Putting The Judiciary on Trial
It is scandalous and quite terrifying that a BJP
Member of Parliament has reportedly alleged in Parliament that the "judicial
system" of the country is "another
culprit" in the crime of
instigating recent Delhi riots. The reference is not to hitches in the judicial
process but to the judgment of judges, including those of the Supreme Court.
Significantly, while the BJP is given to
referring to the Supreme Court as the dispenser of Supreme Wisdom, in this case
a BJP leader has accused it as guilty of serious failure of judgment. Not to be
left behind is BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi, who has thrown
dark hints about Intelligence
Bureau (IB) reports on judges to justify a pre-emptive transfer of a judge in
the middle of an urgent case on the riots, widely believed to have been a
Now it is a problem if the IB is allowed to
influence decisions on appointment, transfer and elevation of judges. The IB
has often been faulted for inept handling of its business. Notoriously it is
also open to influence of ruling circles. How can its reports then be regarded
as the last word on integrity of judges without impartial and close checking?
Secondly, it is surprising that they have been
allowed to get away with such flagrant breaches of propriety by both the
Speaker and the Opposition. The independence of the judiciary is a pillar of
constitutional democracy. Such unabated insinuations can chip away that
independence to make it lean towards the ground dangerously.
In my humble opinion the Supreme Court should
also hold out a stern warning against such irresponsible chatter. Court
judgments are, to be sure, amenable to rational discussion and criticism and in
any vibrant democracy the judiciary is alert enough to such scrutiny and
careful to base its decisions on careful and scrupulous reasoning. Any
impression of sluggishness or bias in delivery of judgment may weaken its
authority and jeopardize the delicate balance of three main pillars of the
Our democracy is today rocked by severe
headwinds and the executive power appears less interested in keeping the state
on an even keel than in forcing it towards an altogether different direction.
It is imperative on the part of the judiciary to maintain the balance of powers
with judicious interventions. Neither dilatoriness nor impetuosity will be of
any value in such troubled times.
It is heartening that the two-judge vacation
bench has not stayed the order of the Allahabad High Court against the Yogi
Adityanath government's atrocious
violations of the citizen's
inalienable right to life and liberty with murderous invasion of privacy. The
observation of the High Court that it is a "shameless violation of
constitutional values" has put the spotlight on a great menace to our
Constitution. Such an attitude on the part of the judiciary affords us a sigh
of relief amidst rising anxiety.
There was a time when ministers of the
government were regularly briefed on press criticism of important policies and
decisions. This has ceased to matter when ministers are reduced to cogs in a
wheel and the machine itself grinds on with inscrutable functions. One wishes
that honourable judges were also made aware of such feedbacks from the informed
public, not to sway their judgment but to hone their awareness of the various
dimensions and issues of matters already decided.
The author is a socio-political commentator and
cultural critic. The views are personal.