At the edge of the Abyss

scales of justice

The country is lumbering towards an abyss,what with the reckless government caught in the toils of its own rash policies,and brazening it out with more and more incredible lies. Society still foundering in the terrible wilderness of divisive and hate-filled campaigns,and the opposition still unable to unite in their intoxication with imagined electoral triumphs.

Not unexpectedly Rahul Gandhi’s bold initiative in the form of the Bharat Jodo Yatra has come as a whiff of fresh air into this murky and toxic atmosphere, and alarmed BJP spokesmen have sought to drown it under filthy invective.People have joined with enthusiasm and radiant hopes seen on their faces.But overbuoyed with the growing success of the March Rahul Gandhi now and then seems to take a false step.For example in my humble opinion his avowed aim is to rouse the people from confusion and torpor,and he should leave such remarks as that on the possibility of alliance with TRS to the new Congress president.Besides while he seems to be succeeding in his aim of mobilizing the people torescue the country from a dangerous slide towards chaos he is yet to get their hopes and fears,impulses and energies concentrated into a clear focus on certain general but concrete goals.

The price-rise is no figure on the tables in a document.It has become a grim drain on his already poor resources for bare survival.The crowing from government circles that GST has raked in more than 1 lakh and 50 crore rupees is poor consolation as quite a lot of it has been squeezed from taxes on essential commodities including some vegetables and milk and curd.Medicine prices are jumping through the roof.Employment figures have dipped dismally in spite of bombastic boasts on government advertisements.The clamour about IT and ED raids has dimmed in volume as the public has become disconcertingly aware of the sins of the canonized saints.The Morbi disaster has had louder and more lasting reverberations than saintly rulers cared for.

All in all a scene filled with foreboding.

At this twilight hour the Delhi Police appear to be chucking their constitutional duties and turning themselves into a troop of robotic warriors programmed to execute the most irrational orders like raiding newspaper and portal offices and seizing alleged incriminating documents.It will be no surprise if it pulls out of its hat yet another mind-blowing story about Urban Naxals out to ruin the nation.

Naturally the only source of relief and possible succour for peaceful citizens from the fury of a demented state remains the higher judiciary.But as has been already hinted in the past this has become elusive as the courts at crucial times are prone to shy away from a direct confrontation with a crazed executive.

Well,the gentlemen in wigs and robes are not impassioned revolutionaries,nor are expected to be such.They find it distasteful to desert the chosen and customary ground for exercise of the powers granted by the constitution.Nobody blames them for it.But these are very very changed times,and the stress on sobriety,decency and legality may not quite rub off on people who are determined to defy such norms when it suits them. Remember the situation when the then CJI had demanded a clear answer from the government whether it had purchased the malware Pegasus and used it against civilians.The government had bluntly said it won’t respond and the court could do whatever it liked!Actually it was like a turning point laying bare the most unpalatable truth about the present uncertain position of the judiciary.It will require the highest level of integrity,courage and grit on the part of the judiciary to survive such an ordeal.It will no longer do to secure fundamental civil rights under threat and allow the government to get away with the most glaring violations of constitutional norms under the guise of ‘policy’.

The government’s chilling claim to overriding powers in transgression of basic democratic norms has come out in the affidavit by the Centre in response to petitions by civil society groups challenging CAA at the sitting of the Suprene Court on 31st March.Solicitor General Tushar Mehta defended the affidavit that went on to question the locus standi of civil society groups on the ground that parliament alone had the authority to consider,pass and discuss citizenship laws,and civil society groups had simply trespassed. But laws are made ultimately for the good of the people and if they threaten or harm their interests they have as much scope to approach the high courts and Supreme Court to find redress. Denial of that right is plain tyranny

The country has noted with some relief and expectation the steps initiated by CJI Ramana to pull back the institution of the judiciary from the brink of collapse.Looking back on the tenures of other CJIs who had either passed instant judgments in favour of the government with the most incredible alacrity or the scandalous genuflection before governments in cases of most flagrant failures of governance, one felt one’s spirits rise a little from stupor.Justice U.U.Lalit had continued the trend,and one hopes the flame won’t flicker out. But both the judiciary and the people banking on their morale and grit,should cherish no illusion about the realities today.

War-drums are sounding again in different parts of the globe,with an America crazed with fears of losing its supremacy and the defensive paroxysms of states it is threatening with veiled signals.The world economy has already started rocking under the impact of their moves and counter-moves.Rulers in India seem to be turning towards them as a last resort against incalculable explosions of popular rage.Keen alertness on part of citizens is what matters most in this hour.

Hiren Gohain is a political commentator


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