Sunday, June 23, 2024

SC on EC: There could be more to it than what meets eye

SC Justices (from left to right) Hrishikesh Roy,Ajay Rastogi, KM Joseph, Aniruddha Bose and CT Ravi Kumar. (Illustration: Courtesy LawLive.In)

The judiciary asks the Centre what’s the “tearing hurry” in appointing an Election Commissioner.

I can understand where this is coming from. Theirs is a tardy approach or how do you explain little action on the post-poll violence in Bengal despite damning words the probing commission uttered for what looks like ages. 

It also reminds me of the day when our Prime Minister was left stranded on a bridge on the eve of assembly polls by officials of Punjab government, an alarming matter which was put on slow-burner by the Supreme Court with a perfunctory one-person commission who had the licence to produce her report in her own sweet time. 

That it could’ve caused massive upheaval if anything untoward had happened to India’s most beloved leader, and when the air was rife with talks of an active ISI from across the border, and secessionists in near and not so near of Punjab by the name of Khalistanis, the matter was considered “serious” but not serious enough for any urgency. 

Did anyone say of a debilitating farmers’ protest at the Capital’s gate, disruptive like few events in India have ever been, which stirred the judiciary to appoint a three-member committee but whose report was never shared with the citizenry— but for one of the members finally breaking ranks months later and enlightening us that most farmers favoured what now are repealed farm laws?

If you rake up the issue of Ram Janmabhoomi hanging fire for decades even after the Allahabad High Court clinically showed who were on the wrong, I would say you are only confirming my premise that our judiciary prefers slow, considered steps, a kind of tip-toeing towards the mission, much like, let’s say, a burglar is apt to do in his nights of stealth. 

So there is nothing odd if our judiciary wonders about the “tearing hurry” for if it was otherwise, we won’t have millions of pending cases in this country which by a conservative approach would take over 300 years for resolutions. 

So please let go of this “what’s-the-hurry” quote, don’t inflame yourself howsoever outlandish you might find that our illustrious judges term it a “disturbing trend” that Election Commissioners don’t complete their six-year tenure. 

Further, don’t dare to flash the data of 15 CECs in last 26 years to suggest it doesn’t sit too badly in comparison to 22 CJIs  in last 24 years—it could embarrass our honourables enough with horrendous consequences for you. 

You see, we all have our social media and evenings with friends where you could stress endlessly that democracy could only survive if its institutions stay within their own limits and don’t encroach on each other. And that Election Commission is a constitutional body, much like judiciary, which isn’t the one to cast aspersions on, more so if you don’t have a single instance as exhibit for their implied bias except innuendos. 

It’s that kind of a private, trusting evening where you could ridicule how judges could be appointed in an opaque manner while an Election Commission despite the well-laid our procedure of seniority preferred is questioned. Only 10 in a million would fly in the face of this logic and I suspect most of them you would find in our courtrooms. 

If you must, I suggest you concur with the Attorney General who said that when “it comes to striking an original provision of the Constitution, that is for the Parliament to debate and not the court.” 

All that contempt which you could be having for the mandated annual holidays of our honourables, or the need for them to be upfront on their assets, and many such other niggles which lower the image and trust of judiciary in the eyes of a common man, could wait. 

But as for me, there is a bigger worry I lose sleep over. 

I find this raking up EC’s selection as alarming and unexpected as anti-CAA protests or the ones of farmers which hit us out of nowhere. 

I am not suggesting this is contrived, or instigated by inimical foreign forces who have nurtured many important friends in this country for decades but you can’t help but get the impression a crafted, contrived confrontation is sought between the judiciary and executive of this country. 

If the executive prefers to overlook this encroachment by judiciary, it won’t quieten but only encourage India’s enemies to keep pushing till the envelope is yanked open.

An executive and judiciary on warpath would plunge our democracy into crisis for it can’t exist without these two pillars. 

The third pillar, the legislative, could fall foul too and the fourth—the media, let’s just say are not conscientious enough in their obligation to this nation and its tens of millions of citizens. 

If the Centre does take on judiciary, you could be sure its enemies, who are not just teeming in media, academia or political circles but also in religious bodies, would hit the street and bring the country to a standstill. 

That would be the platform to stage a “coup” on Narendra Modi and plunge the country back from where it is now—one of world’s leading economies, a global voice which carries weight etc—to one which is pliant and vulnerable to imperial, colonial forces who you call today by the name of globalists. 

I knew this moment was coming for India’s intransigence on the matter of Ukraine, in support of Russia and against the wishes of West. I just didn’t know what shape it would hit us with. Now it would appear judiciary and executive on warpath could be the strongest card they’d wish in their hands to force a compliance from India. More so since there is little to challenge Modi today. 

What would Modi do? Take on judiciary or ignore it for the time being? Knowing how he moves his pieces on the chessboard, I would think he would indulge judiciary to let have its public spectacle. 

Modi won’t force a showdown: i.e, for instance, use or make public IB reports on every single judge for past 20 years, their methods of appointment, assets and any dirt they could dig open. 

But don’t you believe that would be the end of it. 

Many such non-issues would keep coming in waves: That’s the price one pays for wanting a strong, growing and united India. 

Meanwhile, in passing, Happy Constitution Day which falls today. 

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