It is scandalous and quite terrifying that a BJP Member of Parliament has reportedly alleged in Parliament that the “judicial system” of the country is “another culprit” in the crime of instigating recent Delhi riots. The reference is not to hitches in the judicial process but to the judgment of judges, including those of the Supreme Court.
Significantly, while the BJP is given to referring to the Supreme Court as the dispenser of Supreme Wisdom, in this case a BJP leader has accused it as guilty of serious failure of judgment. Not to be left behind is BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi, who has thrown dark hints about Intelligence Bureau (IB) reports on judges to justify a pre-emptive transfer of a judge in the middle of an urgent case on the riots, widely believed to have been a pogrom.
Now it is a problem if the IB is allowed to influence decisions on appointment, transfer and elevation of judges. The IB has often been faulted for inept handling of its business. Notoriously it is also open to influence of ruling circles. How can its reports then be regarded as the last word on integrity of judges without impartial and close checking?
Secondly, it is surprising that they have been allowed to get away with such flagrant breaches of propriety by both the Speaker and the Opposition. The independence of the judiciary is a pillar of constitutional democracy. Such unabated insinuations can chip away that independence to make it lean towards the ground dangerously.
In my humble opinion the Supreme Court should also hold out a stern warning against such irresponsible chatter. Court judgments are, to be sure, amenable to rational discussion and criticism and in any vibrant democracy the judiciary is alert enough to such scrutiny and careful to base its decisions on careful and scrupulous reasoning. Any impression of sluggishness or bias in delivery of judgment may weaken its authority and jeopardize the delicate balance of three main pillars of the state.
Our democracy is today rocked by severe headwinds and the executive power appears less interested in keeping the state on an even keel than in forcing it towards an altogether different direction. It is imperative on the part of the judiciary to maintain the balance of powers with judicious interventions. Neither dilatoriness nor impetuosity will be of any value in such troubled times.
It is heartening that the two-judge vacation bench has not stayed the order of the Allahabad High Court against the Yogi Adityanath government's atrocious violations of the citizen’s inalienable right to life and liberty with murderous invasion of privacy. The observation of the High Court that it is a “shameless violation of constitutional values” has put the spotlight on a great menace to our Constitution. Such an attitude on the part of the judiciary affords us a sigh of relief amidst rising anxiety.
There was a time when ministers of the government were regularly briefed on press criticism of important policies and decisions. This has ceased to matter when ministers are reduced to cogs in a wheel and the machine itself grinds on with inscrutable functions. One wishes that honourable judges were also made aware of such feedbacks from the informed public, not to sway their judgment but to hone their awareness of the various dimensions and issues of matters already decided.
The author is a socio-political commentator and cultural critic. The views are personal.