This refers to your special issue on the judiciary (How Political Is Our Judiciary?, March 1). The ongoing farmers’ protest has placed national politics on the crossroads. The ‘mighty’ NDA government felt challenged by the resolute farmers on the streets. The ‘toolkit’ controversy exposed the true nature of the central government—shorn of self-confidence and belief in itself, and plain scared of the growing public opinion against it. It took on social media platforms to throttle free speech. Meanwhile, a Delhi court’s rap on the Centre’s knuckles while serving bail to climate activist Disha Ravi represented a new legislature-judiciary standoff. All said and done, the judiciary does not need to confront the legislature, but it must continue to ensure that the government of the day does not violate the letter and spirit of the Constitution.
George Jacob, Kochi
Is judicial independence not sliding down rapidly? The matter-of-fact editorial (Free or Fettered?) and the other articles in the special issue have covered all aspects of what is debilitating our judicial system. ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ and ‘justice is not merely to be done, it must also appear to have been done’, but our judiciary has lost credibility on both counts. Its servility to the political executive is obvious to all. While politicians in power are usually blamed for all the evils plaguing the country, people in positions of authority at the top levels in all institutions of the State that supposed to be independent and autonomous remain ever ready to oblige the political executive—particularly when nearing retirement, as they aspire for some post-retirement crumbs from the government. Politicians have understood their greed and exploit it to achieve their ends. One remedy is to debar judges and bureaucrats from taking up any assignment being paid from public funds, at least for a few years after retirement. Some judges in the lower rungs, however, are courageous enough to exercise their intelligence and commonsense—for example, the judge who granted bail to Disha Ravi in the recent ‘toolkit’ case by delivering a benchmark judgment based on the principle of ‘bail, not jail, is the rule’. This principle is crucial for protecting the fundamental rights of citizens, but has been dealt with casually at all levels of the judiciary.
M.N. Bhartiya, Alto-Porvorim (Goa)
The law against sedition has been misused by the State, more often than not, to silence and punish those who raise their voice for a just cause, if that cause is at odds with the government’s agenda. Dissidents are branded as ‘anti-national elements’ and accused of trying to incite people to break the law. Due intervention by a vigilant media and an active judiciary is all that targeted dissidents have on their side. Numerous cases of legal harassment of activists show that the government uses criminal prosecution against those who refuse to toe its line. Denial of bail on the ground that the alleged offence is of a serious nature has only compounded the woes of those arrested. It is disappointing that no serious efforts have been made to scrap the law against sedition despite numerous instances of its misuse. Political parties make a hue and cry about the urgency to repeal the sedition law when they are in Opposition, but once they come to power, they have no qualms in misusing the same law against their opponents.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
This refers to Free or Fettered? (From the Editor, March 1). Former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, was one of the four seniormost Supreme Court judges who held an unprecedented press conference in January 2018, where they alleged that the then CJI Dipak Misra was violating conventions and allowing the executive to interfere in the court’s affairs. They alleged that democracy was in danger. Later, Justice Gogoi was appointed CJI on his turn, and in November 2019, a bench led by him settled a decades-old dispute over the ownership of a plot of land in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid had stood until it was demolished by a mob of Hindutva zealots in 1992. Four months after retiring as CJI, Gogoi was nominated to the Rajya Sabha. His detractors cried foul and said he was rewarded by the Modi government for delivering a verdict in favour of Hindus. However, it was not the first time a retired judge was appointed to a public office. As far back as in 1952, Justice Fazl Ali was appointed governor of Odisha after completion of his tenure as a Supreme Court judge.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
“Free or fettered”, it is the litigant who spends a lifetime in his fight for justice and still finds no resolution to his problems. The judiciary must look into the long list of pending cases awaiting disposal. The number of cases is larger than the population of some countries, and it is estimated that it may take about 320 years to clear the backlog. Why is the government not speeding up the appointment of judges instead of offering post-retirement sinecures? The judiciary must disprove the adage that “you have the law for now, but justice you will get only in your next life”.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
The editor’s opinion is biased and the example he cites—of former CJI Ranjan Gogoi—is laughable. What’s wrong with nominating him to the Rajya Sabha after his retirement? The editor even questions his valued judgment on the Ayodhya case. Would the editor have been pleased if the verdict favoured Muslims?
Vishwanath Dhotre, On E-Mail
This refers to your story on Myanmar The Coup Clutch Clan (February 15). American democracy saw a nasty political game in Donald Trump blaming election fraud for his party’s failure and justifying the overturning of the results by force. In faraway Myanmar too, the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party refused to concede defeat to Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) and alleged ‘voter fraud’ to pave the way for removal of the elected government. It had taken decades for the people’s struggle for freedom from the shackles of military rule to force the military junta to hand over power to the NLD. The battered democracy can now be salvaged only by getting rid of the junta, and the international community must play a role in making it happen.
Seetharambasaani, Hanamkonda (Telangana)
This refers to Chetan Mahajan’s column on the tragedy in Chamoli (The Condammed Space, February 22). It is yet another warning that development inimical to nature can have far-reaching consequences for people and their ecosystem. The earthquake-prone Himalayan zone is already bearing the brunt of too many hydroelectric projects. Nature’s fury has time and again cautioned us against excessive exploitation of resources in the name of. development or employment-generation. But, despite several tree-saving movements, including the Chipko Andolan, which played a stellar role in saving forests from the onslaught of commercialisation, and court rulings against the construction of too many dams, we have not learnt any lessons. The colonial mindset of exploiting forest resources, deforestation for laying railway tracks and evicting local communities from their ancestral lands continues unabated. Economic development is vital for a country’s progress, but it should not come at the cost of human suffering. We will have to mend our ways and strive for eco-friendly and sustainable development.
Vijay Singh Adhikari, Nainital