The drowning Judiciary

In the recent times the Supreme Court(SC) & it’s judgments are seemingly partisan that has come under criticism by many social activists, academic personalities. The supreme court, a place where the ultimate justice is availed against all the checks of tyranny is now losing it’s esteem position. The recent judgements pertaining to bail petitions, free speech might be undermining the faith in judiciary. Criticism anyway is part of democracies. However, citing a criticism as an contemp might reflect an autocratic behaviour on it’s virtue.

The legacy of SC post independence is epically marvelous. One such judgement is by a 13 judge constitutional bench is Kesavananda Bharati vs State of kerala in 1973 held that the provisions in constitution can be amended in parliament and such amendment will be having no change on basic structure of constitution. The SC is custodian of constitution and watchdog of Fundamental Rights violations. The recent judgements of SC is worryingly harmful to the health of good democracies.

A report by Indian express on 10 recently free speech judgments pointed that in only 4 judgements the SC had either expressed in favour or no objection on petitioners claim. While in the 6 judgements the govt. reportedly opposed so do the SC. The most famous is the case of Prashant bhushan’s tweet on CJI popularly known as one rupee judgment. The court held the prashant bhushan guilt of criminal contempt and imposed one rupee fine. Later on prashant bhushan filed a review petition. Nearly 3,000 retired judges, lawyers and eminent citizens questioned Mr Bhushan’s conviction, and said holding Mr Bhushan guilty of contempt had a “chilling effect on people expressing critical views on functioning of the top court”.

And in another judgement, a bail petition filed by a T.V anchor Arnab goswami was rather criticized by many activists for listing his petition the very next day while there were many applications pending for long time. It seemed to be a preferential treatment particularly to some persons listing the petition, granting bail as fast as possible. Ironically, the bail petition by telugu poet & activist Varavara roa, 81, a covid 19 infected person with multiple health related issues, was repeatedly rejected by concerned courts. The SC in a bail petition to him filed by his wife noted that it would request Bombay high court to list the hearing of his bail petition being pending for a month long.

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In another application filed by the 83-year-old father Stan Swamy (arrested in case related to Elgar parishad) seeking permission to allow him a straw and sipper in prison to drink water as he is unable to hold a glass due to the Parkinson’s disease. The NIA had sought 20 days to reply to Swamy’s plea. The justice far away from him that it could not at least provide him basic essentials. How inhumane it is that is at least respecting their age and merits on medical grounds, justice isn’t able to provide basic health essentials despite the right of prisoners guaranteed to them by constitution.

The law enforcement agencies have been booking many intellectuals, academicians, students activities under the draconian UAPA & sedition cases and SC is watching. The SC hadn’t even noted the heart wrenching deaths of migrants on roads railway tracks & platforms. The SC has left the issues of migrant labours to govt. with whom even the data isn’t available at all. The interference of SC in this issue came at the cost of many migrants death by the time the worse has already been happened.

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Never like before, in an unprecedented way, first time in the history of the Supreme Court, the senior-most justices after the Chief Justice of India, a press conference was held at the residence of Justice J. Chelameswar, and also addressed by Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph. Justice Chelameswar addressed the proceeding, calling it an “extraordinary” event in the history of India and its judicial institutions. “Sometimes, the administration of the Supreme Court is not in order. There are many things less than desirable that have happened in the last few months… As senior-most justices of the court, we have a responsibility to the nation and institution. We tried to persuade the CJI that some things are not in order and he needs to take remedial measures. Unfortunately, our efforts failed. We all believe that the SC must maintain its equanimity. Democracy will not survive without a free judiciary.

The petitions attributing the controversial Citizenship(Amendment)Act CAA, Internet access in J&K, electoral bonds, and in such cases where the fundamental rights of citizens are being eroded, have not been listed for hearing so far.  SC Bar Association(SCBA) President Dushyant Dave said “The serious issue here is selective listing of matters that the registry under your leadership is indulging in for last eight months during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is, to say the least, deeply disturbing as to how and why every time Mr Goswami approaches the Supreme Court, his matter gets listed instantly,”

Former chief justice of Delhi & Madras, High Court, Justice A P Shah said that ” we might not be in state of war, but we are state of emergency, unprecedented for generations. Centrally to all this, and certainly, of most concern to me, is the role of the supreme court”. Further, the executive is spearheading this, and the judiciary is either tacitly agreeing with the executive or maintaining silence over the issue.

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