Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Judiciary - The Conscience Keeper

"Buta Singh... What is he doing here. Throw him out. A Governor can't have a house here."

These were the observations, - rather uncharitably singling out an individual who is, after all, also occupying a Constitutional position - made by a Bench of the Honorable Supreme Court on 25.10.05 in the course of the hearing of a Public Interest Litigation upon perusing a list of politicians (including Mr. Buta Singh) and others occupying Government houses beyond their allocated period.

A few days earlier on 20.10.05, a Division Bench of the Delhi High Court made these observations during the hearing of a public interest litigation against running of commercial activities in the residential area of West Patel Nagar in West Delhi:

"Take bulldozers out there and demolish all the commercial premises.''

"Don't bother about anybody, howsoever powerful he may be,''

"Officials of the local body are in collusion with people who indulge in commercial activities in residential areas. You (Corporation officials) take money from them and allow operation of commercial activities in residential areas. I know it and it has been happening in cities across the country, and the urban centres have converted into jungles due to this,''

On 26.10.05, delivering the Judgment in the case of Sri Jayendra Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam allowing a transfer of his case outside Tamilnadu, the Supreme Court had, inter alia, this to say (see Judgment):

“We have discussed above many facets of the case which do show that the State machinery in Tamil Nadu is not only taking an undue interest but is going to any extent in securing the conviction of the accused by any means and to stifle even publication of any article or expression of dissent in media or press, interview by journalists or persons who have held high positions in public life and are wholly unconnected with the criminal case. The affidavits and the documents placed on record conclusively establish that a serious attempt has been made by the State machinery to launch criminal prosecution against lawyers, who may be even remotely connected with the defence of the accused….”

While the first two are just passing observations during the hearing of a case, the last one forms part of the actual Judgment delivered by the Supreme Court.

In recent years, the Judiciary has been compelled to intervene more and more in issues that concern the actions of the Executive. At times, such as the instances cited above, and in cases such as dissolution of the Bihar Assembly, the Courts have shown their displeasure or disapproval over actions that are plainly against the principles of a responsible and impartial Government, whether Union or State.

It is unfortunate that a few feeble attempts were made to put the color of a confrontation between the three pillars of the State, on Judicial pronouncements. Nothing can be farther from the truth. As far as the existing legal structures are concerned, the Judiciary is the final arbiter under the Constitution. The Judiciary comes in the picture only when approached by a petitioner. To suggest even by innuendo, a confrontation by the Judiciary is to display immature thinking not worthy in a democracy that we wish to term as “mature”.

On the other hand, the increasing number of litigations against actions of the Executive, whether by way of PIL or private petitions, is demonstrative of the fact the people feel convinced about the wrong actions or inactions of the Executive. They also feel frustrated by an insensitive administration at the political as well as bureaucratic levels that bends the Rule of Law in letter or in spirit, with vested interests everywhere. That their convictions are justified is clear from the fact that especially in a majority of the PIL cases, the petitioners get a favorable decision, fully or partly, against the administration.

People may also be slowly losing their faith in the Legislature, as a protector of the people’s larger interests. Their perceptions are formed by observing the way in which proceedings in the Legislatures take place, with various political parties across the board allowing their members to conduct themselves in an undignified, often irresponsible manner.

These are serious developments that do not bode well for the Democracy and it is for the serious policy thinkers – if any there are – in the political parties to consider in a nonpartisan manner and prevail upon their parties to change course while there is time.

On second thoughts, this seems to be rather far-fetched to achieve, so that it is only the People themselves that will have to force the change.


At October 29, 2005, Blogger Aswin said...

Thanks for posting the judgement in the seer case. I had a post on this. Google helped me get here. Though I don't sympathise a wee bit with VHP and co..the whole case must be fair. No doubts about that. It is surprising that the media seems to have given very little importance to this judgement.

At October 31, 2005, Anonymous Veerendra N., Mangalore said...

I think the Executive has lost all shame. They do not mind getting a slap once in a while as long as they can get away with their wrong doings most of the time.

At November 01, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is sad that the UPA govt. is trying to just irritate the Judiciary by talking of new law to tackle so called corruption in judiciary.

The judiciary is quite capable, unlike the Govt.

At November 08, 2005, Anonymous anjum said...

The present Govt. is just immature and keeps allowing the Law Minister to make irresponsible public statements.


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