The recent in the face bluster of the Centre that it need not always obey the verdict of the SC carried a disturbing undertone of menace.As if it will be infra dig for the SC to compel the Centre to comply with its orders.Treason,to put it starkly.
But in democracy such obedience to constituted authority is the rule,as in its proper sphere the executive is to be obeyed.
What has appeared bizarre is the blank assertion that by reason of its overriding powers,(as in its getting away with swallowing much of states’ powers) it can get away with subsumption of the judiciary’s powers beneath it.
There have not been any serious protests over its other acts of infringement of rules,as the SC in its caution and moderation had tarried in delivering judgments on vital constitutional questions.But the last straw on the camel’s back had been the Centre’s blunt refusal to heed the SC’s warnings.
In fact,though unacknowledged, the shadow of a constitutional crisis falls on the clash of views.Things have indeed come to a crunch.
On one side is arrayed egotistic arrogance nurtured on seizure of power from different quarters,on the other side there is a civil and scrupulous adherence to constitutional norms and rules.
But the way it is resolved will have critical impact on the character of the state.The former not only has electoral mandate in its hands but has built a vast army of lumpens with both lung-power and brawn.There has not only been unchecked coercive action on certain minorities,but now a rising crescendo of demand for economic boycott of them.Which will of course mean starving them out. Pretty horrendous. A little more of that and we will plummet into Germany of nineteen thirty-eight.To speak bluntly,as long as the judiciary upholds the constitution and the rule of law,people must stand solidly and unhesitatingly behind them as against lumpens,armed or not.
However hard the SC tries to reason its foe into sobriety,or delay or mitigate the crisis, the way things are moving it will be pretty hard to persuade them into good sense.Luck has worked in their favour so far,and so they think with the help of astrology they can bring about the desired transformation of the state from its hated Western degenerate shape.
It is rather lucky that the CJI has been speaking in an idiom quite different from the long-standing elitist legalism,in defence of the rights of the poor,who constitute the vast majority of our people,those hardest hit by umpteen ‘reforms’, read repression.
It will be difficult or perhaps unwise for the judiciary to hope it is not in a conflicted situation.It has no army to back it.The police in certain regions and in the capital appear tardy in their response to its stern instructions.Most independent institutions have the tail between their legs now. Cards are stacked against it heavily.
But if it stoutly upholds the rights of the people and the writ of the constitution, even the lumpens might yet come to their senses or at least be thrown into some confusion.But if it seeks to accommodate the overweening demands of the executive,restrict protests to harmless parades, it is reasonable to apprehend growing public distrust of its power,even its good will, with disastrous results for all.
The Pegasus judgment has been welcomed with a huge sigh of relief in the country. One looks forward,a little uncertainly,for more signs of regeneration.
Hiren Gohain is a political commentator