In defence of Harsh Mander: an Open Letter to the media

March 22, 2020

  1. We are a group of retired civil servants belonging to the All-India and Central Services from all over India. As a group, we do not subscribe to any particular political ideology but rather, focus upon issues that have a bearing upon the Indian Constitution. We have been holding Conclaves and writing Open Letters on matters of concern since we came together as the Constitutional Conduct Group in May 2017.
  2. We write this letter to bring to the notice of the general public how the Solicitor General (SG) of India has sought to mislead the Honorable Supreme Court (SC) in the matter of Harsh Mander’s speech at Jamia Millia Islamia on December 16, 2019. (Disclosure: Harsh Mander is a member of the group but has played no part in issue of this letter.) The background is that Harsh Mander, as a public-spirited citizen of India, had filed a petition before the Honourable Supreme Court in connection with the registering of F.I.R.s against certain political leaders for using hate speech and inciting violence that resulted in the deaths of more than 50 people in Delhi. On March 4, instead of responding to the contents of his petition, one of the highest law officers of the land alleged that Harsh Mander had made derogatory statements about the Supreme Court. When this was denied by Mander’s advocate, the SG was asked by the bench to file an affidavit.
  3. It seems that after an affidavit was filed by the Deputy Commissioner of Police to the effect that Harsh Mander had not only instigated violence but also been seriously contemptuous of the SC, the SC decided not to hear Harsh Mander’s case until the matter of his allegedly “derogatory remarks” was looked into. A link was provided to the video in the affidavit and a prayer was made to dismiss his petition and file charges of contempt against him. We understand, however, that the full video of the speech was not presented before the Court.
  4. We feel that had the full video been presented, it would have clearly brought out the falsehood of the allegations that he had incited violence in any manner or been contemptuous of the SC. It is apparent that the video-recording submitted by the SG and the police was an edited version comprising selectively chosen excerpts from the recording, which had been clipped in places so as to convey the impression that Harsh Mander had both instigated violence and committed contempt of the SC. We strongly feel that the speech has to be read in context, in sequence and in full to appreciate its message.
  5. When the speech is so read, it becomes apparent that Harsh Mander meant that the fight would ultimately be decided in people’s hearts and not in any other forum. The following paragraph makes it abundantly clear:
  6. “What will be the future of this country – you all are the youth – what sort of country do you want to leave for your kids – where will this decision happen? One, it will happen on the streets, we have come out on the streets, but even beyond the streets, there is another place where this decision will take place. Which is the place in which this fight will eventually be decided? That is in our hearts, in my heart, in your heart, we have to give a response – if they want to fill our hearts with hate, if we respond with hate, hatred will become deeper”.
  7. Harsh Mander further said: “If someone is attempting to bring darkness to the country, and we also do the same in order to fight, then the darkness will only become more severe. If there is darkness, then the only way that can be fought is by lighting a lamp. And if there is a huge storm, we will light a lamp against the darkness. The only answer we have to their hate is love. They will resort to violence, they will instigate us to indulge in violence but we will never carry out any violence. You must understand that it is their plan to instigate you towards violence so that when we commit 2% violence, they respond with 100%. We have learnt from Gandhi ji how to respond to violence and injustice. We will fight with non-violence. Anyone who instigates you toward violence or hatred, they are not your friends.”
  8. By what stretch of the imagination can such words be construed as being inciteful of violence when they refer to Mahatma Gandhi, father of the nation, who left us a priceless legacy of non-violence, truth-telling and compassion? By what inversion of meaning, by what distortion of facts and by what supreme disregard for the plain truth do the Solicitor General of India and the Deputy Commissioner of Police seek to mislead the Supreme Court of India?
  9. In our considered and collective opinion, there is a good case for filing a suit for defamation against both worthy gentlemen but that is a decision for the person defamed to take.

Transcript of Harsh Mander JMI Speech

Charge Sheet 65.20, Dayalpur-corrected


Yours sincerely,

CONSTITUTIONAL CONDUCT GROUP (with 95 signatories as below)

