The Criminal Justice and Police Accountability Project (CPAProject) is an intervention focused on the criminalisation of certain communities by the Police and the criminal justice system and on decarceration. The project is a grassroots litigation-research based intervention based in Bhopal, working in specific locations, and with particular communities across the State of Madhya Pradesh. These communities include those previously officially criminalised under colonial laws, now classified as Denotified Tribal (DNT) Communities as well as other communities that are similarly persecuted by and stigmatised the criminal justice system.
The objective of the intervention is to hold the criminal justice system accountable and press for the transformation of its aspects, including lawyering practices, Police and administrative practices, and challenging unjust laws that persecute and stigmatise members of DNT and other targeted communities. It seeks to do this by ensuring quality legal representation to persons from these communities in various forums through effective legal strategies, case-research, and accessing higher courts. The litigation work will be carried out in tandem with research aimed at understanding how the social control on these communities is maintained by executive and judicial practices, and challenging these on the ground and in courts.
Research and Advocacy
The research part of the work will involve examination of our own cases, studying violations of fundamental rights and of statutory law at every step of the criminal justice process and sometimes outside the fold of the legal process such as in the case of extortion. This would include a study of acts of executive action, arrest, detention, bribe-taking, torture, production, bail, collection of evidence and presentation of evidence before the courts and their decision through an appraisal of the Police and court records along with interviews of the accused persons and state actors. In the same manner, we will examine the system’s reception to resistance to these violations whether through complaints or arguments during the court processes. We also intend to study the impact of substantive criminal laws themselves.
During the course of our work we come across criminal cases from the Pardhi, Gond and other similarly targeted communities. Provisions of criminal law related to theft, house breaking, dacoity, possession of arms and liquor, etc. are usually used to prosecute them. Currently, there exists a wide gap between the extent and quality of legal representation being provided to the communities. Litigation work will be centered around two major aspects i.e. pre-trial and trial court litigation. Pre-trial work would involve providing legal representation from the time of arrest when it is practically non- existent.
The pre- trial work will thus involve challenging false arrests, illegal detention in police custody, provisions for habitual offenders etc. It will be carried out in consonance with this research work. Incorporating this research during the pre-trial and trial stages in order to underscore how the system routinely targets DNT communities in a concerted manner.