BY SYED ALI MUJTABA
Honorable Chief Justice of India, N.V. Ramana, in a recent address to the Indian American audience said; ‘Let me make it clear, we (SC) are answerable to the Constitution and the Constitution alone, to enforce checks and balances enshrined in the constitution, we need to promote constitutional culture in India and spread the awareness of roles and responsibilities of individual institutions.
The CJI’s lofty words were music to the American Indian’s ears but back home those living in real India have a litany of woes against the judiciary and particularly the Supreme Court that can alone address them. The CJI in his address admitted that we have not learned to appreciate the roles and responsibilities assigned by the constitution to each of the institutions but this does absolve the judiciary for all the wrongs that have crept into its body mass.
Let’s start with the selection of the judges. Where in the constitution does it say that judges appoint judges and that too five judges including CJI will appoint the 30 odd judges of the Supreme Court? We the people of India do not have any clarity on this issue and none can clarify this then who heads the institution called judiciary.
Nowhere in the constitution is it written that most of the judges should be from a handful of families. If we do a background check of the current judges, we will find the aroma of dynastic rule. The current political dispensation in India has been shouting to end the dynastic rule but it has never made any comment on the judiciary that’s inadvertently following this trend.
The point to make, do the judiciary has complete indemnity from accountability to its citizens. There is nothing in the constitution that talks about checks and balances of the judiciary that the CJI was talking about to the American audience. Perhaps the framers of the constitution assumed that judges will conduct in the most upright way, upholding the core values of the delivery of justice.
However, it’s often seen that the judges fail to rise above the worldly allurements and prefer those fetters to deny justice to the weak and marginalized. The Ramjanam Bhoomi vs Babari Masjid judgment is a classic example to quote.
Further where the constitution says that a person can be held guilty without any trial? The recent arrest of Teesta Stelvad, a human rights activist, and DGP Sree Kumar was never tried in court and was arrested on the basis of observations made by SC judges against them. This is against the fundamental rights of any Indian citizen and it is the duty of the judiciary to protect against the violation of such rights.
However, in this case, the honorable Court issued no clarification about its observations to be construed as an order. The arrest of human rights activists in plain and simple terms is a travesty of justice. The arrest made on the basis of the SC judge’s observation has created a dangerous situation in India. This has led some to equate the judiciary with the kangaroo courts.
In India, it is seen that when Rome is burning and the Neros are fiddling, the judiciary is putting the black strap on its eyes pretending not to be looking at the problems at hand till it finds its way and settles down. Can judges recuse their responsibilities when the citizens’ rights are being trampled? Where CJI’s loft words in American fit in when he says ‘we need to promote constitutional culture in India and spread the awareness of roles and responsibilities of individual institutions.
Next Indian judiciary is completely silent over the macabre dance of death orchestrated by the criminals and anti-social elements when they are targeting innocent Muslims, in the garb of Hindu nationalism? Whether it’s mob lynching or Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti festivity where innocent Muslims are targeted the judiciary remains a mute spectator. Still, it does not interfere when the victim of hate crimes are Muslims are arrested, while the hate mongers and Hindu religious zealots roam free after committing such crimes. The intervention of the judiciary is so much wanted to stop such innocent bloodshed.
In the same vein, the judiciary is completely silent over the bulldozer justice being delivered by the executive in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. Recently a student and rights activist, Afreen Fatima’s house was demolished by a bulldozer obviously at the orders of the Chief Minister for raising her voice for minority rights, freedom of speech, and the right to peacefully dissent.
However, she was reprimanded by the bulldozer justice in a bid to silence her and instill a sense of fear among all who want to use their constitutional right to protest. The judiciary in this regard had no comments to make. As such, the order of the executive in such a situation becomes constitutional even though it may be unconstitutional in every sense.
Then it’s seen that the Supreme Court of India wakes up in the middle of the night to hear the bail plea of the journalist, Arnab Goswami, but it sleeps over when Muslim homes are burnt down, their women are raped and they are displaced in large numbers. Where in the constitution does it say that justice can be speeded up for some and delayed for others?
Next, there has been a spate of arrests made of young girls and boys during CAA protests as these youth exercised their right to dissent against the public policy of the government. These youth were exercising their fundamental right to protest but were arrested for political reasons.
These youth have already spent over two years in jail and no one knows how long they may be remained punished there. The judiciary remains silent on their fate and has not said a word about when they may be released. No one is expecting any word of solace from the judiciary but questions are being raised will the judiciary return back these youth to their wasted years in jails?
The Supreme Court recently mentioned that Judges can be vulnerable to attacks by media and in particular social media’s comments and lose patience and will act if necessary. Here the judiciary is caught between freedom of speech and the responsibilities of speech. Day in and day out the responsibilities of free speech are being sacrificed on the altar of freedom of speech. The judiciary has no clue where to draw the Lakshman Rekha to protect basic human values.
In the US speech, Justice N.V Ramana talked about tolerance and inclusiveness as core values of Indian society. His comments were far from being true, both these values are openly being flaunted in India and the judiciary turns a blind eye to protect the constitutional culture in India
Lastly, there are plenty of cases pending before the Supreme Court be it; Abrogation of Article 370, reducing J&K state’s status to Union Territory, wearing Hijab in the classroom, right to pray in public in Gurgaon, etc. There is an inordinate delay in hearing such sensitive cases of public interest. Many believe that the judiciary is an ardent fan of the idiom, justice delayed is justice denied?
Finally, it’s common wisdom that when government errs, it’s the judiciary that comes to the rescue of the people but when the judiciary errs where will the people go? In other words, there is none to bell this cat called Judiciary.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org