The Curious Case of Living Dead written by Surya Sunilkumar student of Ramaiah institute of legal studies
Association of Dead People Vs State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors. was one of the most interesting cases that had come before the Allahabad High Court. After 18 years of struggle of Lal Bihari and other people who were declared dead by their relatives for their property were identified as alive by the Hon’ble High court, this reinstated the rights of the petitioners over the property that was supposed to be meant for them.
Facts of the case
The origin of the proceeding was based on a report by TIME magazine. Lal Bihari herein the petitioner had gone back to his native place in U.P to claim a loan against the ancestral property as collateral. When he approached the revenue officials he discovered that he was listed as a deceased person as per the records and books of the officials. It was later found out that his cousins had bribed the officials to declare him dead so that they get 1/5th share of the property that they could only claim if Lal Bihari was dead. He added the word mritak or dead, to his name and to demonstrate that he was living he got arrested, attempted to run for Parliament, kidnaped the child of the uncle who had taken his property, undermined murder, offended judges, tossed flyers posting his protests at legislators in the State Assembly and requested a widow’s benefits for his better half. Each time he was either pounded by police or reprimanded for burning through authorities’ time. When he couldn’t find any way to reestablish his identity, he formed an association with dead people. It is observed that there were many cases wherein people were declared as dead even though they were alive.
Laws charged against the respondent/accused
The laws that helped to regain the identity of the living dead were:
- The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993
- The Indian Penal Code
- Article 21 in The Constitution Of India 1949
- Section 36 in The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993
- Section 14 in The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993
• The victims of such scenarios were usually widows, sick people, or simple people who were vulnerable and powerless. One such petitioner was Jhulari Devi who was declared dead and chased out of her family farm after the death of her son.
• This case questions the credibility of the documents that are given by the governmental officials.
• The High Court observed that “…it was clear that what had taken place was an organized crime against the poor, hapless and helpless agriculturists confronted with the muscle power of land mafias who could arrange, in collusion with those in charge of keeping land revenue records, to get interpolations made by showing persons who are otherwise alive, ‘dead’ on paper. Having achieved this, the agriculturists were kicked out of their holdings. This was even worse than serfdom. A virtual reminder that the zamindar’s zamindari may have been abolished but has given way to organized gun-toting agricultural land grabbers whom the official record keeper has adopted and accepted..”, this statement enunciates about the involvement of criminal activity and corruption in the nation.
• The court stated that it was not fair if the case was not closed soon, as many agriculturists have suffered and are borderline poor thus deteriorating their living conditions. These cases have virtually become a phenomenon of violation of human rights. According to Article 21, every citizen has the right to life and nobody can steal it until its death itself.
• The Hon’ble court gave an opportunity for those people who were declared dead to reinstate their status as alive so that they can exercise their rights as living people.
• The case was further assigned to Human Rights Commission along with all the documents and records of the current legal proceedings.
• The cases which have been processed and filed before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, and those cases which are yet to be filed may continue to be filed.
The efforts made by Lal Bihari to protect and seek justice for the living dead are immense. He made several attempts to prove that he is alive and not dead. This case has given the powerless the power to get justice. Many elderly people, widows, and vulnerable categories of people have been subjected to such a crime. and through the association formed by Lal Bihari, many victims have got relief.