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Home > Tributes and Remembrances > Human Rights Forum Salutes K.G. Kannabiran

Human Rights Forum Salutes K.G. Kannabiran

31 December 2010

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The Human Rights Forum (HRF) mourns the passing away of K.G. Kannabiran at his home in Secunderabad at about 5 pm on December 30. He died after a brief illness and was cremated at 6.30 Pm. the same day. It was a quiet and dignified event, respectful of his family’s privacy, and conducted in accordance with Kannabiran’s wishes.

Activists across the country have known Kannabiran as the unshakeable pillar of integrity and sagacity and as a person who stood as the pillar of the
civil liberties movement in the country. Those of us in Andhra Pradesh have
also had the privilege of having known him for his wisdom and courage on a
daily basis. He was a builder of the civil liberties movement in the State
in the post-emergency period. Over four decades, Kannabiran has helped in
articulating a uniquely Indian perspective on civil liberties, both through
his legal practice and through his writings and public speaking. He built
the AP Civil Liberties Committee, working as its President for over a decade
and mentored scores of committed activists. He taught them the nitty-gritty
of fact-finding and the craft of navigating the judiciary.

Kannabiran was always supportive of Left revolutionary movements that were raising questions of human dignity and striving for fundamental social
change. He consistently opposed violence by the State and emphasised the
need nourish the rule of law and the principles of natural justice. He
advocated a political approach to the Naxalite movement in place of the
violence suppression that has been the State’s only response to that

Known to the legal fraternity as the "prosecutor of prosecutors", Kannabiran
agreed to take on the role of special public prosecutor only in one instance
in his entire career when he appeared for the prosecution in the Shankar
Guha Niyogi murder case. It was his relentless work in nailing the
prosecution’s lies in scores of conspiracy cases all over Andhra Pradesh and
in public interest petitions on encounter killings that laid the foundation
of a creative application of the law towards building a human rights culture
in the courts. He constantly strove to make the Government accountable to
its Constitutional obligations. Apart from effectively critiquing atrocities
committed by State instrumentalities, he fought against undemocratic
legislation like TADA and POTA. After relinquishing his responsibilites with
the APCLC, he continued civil liberties activism as national president of
the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties. Till the very end, he was accessible
as always to citizens in distress.

Along with late Sri S.R. Sankaran, Kannabiran was central to the only
effort, through the Concerned Citizens’ Committee, in this country to
successfully mediate between the Maoists and the government. As member of the committee, he brought the full force of his moral stature and
intellectual acumen to create the ground upon which the government and the Maoists held talks in Hyderabad in 2004.

In 1995, Kannabiran, argued a petition in the Andhra Pradesh High Court
regarding the encounter killing of Madhusudan Raj Yadav in Hyderabad. In
this case, the High Court for the first time ever took exception to the
practice in the police department, of registering cases against the person
who died in the encounter as having attacked the police and not registering
any cases against the policemen. This practice ensured that the case
automatically abates the accused is dead. This strange practice completely
skirts the issue of whether or not there is any culpability on the part of
the policemen involved in the encounter killing. The court ordered that in
all cases of encounters henceforth, a case must be registered against the
policemen involved in the encounter, chargesheet filed and brought to trial.
That way, the policeman still has the fair chance to make his case of having
caused death in the course of self defense. The High Court ruling has given
human rights activists in Andhra Pradesh a lot of hope and Kannabiran
considered it a small victory for over three decades of civil liberties
fight in the state. In implementation however, the ruling ran into
opposition from the very beginning and right now it is still caught in an
appeal in the Supreme Court by the Government of Andhra Pradesh. And it
remains an important area of work for all of us.

In Kannabiran’s demise, democratic forces in the nation have lost one of
their most articulate and courageous spokespersons. HRF salutes this civil
rights stalwart. We have lost a dear friend and inspiration. We ta

S.Jeevan Kumar, President
- V.S.Krishna, Secretary
- rightsforum at
- H.NO.3—12—117/A/2
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