Wednesday, November 29, 2023

If CJI Ramana has a sense of humour, he could smile—and reflect too!

If NV Ramana has a sense of humour, it would bring a smile on his face. 

The Chief Justice of India has been savaged on Social Media for endorsing on Friday a one-month jail to a journalist with a cryptic remark—“Let Him Suffer!…One month is very less”.

The journalist,  DS Vishwanatha Reddy, is no small fish. He owns Tunga Varthe, a Kannada weekly with considerable readership around the foothills of Western Ghats in Karnataka. He is in the dock for what India’s judiciary believes are his defamatory articles against lawyers etc. 

In 2008, Reddy penned a series of articles against a local advocate TN Rathnaraj, calling him a goon and a MLA’s spy in preparing sale deeds pertaining to lands, granted to SC/ST without the government’s permission and by creating fake documents. 

Reddy was initially sentenced to one-year jail by a trial court under penal provision of defamation which was later reduced to a month’s imprisonment by the Karnataka High Court. He thereafter knocked at the door of Supreme Court which added insult to injury with “let-him-suffer” observation. 

CJI Ramana, only a few hours before, was launching a journalist’s book in the Capital, and lamenting how “scandals and misconducts” were no longer being reported by the media. The concept of investigative journalism is “unfortunately  vanishing from the media canvas”, he had remarked.

Twitteratis were not willing to let go on this irony. 

Some were crude as below

Some raised a pertinent comparison with advocate Prashant Bhushan who for his defamatory stance against the judiciary and contempt of court was fined a mere Rs 1, almost apologetically. 

One Ashwini, was particularly savage: “If lawyers and judges don’t like, they should not read that piece!”

It instantly connected with twitteratis who remembered how a petition against a recent book by Congress leader Salman Khurshid, in which he had allegedly compared “Hindutva” to radical terrorist groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram, was dismissed by the judiciary with a remark: “If they didn’t like the passage, they can skip the chapter. They could’ve shut their eyes if they are feeling hurt.”

Many twitteratis wondered whatever happened to upholding Constitution which guarantees “Freedom of Expression” and if Indian judiciary has a convenient attitude to “dissent” which it quotes as scripture from public platforms. Some also were disgusted at what they thought was crude language used by the CJI Ramana. 

Some suspected India’s judiciary to suffer from a sense of entitlement who bristle at the slightest hint of attack on their flock while presenting themselves as foot soldiers for “dissent” and “freedom of expression” in public space. There were also comments that it’s time India’s judiciary doesn’t just elect itself rather than let it be a job for a neutral body. 

In passing, twitteratis also didn’t miss out on Editors Guild of India who defend or ignore any prosecuted journalist as per their whims—or ideology. 

In the times of social media, a State can’t clamp down on masses expressing themselves in public domain. It’s a battle it can never win. If anything, it would be open to ridicule, lose its moral authority and worse sacrifice the trust on its neutrality. Sages have always advised judges to be faceless but lately judiciary is losing no opportunity to turn lucid and be in headlines when just a reasoning on their judgements would do. 

An independent India is in that stage of its journey where it desperately needs its rulers to be statesmanlike than appear partial and even biased. It demands hermits in the seats of power than men of common failings. 

For how could you be Superiors when you are Commoners like us?

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