Sunday, December 5, 2021

Is there any surprise that our judiciary has stepped into a matter as grave as Lakhimpur Kheri is?

Justice Surya Kant, CJI Ramana, Justice Hima Kohli (image courtesy Bar & Bench)

I am so happy that Supreme Court has taken Suo Moto notice of the farmers killed in Lakhimpur Kheri violence. I can hear your murmurs that there were four others who were also killed who were not farmers and if there lives are any less important but then the problem of India’s masses is that they crib too much. 

Supreme Court steps in when it thinks the matter is of national importance. And protesting farmers are first among equals or why would they be allowed to hold up citizenry and build houses on public roads made out of our pockets? How many of us could go scot-free if we had climbed up the Red Fort and taken off India’s tricolour, never mind even if it wasn’t a Republic Day?

Don’t you remember that they had intervened and taken Suo Moto notice—again—when Kanwariyas were to walk in thousands to Haridwar lest it leads to another outbreak of Covid-19 cases? And now if you counter that they had let Kerala go with packed roads and markets during Bakri-Eid while keeping silent when the same state government clamped down on Onam festival a month later, I could only pray that you are spared Contempt of Court by the honourable judiciary of this country. 

Won’t you not mind if crackers are prohibited a month before and after Deepawali to save innocent lives from deadly gas chamber that world’s most polluted city Delhi becomes at this time of the year? If in between Suo Motos, if the honourable judiciary can’t find time to solve the chief cause of stubble-burning menace, who should you decry them as biased?

Remember how our honourable judiciary was quick to abolish the centuries-old gender discrimination in Sabrimala temple in Kerala in 2018? The discrimination was termed by the then Chief Justice Dipak Misra as “religious patriarchy”. Justice DY Chandrachud, bless his tongue, was even more blunt: The “burden of men’s celibacy” has been put on women. Massive violence and dozens of review petitions later, the Supreme Court was magnanimous enough to review its own judgement. I know it’s nearing four years but the apex court on sensitive matters could take its time on arriving at a judgement. 

And our honourable judiciary do take that sensible course to ensure peace and calm remains unaffected on our cherished land. What if it’s nearly six years since Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were granted bails? Could Gandhis be treated the same manner as the rest of 1.39 billion people are? Die-hard Congressmen are apt to consider this land as Gandhis’ Own.

I know it’s been a few months since the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) reported the hands of state government in the post-poll violence in Bengal, and said that if the “Mamata’s Bengal is not reined it, it would be the death knell for democracy in India”; but don’t forget that it’s the apex court only which has put CBI on the case. 

And if some advocate cribs that Mamata’s government in West Bengal is given extension after extension by the Calcutta High Court—“If your lordships think that people can be hung on trees and still the matters can wait, I have nothing to say”—don’t forget that the High Court had wisely rebutted with a sharp quip: “What’s the urgency?”. Indeed, in matter as sensitive as Bengal is today, as was Ram Janamabhoomi case for decades, the Courts must take its own sweet time and not rush to judgement. 

You can’t fault our honourable courts if they take Suo Moto notice of Covid-19 during the havoc it caused in April-May this year. Or when they took Suo Moto notice of migrants trauma last year. You also don’t know enough why a Arnab Goswami was treated differently from Vinod Dua on being charged with disturbing communal harmony. The honourable courts arrive at a judgement after due consideration while we, the masses, react with our biases and prejudices and little brains which can’t understand the legal complexity. 

So I am sure the Supreme Court has its logic in taking Suo Moto notice of Lakhimpur Kheri. It wants to speed up the process of justice but in the meantime, don’t expect them to clampdown on BJP’s rivals to stop playing politics and not turn the venue of tragedy into political tourism. It must show it’s duty to uphold Constitution which guarantees life and dignity of individual Indian citizens. 

And don’t bring up that oft-repeated charge of crores of cases pending in our Courts even if the judiciary doesn’t let go on its summer and winter vacations every year. Hundreds of fake PILs are filed which waste their time and then there is also this little matter of conscience which makes them take up Suo Moto cases at random. Chief Justice NV Ramana himself has said that Courts ought to be litigant-centric. You could crib how it’s feasible when honourable judges must be called with British legacy of “My Lord” and “My Lady” but then who’s listening?

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