Justice And Political Neutrality

scales of justice

Decades ago,long before there was any hint of a Hindutva wave in the country, I had  ventured to contest on the pages of ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY a view of eminent sociologist Andre Beteillel that argued that secularism had been an automatic outcome of the secular onward march of time and not necessarily of any advance of secular  ideas.On the face of it it appeared quite reasonable at that time.For till then that appeared to have been the case.If,that is,records of the past from Ram Mohan Ray’s challenging the Hindu orthodoxy onwards were ignored 

Beteille,a conservative humanist averse to ideological passion,distrusted ideological struggles as inimical to real scholarship.Like others of the tribe that thought otherwise I held that without such an implicit struggle and the position that followed from it a scholar would miss the substance of such ideas and values.I had little idea in those staid times that those  words would come to bear an ominous and terrifying significance in these unsettling days of our time.

For there is little doubt that a mortal struggle is going on in our country and our minds about the very content of our democracy and the Constitution that upholds and supports it.It is a pity that certain sections of the state that shoulder the main burden of defending them appear unaware of the life and death struggle and carry on as if things are completely normal.They thus implicitly support forces that are working furiously to blow up the ground beneath their feet.

Let us consider for example  the courts.It is true that they have to work strictly within the limits of existing laws and the articles of the constitution.Private beliefs and doubts have no place in deciding on even momentous issues for the country.But the Constitution itself is no inert document.It is alive with meaning that glows with passion in circumstances that endanger it.

It is a pity if some people feel uncomfortable with  the warmth that radiates from it.And fail to derive support from it.

The lower courts in certain regions seem to act as if the law is a crude instrument of power and not a means of upholding and ensuring justice.There are honourable exceptions,but they face mounting pressure, sometimes  from unexpected quarters in discharging their duties honestly.And   unfortunately  the higher courts too at times seem half-hearted and lukewarm in going the whole hog in certain vital matters,to the disbelief and dissatisfaction of many.They appear unconscious of the intense struggle for defending basic ideas and values of democracy going on in the country today.

Consider for instance the issue of financial frauds allegedly perpetrated by Adani.It is right and proper that the SC has refused to accept as ‘gospel truth’ the revelations of reputed foreign investigating agencies,while not entirely rejecting them.It has rightly demanded clear and concrete evidence admissible under law that can bear the charges out.The counsels of the complainants have stated that  FINANCIAL TIMES and the rest have refused to share such relevant documents  in their possession.The SC took note of this circumstance and concurred with the national investigating agency for financial irregularities  

SEBI that the latter found no evidence of any wrong-doing. It is patent that the investigation remains incomplete.

And the findings under such circumstances remain inconclusive.At least in the matter of the alleged racket in price of Indonesian coal sold to power-plants it seems SEBI could have gained access to the relevant documents with a bit of patient hard work and with the help of government and the latter was in no position to deny that assistance.

As regards other related issues too it was not impossible to get hold of the documents that foreign sources have refused to share.After all the documents are not state secrets as to be inaccessible For powerful agencies like SEBI access to them was within the range of possibility.For example help from  foreign governments could have been persuaded to lend help.

  Hence in our opinion it would have been logical and reasonable for SC to have directed SEBI to pursue the matter further  with due diligence instead of upholding the premature closure.And for both Adani and the government too,if they think they are absolutely in the clear in this contentious issue, they ought to have taken pains to co-operate with the investigation fully and provide  all information and relevant documents asked for without any reservations. Things remain perilously under a cloud permitting proliferations of doubts and rumours affecting confidence of the people in the strength of the constitution and its core values like power limited by law,and of course secularism.

Hiren Gohain is a political commentator

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