for an innocent person’s arrest. I am also concerned to know that the court being a place which people look up to seeking redress for their grievances, has acted in a manner as if to silence human rights activists. Such an action by the court exposes the judicial officer’s willful ignorance of procedural mandates and the officer’s lack of respect for his own office.

I therefore request you to take immediate actions so that the concerned officer, the 2nd Fast Track Judge, Baharampur, Murshidabad district is asked to explain why he ordered the arrest of Mr. Gopen Sharma. I also request your office to record the statement of Mr. Gopen Sharma in the process and to take appropriate action against the presiding officer, if the officer is found guilty of breach of law and procedure.

I also request you to make necessary arrangements so that Gopen Sharma receives compensation for his illegal arrest and detention and that the case registered against him is quashed.

Sincerely yours,



1. Mr. Justice Surinder Singh Nijjar
The Honorable Chief Justice
Calcutta High Court
Kolkata, West Bengal
Fax: 91 33 22429158

2. Justice Mr. Balakrishnan
Chief Justice of India
Through the Office of the Registrar General
Supreme Court of India
1 Tilak Marg, New Delhi
Fax: 91 11 23383792

3. Ms Hina Jilani
UN Special representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders
1211 Geneva 10
Fax: +41 22 917 9006

4. Mr. Leandro Despouy
Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
Room: 3-060
1211 Geneva 10

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA-188-2007
Countries : India,
Issues : Administration of justice,