Case of the Living Dead
By Amrit Pratim Mishra
INTRODUCTION TO THE CASE
Yes, you read it right. The Case of the living dead is indeed true. ‘Association of dead people and others vs State of Uttar Pradesh‘ signifies one of the most curious cases you have ever heard of. Lal Bihari and other people along with him were declared dead by their own family members in order to capture the property meant for the victims. The Eastern areas of India’s Uttar Pradesh are known as badlands, a place where paid killers can be hired for only 10$, and peasant farmers would have to suffer great losses. It was as simple as visiting a near land registry office and bribing a government official will work for the ill-doers. Ironically, Lal Bihari had to prove himself alive to get back his own property, and land specifically meant for him, which took more than 18 years of his valuable life. The Case revolves around Amilo, a town in the Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh where family members used to bribe government officials in order to declare their worthy relative dead and get a huge amount of land and property from their other family members. This Case came into light before the Allahabad high court and apparently became one of the most sensational and curious cases ever.
FACTS OF THE CASE
Tracing back to the origin of this Case and its intense proceedings was merely based on a short investigation report by TIME magazine. The petitioner herein named ‘Lal Bihari’ was earlier a farmer by profession and had visited his native town in order to claim a loan against the ancestral property he had as collateral. In his native town Amilo, he decided to approach the revenue official so as to claim his ancestral property meant for him. But, surprisingly, he found out that he was declared as a deceased person as per the books of the officials. At a later stage, it was found that his cousin had bribed the government officials earlier to declare him dead so that they could claim the 1/5th share of the property, which could only be acquired if Lal Bihari died. Lal Bihari added ‘Mritak, meaning dead to his name, making him popularly known as ‘Lal Bihari Mritak, the living dead man of Uttar Pradesh. He struggled so much as to declare himself alive and pointed out that he had been fakely declared deceased for ill reasons. Lal Bihari demonstrated and tried everything to prove himself alive; he also committed criminal offenses and merely attempted to run for parliament, offended several judges, even undermined murder, kidnapped the child of the uncle who had taken his property, requested a widow’s benefits for his wife, and also tossed several flyers posting his protests at the legislator of the State Assembly to get justice. Every time he attempted to get justice or protested, he was merely pounded by police officials and got arrested multiple times too. After a stipulated course of time, he realized that he couldn’t find any other way to reestablish his wrong identity as a deceased person, and hereby he formed an association with the dead people. Now you may think, how is that even possible that he can form an association with the deceased people? Well, the answer is that during his period of protests, he found out that he was not only of a kind. There were a lot more people who were declared deceased by their relatives for claiming their part of the land and property for themselves. He coordinated with people like this and formed ‘Association of Dead People.’ He observed that there were many cases wherein people were declared dead for ill reasons even though they were alive.
Certain Important Laws, acts, and sections that helped the fakely dead people to be proved as alive :
1. The Indian Penal Code.
2. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution(Protection of life and personal liberty).
3. The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.
4. Section 14 in The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.
5. Section 36 in The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.
– It was being observed that the victim of such scenarios were usually the people who were sick, poor, or widows. Or basically, the people who were powerless and vulnerable. One such example was of a petitioner named Jhulari Devi, who was purposely declared deceased and later was chased out of her family farm after the death of her son.
– The Court in Allahabad 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 by the Hon’ble Court of Allahabad clearly describes the involvement of criminal activities and corruption in this type of cases among the nation.
– The Hon’ble Court stated that it wouldn’t be fair if the prolonged Case is closed so soon because many agriculturists have suffered and apparently are at borderline poor, which in terms Detroit their life. They had been cheated under an organized crime and were declared deceased, which forcibly took away their land and property, which was the only source of income for those farmers. This deed clearly violates the ‘Right to Protection of Life and Personal Liberty under article 21. It states that every citizen has the right to life, and nobody can steal it using any form until its death itself.
– Not all of the victims had enough opportunities and understanding of the wrongdoings against them. Most of them are either elderly, sick, widows, or vulnerable ones. Lal Bihari, along with others, filed the case in the court of Allahabad seeking justice under ‘Association of Dead People’, which made the court and the nation think about the credibility and transparency of the facts provided by the government officials. It further stretched its doubts on the working of the government officials as Lal Bihari cited more cases having similar issues as of him.
– The Hon’ble court considered the struggle of the victims to prove themselves alive and gave them an opportunity to reinstate their status of an alive person so that they can be able to exercise their right as a normal person.
– The Case then was rigorously practiced and was further assigned to the National Human Rights Commission, which includes all the necessary documents, records, and shreds of evidence of the legal proceedings as the basic human rights of the victim had been infringed.
– All the cases similar to this 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 vast number of victims who had been declared dead by some people prior to any conspiracy can approach the court of law or also can suit their cases in the National Human Rights Commission.
Lal Bihari’s efforts made to protect his basic human rights and prove himself alive and also his determination to seek justice for the living dead are immense. He made several attempts to prove himself alive and, at last, succeeded by using the law. This particular Case of him has given the powerless the power of justice and the right to living. Many vulnerable people like the elderly, widowed, weak, poor people of Uttar Pradesh had been treated as the deceased, the same way as Lal Bihari Mritak. He then formed an association named ‘Uttar Pradesh Association of Dead People’ in 1999, after 18 years of his struggles to prove himself alive, and helped other people like him to get their identity as an alive person, removing the tag of deceased from them. Through his association, many victims have got relief, and then afterward, he was honored by Ig Nobel Prize in 2003( Ig Nobel prize award is given as satire and is awarded to most unusual achievements every year). This Case also threw light on how reliable is the data and records are provided by some of the government officials. The Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh at that time was the hotspot of corruption. Imagine just bribing some government officials and proving someone dead. Well, it was done frequently in Uttar Pradesh, and criminal activities tend to have spiked. The Judicial system played a major role in providing justice to the so-called “dead people .”Several cases were then filed in the High Court of Uttar Pradesh and Human Rights Commission too. It gave the victims their right to be alive.
Some areas to refer to:
- ‘Kaagaz’ movie, 2021. Starring Pankaj Tripathi, it is a biography of Lal Bihari Mritak.( Kaagaz (2021) – IMDb)
- The Association of the Dead • Damn InterestingUttar Pradesh Association of Dead People – Wikipedia
- Association Of Dead People, … vs State Of U.P. And Others on 7 January, 2000 (indiankanoon.org)
- IPC_186045.pdf (iitk.ac.in)
- Right to Life (Article 21 of the Indian Constitution) – Indian Polity Notes for UPSC (byjus.com)
- India Code: Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993
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