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Victory for the weak

  • Published
    3rd Oct, 2023


The Vachati judgment brings to a just closure the fight of a tribal people.

A Landmark Victory for a Tribal Community

  • Historic Win: Recently, the Vachathi, a tribal community in Tamil Nadu, secured a historic victory at the Madras High Court. It marked the first time a state's might was challenged by a community of 655 Adivasis through the democratic and legal process.
  • Background of Brutality: In 1992, police and officials accused Vachathi villagers of illegal sandalwood hoarding, leading to a brutal crackdown that included beatings, destruction of homes, poisoning wells, and other crimes.
  • Long Legal Battle: Despite initial reluctance from the state to register a case against officials, the villagers pursued justice through the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The legal battle spanned decades, with a trial court conviction in 2011 followed by a stay order from the Madras High Court.

A Warning to Elected Governments

  • Judicial Assertiveness: The Madras High Court's judgment reaffirms the authority of the judiciary, serving as a warning to elected governments that they cannot act with impunity.
  • Effectiveness of SC/ST Law: The case highlights the effectiveness of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in securing justice for marginalized communities, contrary to criticism of its ineffectiveness.
  • Empowering Adivasi Rights: Vachathi's triumph represents a pivotal moment in the ongoing struggle for Adivasi rights, showcasing how civil society, dedicated lawyers, an independent judiciary, and victim determination can work within India's democratic and legal framework.

Democracy and Justice Converge

  • Convergence of Forces: The Vachathi case demonstrates how a convergence of factors, including an active civil society, committed legal professionals, an impartial judiciary, and determined victims seeking justice, can effectively utilize India's democratic and legal systems.
  • Autonomy and Governance: In a time when the judiciary has been at odds with the government over maintaining the autonomy of the three branches of governance, this case underscores the judiciary's role in upholding justice and the rule of law.
  • Democratic Constitution in Action: Vachathi's victory serves as a testament to the resilience of India's democratic Constitution and the potential of the judicial system to serve marginalized communities and uphold justice.
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