1. V.S. Ailawadi IAS (Retd.) Former Vice Chairman, Delhi Development Authority
2. Shafi Alam IPS (Retd.) Former Director General, National Crime Records Bureau, GoI
3. S.P. Ambrose IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI
4. Mohinderpal Aulakh IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police (Jails), Govt. of Punjab
5. N. Bala Baskar IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Adviser (Finance), Ministry of External Affairs, GoI
6. G. Balachandhran IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
7. Vappala Balachandran IPS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
8. Gopalan Balagopal IAS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
9. Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Coal, GoI
10. Sharad Behar IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
11. Aurobindo Behera IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha
12. Madhu Bhaduri IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Portugal
13. Pradip Bhattacharya IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Development & Planning and Administrative Training Institute, Govt. of West Bengal
14. Meeran C Borwankar IPS (Retd.) Former DGP, Bureau of Police Research and Development, GoI
15. Ravi Budhiraja IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, GoI
16. Sundar Burra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
17. R. Chandramohan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Secretary, Transport and Urban Development, Govt. of NCT of Delhi
18. Rachel Chatterjee IAS (Retd.) Former Special Chief Secretary, Agriculture, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh
19. Anna Dani IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
20. Surjit K. Das IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttarakhand
21. Vibha Puri Das IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI
22. P.R. Dasgupta IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI
23. Nareshwar Dayal IFS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs and former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
24. Pradeep K. Deb IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Deptt. Of Sports, GoI
25. Nitin Desai IES (Retd.) Former Secretary and Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, GoI
26. Keshav Desiraju IAS (Retd.) Former Health Secretary, GoI
27. M.G. Devasahayam IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana
28. Sushil Dubey IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Sweden
29. K.P. Fabian IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Italy
30. Prabhu Ghate IAS (Retd.) Former Addl. Director General, Department of Tourism, GoI
31. Arif Ghauri IRS (Retd.) Former Governance Adviser, DFID, Govt. of the United Kingdom (on deputation)
32. Gourisankar Ghosh IAS (Retd.) Former Mission Director, National Drinking Water Mission, GoI
33. Suresh K. Goel IFS (Retd.) Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI
34. S. Gopal IPS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, GoI
35. Meena Gupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI
36. Ravi Vira Gupta IAS (Retd.) Former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India
37. Wajahat Habibullah IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, GoI and Chief Information Commissioner
38. Sajjad Hassan IAS (Retd.) Former Commissioner (Planning), Govt. of Manipur
39. Siraj Hussain IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Agriculture, GoI
40. K. Illango IPS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Aviation Research Centre and R&AW, GoI
41. Kamal Jaswal IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
42. Najeeb Jung IAS (Retd.) Former Lieutenant Governor, Delhi
43. Vinod C. Khanna IFS (Retd.) Former Additional Secretary, MEA, GoI
44. Rahul Khullar IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India
45. K. John Koshy IAS (Retd.) Former State Chief Information Commissioner, West Bengal
46. Ajai Kumar Indian Forest Service (Retd.) Former Director, Ministry of Agriculture, GoI
47. Arun Kumar IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority, GoI
48. P.K. Lahiri IAS (Retd.) Former Executive Director, Asian Development Bank
49. Aloke B. Lal IPS (Retd.) Former Director General (Prosecution), Govt. of Uttarakhand
50. Subodh Lal IPoS (Resigned) Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI
51. Amitabh Mathur IPS (Retd.) Former Director, Aviation Research Centre and Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
52. Lalit Mathur IAS (Retd.) Former Director General, National Institute of Rural Development, GoI
53. Aditi Mehta IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
54. Dalip Mehta IFS (Retd.) Former Secretary to GoI & Dean, Foreign Service Institute
55. Shivshankar Menon IFS (Retd.) Former Foreign Secretary and Former National Security Adviser
56. Sonalini Mirchandani IFS (Resigned) GoI
57. Dr. L. Mishra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Labour, GoI
58. Sunil Mitra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI
59. Deb Mukharji IFS (Retd.) Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal
60. Shiv Shankar Mukherjee IFS (Retd.) Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
61. Pranab S. Mukhopadhyay IAS (Retd.) Former Director, Institute of Port Management, GoI
62. Nagalsamy IA&AS (Retd.) Former Principal Accountant General, Tamil Nadu & Kerala
63. Sobha Nambisan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Secretary (Planning), Govt. of Karnataka
64. P.G.J. Nampoothiri IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Gujarat
65. Surendra Nath IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Finance Commission, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
66. Amitabha Pande IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI
67. Niranjan Pant IA&AS (Retd.) Former Deputy Comptroller and Auditor General, GoI
68. Alok Perti IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Coal, GoI
69. Jayant Prasad IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Nepal
70. R.M. Premkumar IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
71. S.Y. Quraishi IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Election Commissioner
72. T.R. Raghunandan IAS (Retd.) Former Joint Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, GoI
73. N.K. Raghupathy IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, GoI
74. V.P. Raja IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission
75. K. Sujatha Rao IAS (Retd.) Former Health Secretary, GoI
76. Satwant Reddy IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Chemicals and Petrochemicals, GoI
77. Julio Ribeiro IPS (Retd.) Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania
78. Aruna Roy IAS (Resigned)
79. Deepak Sanan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh
80. G. Sankaran IC&CES (Retd.) Former President, Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal
81. Shyam Saran IFS (Retd.) Former Foreign Secretary and Former Chairman, National Security Advisory Board
82. S. Satyabhama IAS (Retd.) Former Chairperson, National Seeds Corporation, GoI
83. N.C. Saxena IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI
84. A. Selvaraj IRS (Retd.) Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI
85. Ardhendu Sen IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
86. Abhijit Sengupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI
87. Aftab Seth IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Japan
88. Ashok Kumar Sharma IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia
89. Navrekha Sharma IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Indonesia
90. Raju Sharma IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh
91. Jawhar Sircar IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI, & former CEO, Prasar Bharati
92. Narendra Sisodia IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI
93. Parveen Talha IRS (Retd.) Former Member, Union Public Service Commission
94. Thanksy Thekkekera IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Minorities Development, Govt. of Maharashtra
95. Hindal Tyabji IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir

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