The CJI’s Complaint


When the present Chief Justice of India speaks,India listens.Not because of his position and power,but because he has restored a measure of trust in the justice system of the country following its steep decline under some of his predecessors.

The point is critical.For the highest courts in the world are prone to be subjected to heated controversy from time to time,but they cannot be said to be losing the trust of the citizens of respective countries in the manner that is true of India.For democracy in India,according to credible native and foreign observation posts,has come under a planned and systematic attack and is becoming attenuated every passing year.The role of courts has therefore become crucial in a way that does not hold for many other countries. And the matter is very different from an occasional controversy like that on the US Supreme Court verdict on abortion.

One hopes the CJI has taken into account these circumstances in expressing his deep unhappiness with the ‘Kangaroo Courts’ on our SC held by electronic and social media.The citizens’ anxiety about the fate of their country is just as intense as his unhappiness about irresponsible and dubious comments in media.The situation is complicated by the invasion of trolls deployed by vested interests just to add to the confusion.

While saluting him for his bold departure from the staid and impassive response of some predecessors to the shocking pressure exerted by the government and the troll army on healthy norms for functioning of democracy,and the deadly debilitation of independent institutions as well as the deliberate clipping of freedoms granted by the constitution,one must state boldly that things are far from reaching a reassuring stage.

We have been heartened by the decisive measures taken to put brakes on Sedition laws,and the dilatory tactics of government and sections of lower judiciary in granting bail,the impunity with which the police hound to death dissidents.But these interim measures do not ring the curtains on these disturbing acts of legal repression.

The SC in its laudable interim order could have alluded to the rampant abuse of UAPA,which has been even grosser than in case of such black laws as TADA,in its observation and thus reined in its savagery.The Pegasus trail is getting cold,and the hope of catching the crooks is fading. Serious constitutional issues are hanging fire,far more momentous than the Babri Masjid dispute.It is clear how the combined effect of these delays is going to impact democracy in this country.

Nobody is hinting that the honourable judges are not working hard or that the dense legal thicket of precedent, procedure and permissible norms of reasoning and evidence in courts is not formidable.But these are not normal times and we are living through a crisis that the CJI can hardly have failed to notice.If laymen like us are missing the finer shades of the legal challenge,it may be pointed that respected former colleagues have also been ringing the alarm.And whether the momentum he has imparted to the process of revival will be maintained once he retires is cause for another worry.Hence,one would like to plead,the storms in the internet need must to be weathered with stoic calm.

After all the functioning of democracy is bound to be under the glare of public scrutiny in any of the three areas that together constitute the jurisdiction of the state.Only when citizens feel sure that things are proceeding as they should, they relax their watch.

One may recall at this point that the First Amendment to the American constitution which enshrined basic civil liberties as guarantees against undue accumulation of arbitrary power by the government had been adopted in December,1791.Today such liberties under our constitution are under a grave threat,and only the highest court in the land can step in to eliminate it by taking a strong immovable stand on the fundamental rights of citizens.

Hiren Gohain is a political commentator


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