The Maharashtra Council of Lok Raj Sangathan (LRS) organised a meeting on 14th June 2020 to pay homage to the memory of our dearly loved and deeply respected Hon. Chairperson and past President, Justice Hosbet Suresh, who had breathed his last on June 11 this year. Due to the circumstances prevailing, it had to be conducted on an internet platform. It was attended by many members of Lok Raj Sangathan, old and young, as well as leaders and activists of a number of organisations. Comrade Uday Chaudhary (CPI leader from Kalyan as well as the Mumbai Secretary of AITUC), Mufti Huzaifa (Maharashtra Secretary of Jamat-e-Ulema), Irfan Engineer (CSSS), Elavarasan Raja (leader of the IT workers’ union, FITE from Chennai) as well as Professors Ranu Jain (TISS), Tabassum Shaikh (BNM College, Bhiwandi), Vibhuti Patel (SNDT) and Sandhya Mhatre (researcher from Mumbai University), Narendra Parkar (Dharmarajya Paksha), Suryakant Singe (leader of the garment Union, LGMS), Abu Bakr (Halaat Times, Bhiwandi) participated. Teesta Setalvad as well as Adv. Mihir Desai of the Bombay High Court sent their wishes and regretted their inability to participate due to other commitments.
The meeting was hosted by Girish, who at the outset welcomed everyone and requested everyone to stand for two minutes as homage to Justice Suresh. Following this, the message of condolence from the President of Lok Raj Sangathan, Shri S Raghavan, was read out.
Vice President of LRS, Shivanand Kanavi talked about what had impressed him most about Justice Suresh during the course of their nearly three decade long association. He was always fair and just and very accessible to everyone, no matter from what station in life. While he openly expressed his views during discussion, he was always ready to listen as well and very open to new ideas and suggestions. This was in marked contrast to many judges who are self righteous and act as know-alls, always ready to judge others. He gave so many judgements in court that became landmarks in upholding the rights of workers and toilers. He understood very deeply that participation of people is needed in the enquiry process. It was very difficult for people to go to court for justice, so he along with other judges like Justice S M Daud improvised “Jan Sunwai” or people’s courts. They themselves went to the victims, which was unheard of in India before they started doing it. The enquiries were held in the open and involved the local people. They helped them in making affidavits. They firmly believed in natural justice – all sides should be heard. So they heard the authorities as well. The whole process used to be so just and fair that no one could point fingers at the reports and question their credibility. People really felt empowered by the process.
Justice Suresh realised that the state, including its various organs like the political system, bureaucracy, judiciary, army, etc. were primarily built by the British rulers. They were all alien, were for the propertied classes and anti-people. The British destroyed the judicial system and dispute resolving mechanism that existed in India. It is very rare for a person in service to uphold rights of people. We have witnessed how so many anti-people judgements are handed out. In this respect, Justice Suresh stood out. Not only did he firmly defend the rights of people while he was a judge, after his retirement he threw himself into the rights and empowerment movement and always was ready to help and inspire all those who came to him for advice.
Elavarasan Raja expressed that Lok Raj Sangathan, the organisation that Justice Suresh led, had always supported FITE in all their struggles and hence all its members were deeply indebted to him.
Another Vice President of LRS, Dr. Sanjeewani Jain was invited to express her views. She pointed out that Justice Suresh had joined the judiciary not as a “career”, but with a mission to deliver justice. Many of us know how difficult it is for workers to go to court. If he or she is from the unorganised sector, that can only be done at the cost of the daily wage. And often after that the judge either does not show up or just adjourns the court. Date after date destroys the worker, financially as well as in terms of morale. So Justice Suresh’s method was a boon to the workers. No litigent left his court dissatisfied. There was never any complaint about the fariness of his judgements – something very few judges can achieve. According to Justice Suresh, no one, not even senior officers, prime ministers or other judges are above the law.
He boldly raised his voice against black laws like TADA, POTA, UAPA and AFSPA, which gave impunity to the state. In his various fact finding reports, he along with his collaborators had the courage to point their hands at the highest authorities in the land. He was an upholder of the Right to Life, which he insisted, was the Right to a Life of Dignity with access to everything that is necessary in this day and age, like sanitation, education, health services, electricity, etc. apart from food, clothing and shelter.
While he fought for the rights of all – slum dwellers, workers, women, etc. – he saw the common thread underlying all these problems. The people are totally marginalised from political power. That is why he worked so zealously to establish Lok Raj.
Dr. Irfan Engineer (CSSS) talked about how Justice Suresh was non-sectarian and that he identified with every organisation to promote Human Rights, equality and freedom. He talked about the landmark judgements he gave and how he set aside elections if communal or corrupt practices had been followed by the candidates. All his judgements were upheld by the Supreme Court except one by Justice Verma. Later however Justice Verma admitted that he had been wrong to overrule him.
Com Uday Chaudhary, leader of CPI from Kalyan and AITUC spoke at length about how he stood with the people against what he called cold blooded murder by the police in Ramabai Nagar, Ghatkopar, and gave them priceless advice.
Prof. Ranu Jain talked about how encouraging he was when she first had the opportunity to be a part of the panel with him.
There were many interventions in which various people talked about their positive experiences with Justice Suresh. So many people had been encouraged and inspired by this giant of a man. His interpretation of the Right to Life went beyond what is defined in the Constitution. He stood for the principle of Command Responsibility, which LRS upholds. Command responsibility means that in an organised crime like genocide, the person or persons who ordered the killings should be held guilty and not just those who executed the order. He had a conviction that we could create a society where people are sovereign.
A number of young members of LRS spoke about him. About the strong impression he had created in their minds when they first heard him talk. How hearing him convinced them that they had chosen the right path and that the no matter what happens, one should fight for one’s rights. How he had declared that young people always inspired him and that he felt happy that LRS was able to mobilise so many of them.
The meeting ended with the host declaring on behalf of all present the common determination to fight for the cause of empowerment and human rights that were so dear to his heart.