Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Indian judiciary and its “overreach” could be grave for our Republic

The rational in me says the Supreme Court has done the right thing by staying the encroachment drive in Jahangirpuri till it takes up the case in two weeks. 

The chronicler in my though can’t help but conclude that Supreme Court chooses its cases to act with alacrity or apathy. 

There is a case to be made that stung by violence during the Hanuman Jayanti earlier this week, the Centre was peeved enough to move its bulldozers to convey the rioters the not-so-subtle message of harm which could come their way in terms of livelihood and demolished homes. 

The Supreme Court moved with a lightning speed to halt the operations, within minutes of the petitions filed against, in less time we take in a loo. 

Its concern for “innocents” subject to punitive measure by the authorities in Jahangirpuri was nowhere in witness when thousands had their livelihood affected due to the unlawful blocking of Delhi’s gates by protesting farmers for more than a year. 

The matter was made worse when it refused to make public the report which the committee on farm laws, appointed by no other than the apex court itself, had submitted and which upheld the value of those laws in the eyes of most of India’s farmers. 

Supreme Court’s concern for livelihoods and homes in Jahangirpuri bears little relation to its inaction on documented atrocities on Hindus in post-poll violence in Bengal when many lost lives, were raped and had to abandon their homes. 

Almost everyday, we hear of horrific murders of BJP workers and sympathisers in Bengal and Kerala but the Supreme Court remains unfazed. 

Today, on Social Media, people are pointing out that while the case of two Sadhus brutally lynched in Palaghar, Maharashtra hangs fire for years now, the Supreme Court not only takes Suo Motu cognizance of deaths in Lakhimpur Kheri but has even problem if the accused, Ashish Mishra, is granted bail. 

There are also snide tweets how in double quick time the Supreme Court didn’t allow kanwariyas yatras to happen in 2020 but almost simultaneously, it looked the other way when Kerala government opened markets for faithfuls on the Eid festivities. 

This is only part of the fear that people could lose trust in the judicial system of this country. 

When the matter of genocide of Kashmiri Hindus is dismissed as too much of time has “elapsed”; when it takes decades to settle the Ram Janmabhoomi case where the evidence is cut-and-dry; and then the citizens witness how quickly the Supreme Court intervenes in a Lakhmipur Kheri or a Jahangirpuri, the casualty is moral authority.  

It becomes hard to ignore the barks on the appallingly non-transparent system of judicial appointments where the judiciary kind of elects itself. 

It’s just not people who could have a gripe against the judiciary of this country. Even the Executive today could conclude that judiciary is stepping on to its shoes; against the constitutional norm where separation of power is stressed for Executive, Legislative and Judiciary.

There was this incident of prime minister Narendra Modi being left stranded over a bridge in Punjab due to security lapse ahead of Punjab polls earlier this year. It was a massive incident where the security of the leader, chosen overwhelmingly by the masses of the country, was put to danger. 

The Ministry of Home Affairs had moved quickly, to ascertain who was guilty of security lapse, and whether the police and administrative officials alone needed to be set aright or whether it was part of a political conspiracy. Even the Khalistanis could’ve brought about this extremely grave lapse. 

But as it happened, the Court put a halt to MHA’s action, appointed a one-member committee, without a deadline to submit its report, which in real terms implied that polls in Punjab wouldn’t be affected if a grave conspiracy was to come to light. One is still not sure whatever has followed on that incident which the Court itself had termed serious. 

And now this on Jahangirpuri. 

The demolition drive happens in two instances: One, when there is an encroachment. Two, when an illegal construction has taken place within four walls.  

In this case there is no ambiguity that it was an encroachment drive which requires no notice to be given as its on public land. 

Two, the demolition drive didn’t favour one over the other: All encroachers, be it Hindus, Muslims or anyone, faced the music;

Three, the BJP could very safely show that it’s not the first time Jahangirpuri has faced demolition. Indeed, it’s fifth such drive in recent times in the area. 

If one asserts that drive is a testimony of the hostility the BJP has for a particular community, how is at any different when Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal himself made one such demolition drive in the past? How is one alleged bias any better than the other alleged bias? 

The simple matter is, an elected government must be allowed to govern as it represents the will of the people. An over-reaching government would be duly punished by the people in next polls.

If a government must be subjected to checks and balances then so should be the judiciary. 

It can’t be a law into itself. 

And it certainly can’t be seen encroaching on to the territory of  the Executive.

If judiciary appears biased, can’t explain the rationale of its one action compared to one on a similar kind, it loses its moral authority. 

And it won’t be long, I fear, when it could lose faith in people.

It would betray the very Constitution which it professes to uphold and which lays down the golden role of separation of powers between three of its arms.  

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