PUDR welcomes the bail granted by the Supreme Court to Sunil s/o Satpal and Kanwaljeet Singh, two of the Maruti workers on February 23, 2015. Sunil and Kanwaljeet are among the 147 workers who were arrested in the aftermath of the violence on July 18, 2012, in the Manesar plant of Maruti Suzuki in Haryana which led to the death of the factory's HR manager Awaneesh Kumar Deb. However it is hardly a cause for celebration given that the bail was long overdue, and the other 145 workers still continue to languish in jail.
The Supreme Court bench of Justice M. Lokur and Justice U. Lalit granted bail to Sunil and Kanwaljeet in response to an appeal filed on their behalf after the Punjab and Haryana High Court had rejected their bail petition earlier. The prosecution failed to produce sufficient evidence in their case. The only witness produced by the prosecution was unable to identify the two as being part of the group of 'attackers'. Sunil Kumar finally left jail on February 26 while Kanwaljeet Singh came out on February 27, 2015. By this time they had already spent over two and a half years in jail.
The process of getting bail was long and arduous. Belonging to Jhajjhar and Hissar districts of Haryana repectively, Sunil and Kanwaljeet had to pursue the case first in Chandigarh, and then in Delhi. While they have finally got bail the other workers continue to languish in jail despite a similar paucity of evidence against most of them. In some cases, there are no witnesses at all to testify to their involvement on the day of the incident; in others, the witnesses have failed to identify the workers when required by the court. Lacking means to pursue bail and file appeals in higher courts, the accused workers have no option but to remain in jail.
The police version of the incidents of July 18, 2012 is very contestable and suffers from an inadequacy of evidence and witnesses. Based on our investigations in the aftermath of the incidents, PUDR believes that the entire investigation favours Maruti Udyog Limited and its officials. The Haryana police ha not paid any heed to the evidence that shows the company management's culpability. A state government determined to curb workers’ struggles for basic rights of organizing and forming a union has foisted criminal cases and deliberately prolonged the ordeal.
PUDR demands that the workers be released on bail without any further delay and the trial be conducted in a fair and transparent manner. We call upon the judiciary to ensure that the manipulations and culpability of the management do not go unpunished, and the under-trial workers are provided justice without delay.
Sharmila Purkayastha and Megha Bahl
Date: 1 March, 2015