Indian standard time 7.pm to 8 Pm
4th Nov 2020
NCHRO organize a webinar on the above topic. NCHRO Chairperson Prof Marx briefs the introductory remarks on the subject and said for the survival of a liberal democracy, an impartial and independent judiciary is a must. Without independent and impartial judiciary liberal democracy cannot thrive. In January 2000 we found four SC judges came before the media and declared that our democracy is under threat. Though they didn’t openly revealed anything the implication of the statement was that the executive is influencing the functioning of the judiciary.
One of the four judges said that their move had in part been prompted by concerns over the 2014 death of a lower court judge, B H Loya who died shortly before he was due to give a verdict in the case relating to the present Home Minister Amit Shah, who was accused as one involved in the murder. The new judge who was assigned to the case after the death of justice Loya ruled against putting Mr Shah on trial as expected.
In another case relating to the action of the former Chief Justice Deepak Misra in which he overturned an order made by Justice Chelameswar referring the case to the court’s top judges. When it became an issue Justice Misra justified his decision by saying he was “master of the roster”.
We are fortunate enough to have a comparatively a good constitution which has defined the fundamental rights of the people very clearly. The Preamble of our Constitution declares that justice is the first thing that the state seeks to secure. It is the responsibility of the SC to check whether the rights defined in the constitution are not violated by anybody including the government agencies.
We cannot forget the words uttered by Justice D Y Chandrachud striking a dissent note with the majority judgment on the arrest of the first five activists arrested in the Bhima Koreagon – Elgaar Parishad case in 2018. He said that the arrests of these activists are an attempt by the State to muzzle dissent, and dissent is a symbol of a vibrant democracy and the liberty cherished by the Constitution would have no meaning if persecution of the activists is allowed without proper investigation. As he said dissent is the safety valve in the pressure cooker of democracy and it cannot be muzzled by brute force of police.
An investigation agency is just an investigation agency. Nothing More. It cannot go to the extent of playing the role of a ruling party agent. When the court ordered that the five accused activists are to be kept in their own house instead of shifting them to jails we found the Maharashtra police holding a press conference in which it distributed a letter related to the case to the media. Not only that, the letters that were allegedly written by the lawyer activist Sudha Bharadwaj were flashed on TV channels. Not only that, the police selectively disclosed the details of the people to the media. As the honorable judge Chandrachud said the act of that police officer “cast a cloud on the fair probe”. As he said the top court must step in when an investigation appears to be unfair. But our Supreme Court refused to order a court monitored investigation on the Bhima Koreagon case and about sixteen activists are now arrested under draconian laws like UAPA and incarcerated.
Eminent intellectuals as the historian Romila Thapar, economists Prabhat Patnaik and Devaki Jain, sociology professor Satish Deshpande and human rights lawyer Maja Daruwala also moved the top court and asking for a SIT probe if it found that the evidence has been “cooked up”. But that was also rejected and meanwhile the investigation is handed over to the NIA.
Prof Anand Teltumde, a Dalit activist and writer of some very important books on Dalit politics is also now arrested in the Bhima Koreagon case. He didn’t attended either the Edgar Parishad event or supported the idea of celebrating that event as a victory of Dalits over the Beshwa atrocities against Dalits. In an article that appeared in the Wire on 2nd Jan 2018 with the title “The Myth of Bhima Koregaon Reinforces the Identities It Seeks to Transcend”he had said that,
“ when Babasaheb Ambedkar painted the Battle of Bhima Koregaon as the battle of Mahar soldiers against their caste oppression in Peshwa rule, he was creating a pure myth. As myths are required to build movements, he perhaps saw its necessity then. But after a century, when it solidifies into a quasi-history and tends to push Dalits deeper into an identitarian marshland, it should become a worrisome matter. Many Dalit organisations recently formed a joint front to observe the 200th anniversary of this battle as a campaign to launch an attack on the new Peshwas, the rising Brahmanic rule of the Hindutva forces. Their long marches culminated into an Elgar Parishad (conference) at the Shaniwarwada at Pune on December 31. While the resolve to fight the Hindutva forces is certainly laudable, the myth used for the purpose may be grossly counterproductive insofar as it reinforces identitarian tendencies whereas the necessity is to transcend them.”
Though he has dissociated with such idea he was arrested in that case. This itself proves that this is a pure case of revenge and recrimination.
It is in this background we are thinking about future of our democracy. In the beginning of my talk I said that we are endowed with a comparatively good constitution. But our constitution grants power to the majority in the parliament to enact extraordinary provisions in our penal codes in the name of safeguarding the sovereignty of the nation. In the name of extraordinary situation the government is powered to enact extraordinary laws that can curtail the fundamental rights of the citizens. This is misused by the successive governments in the past seventy years. Now we are ruled by a government which never accepted the constitution. Whenever the present ruling party happened to gain in power the first thing they tried to do is to make drastic changes in the constitution.
When Narendra Modi gained power for the first time he tried to dismantle democratic institutions such as judiciary, planning commission etc. Though he was not able to put an end to the collegiums system of selecting the judges of SC, many other democratic institutions are weakened. When the BJP was able to form the government with a better majority in 2019 they begin to make drastic changes in our democracy. To mention a few, immediately after BJP was able to form government for a second term, it took the extraordinary step of unilaterally ending the special constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir and splitting the state into two Union Territories. Modi also enacted the new citizenship law which directly targeted the largest minority of our country. A weak opposition is not able to do anything against such acts of the BJP Government. Attack on educational institutions, arrest of renowned intellectuals under draconian laws, physical attack on minorities in the name of cow slaughter etc has all led to the the “Freedom House” a well known organisation in the United States that tracks democracy and freedom all over the world, lowered India’s freedom score by two points.
It is in this background we are meeting today and sharing our concern and views over the Indian democracy.
Eminent human right activists like Adv Jaya Vindhyalaya PUCL-Hyderabad, Prof. Jenny Rowena from Delhi University. NCHRO Goa Chapter president Dr. Ranjan Solomon –Goa, Reni Aylin-National Secretary and Adv. MK Sharafudheen also participated and deliver their view on the above subjects.
Indian standard time 7.pm to 8 Pm