In memoriam: The People’s Advocate, Justice P B Sawant

DiaNuke remembers with immense fondness and warmth, Justice P.B. Sawant, former Judge of the Supreme Court of India, who was closely associated with the struggles of agitating communities opposing the proposed Jaitapur nuclear project along India’s western coast. Justice Sawant passed away on the morning of February 15, 2021 at the age of 90. Not only has his demise created a huge void in India’s legal firmament, but India has lost a key and impassioned advocate of human rights, secular ideals, and democratic dissent and dialogue.

Justice Sawant played a vital role in amplifying the voices of people opposing the Jaitapur nuclear plant, often defying state diktats and being subjected to its brutalizing repression and surveillance. In 2011, Justice Sawant along with the former chief justice of the Delhi High Court, AP Shah organized a public hearing in Jaitapur on the proposed nuclear power plant under the banner of the Indian Peoples Tribunal on Environment and Human Rights, despite the local court declining to pass an order permitting the unrestricted visit of the Tribunal members to Mithgavane village to conduct the hearing. The anti-nuclear yatra (march) organized in 2011 at the height of the Jaitapur agitation – from Tarapur, the site of India’s first nuclear power station in Maharashtra to Jaitapur – faced a brutal police crackdown with several activists, including Justice Sawant, being arrested for their participation in the yatra.

In these dark times, when India’s democracy is facing unprecedented challenges, Justice Sawant’s ideals and his unwavering commitment to India’s millions of ordinary people and communities struggling against the decimation of their lives, livelihoods, traditional knowledge systems, and ecological intimacies, will continue to inspire us.

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