Millennium Post
Opinion

Atrophy of institutions

With institutions bridled at the behest of the powerful, the onus to rescue the country from prevailing adversity rests on people’s mandate

The much-publicised sexual harassment allegation by a sacked employee of the Supreme Court against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and the charge made by the young lawyer on affidavit that 'fixers' in league with disgruntled and dismissed SC employees had 'ganged together to frame the CJI and defame him,' have shaken the Hornet's nest.

It seems, ruthless enemies within the country, with their demoniacal designs, are all out to atrophy the forward-thinking Supreme Court when the country is elated with several of its recent judgements. 'No CJI had the courage to take the action against certain elements. This has been happening in the past as well. CJI Gogoi wanted to clean the system. When someone tries to correct wrongs, he is killed or maligned,' observed Justice Arun Mishra, who was heading the three-member bench that took suo moto cognisance of the 'matter of great public importance touching upon the independence of judiciary.'

While the in-house committee of three judges, including two female judges, would look into the allegation against the CJI, the issue that takes prominence is bench-fixing with the help of SC registry. Assisted by CBI, IB and Delhi Police, former SC Judge, Justice AK Patnaik, would go into the roots of this matter. Although such things have been in the air, it was Justice Kurian Joseph who, after retirement, said that he felt the then CJI Justice Deepak Mishra was remote-controlled. Now, Justice Arun Mishra said, 'The way this institution is being treated for the last three-four years, this institution is going to die. There is a systematic attack, systematic game to malign this great institution,' while at the same time warned, 'rich and powerful people thought they could bludgeon and blackmail the court into submission, but little did they know that they were playing with fire.' And to begin with, the SC sought a report from its registry on how the DND flyway matter, which involves hundreds of crores of rupees, gets listed for hearing contrary to the court's order.

As such, every institution in the country has been captured by the political establishment. Already, bureaucracy has been subdued; more so in the present regime; rules and procedures are dictated by the political executive. For the lack of organic relationship with the bureaucrats, many IAS officers in the PMO have even sought a shift out, if Modi is re-elected. In demonetisation, etc., RBI was bulldozed into submission, against all the norms. Suppressing the real fraud, CAG trivialises the Rafale matter. Even the EC has no courage to pull up the BJP leadership for violations; minor actions taken only after the reprimand of the SC reminding them of their powers. Poor CBI, IT, ED, CVC, etc., have been acting only in compliance with the whims and fancies of those in power. Media is also made to dance to their tune.

Having already sabotaged all the important institutions, it seems, the sight of these powerful people is now set on the Supreme Court, whose reformatory approach is not palatable to them. In the presence of PM Modi, Justice Thakur had burst into tears on a public platform while pleading for support of the government to reform the laggard judicial process. Justice KM Joseph had to face the ire of the government with their hurdles for his elevation to the SC for having quashed the President's rule in Uttarakhand to uphold Constitution. The country is aware that Justice Khehar had favoured Modi in the Birla-Sahara diary matter, apparently as a quid pro quo in lieu of his own elevation as CJI in spite of the allegation of corruption as revealed in the suicide note of Kalikho Pul, the former CM of Arunachal Pradesh. An upright judge Loya had to pay with his life for his strict legal approach in the Sohrabuddin case that involves Amit Shah, and with remote control in the SC, an enquiry into his death was thwarted and the issue was buried. It is in this context that four senior judges of the SC, including Justice Gogoi, had voiced their concern in public about Justice Deepak Mishra, CJI, usurping all the powers in deciding benches, when bench-fixing has become a norm.

Since the time of his elevation as CJI, Justice Rajan Gogoi has set upon the task of making course corrections. The judgements in the recent past themselves speak about their openness. In an extraordinary kind of mea culpa, the SC reversed its verdict on six death row prisoners, not only freeing them but ordering compensation and pulling up the Maharashtra police. It was the crime of rape and murder of a woman and her teen-aged daughter. In yet another judgment, they stayed an SC order to evict more than a million forest-dwelling people. Such pro-activity cannot be digested by those in power, especially when several politically sensitive issues are pending in the SC.

Already, to the detriment of BJP, Ram Mandir issue has been quietened. Raking up Rafale matter is worrisome. Also, the chances of over-ruling the earlier order of the SC in 1998, giving immunity to MPs and MLAs from criminal and civil proceedings for their actions while discharging their legislative duties, including for taking bribes to vote in Parliament or an Assembly, are giving sleepless nights to all those who indulge in horse-trading of legislators. The ruling party is more worried for other reasons too.

As the election process is on, the writing on the wall is getting strikingly clear. Promises and illusions are no longer mesmerising people. The surgical strike has not cut any ice with them. The pain of demonetisation and loss of businesses and jobs are not forgotten. The patience of farmers and unemployed has been tested enough. The economy is in debt-trap but whitewashed with fudged figures. The environment has been ignored. Thus, people have begun thinking. There is no Modi-wave. Instead, South is anti-Modi. Political arithmetic is also not so favourable in the Hindi belt, including UP, and Bengal, and other states.

Under these circumstances, they are not able to swallow the fact that SC reprimands the EC for not exercising their powers. Further, the recent verdict in the case of Bilkis Bano tarnishes the image of Modi since it was he who shielded all those who mattered from communal outfits in the post-Godhra pogrom of 2002.

Bilkis Bano was gang-raped in broad daylight by a baying communal mob. She was also the witness to 14 of her family members being killed; heads of children being smashed on the ground. Yet, police, under Modi and Shah, found no evidence to charge anyone. On the order of the SC in 2003, it was the CBI that arrested the accused. It was only after the SC's directions this March that the police officials, including an IPS officer, found guilty by Bombay High Court for destroying evidence, were punished. Now, to the discomfiture of Modi and BJP, SC ordered that the Gujarat government pay her compensation of Rs 50 lakhs, and give her a job and a house to live in.

The country has been witnessing the way bigots of BJP are being protected with their remote control mechanisms. In the Malegaon case of 2008, even the Mumbai-based special public prosecutor Rohini Salian had publicly claimed in 2015 that the NIA in Delhi was leaning hard on her to go easy on the accused in the case. Like how the 'fixers' issue has been taken up by the SC, this shocking matter, too, demands judicial intervention.

What is strikingly noticeable is that after the change of government at the Centre in 2014, practically all accused began to be set free in cases wherein Muslims were the victims, and the persons charged had affiliation with the RSS and kindred outfits – be it the Ajmer Sharif Dargah, Mecca Masjid, or Samjhauta Express incident. In the Samjhauta Express blast case of 2007, recently, Nabakumar Sarkar, a radical Hindutva monk, and others were acquitted. In spite of the fact that it was his 2010's confession – which he later retracted – that had led the investigators to a whole network of people who were alleged to have been involved with other high-profile cases in which the victims were all Muslims, the court simply pronounced that NIA could not produce evidence to connect the accused. It also appears to be a case of remote control, unless the higher courts decide otherwise.

With the present trend in the SC, BJP camp appears to be apprehensive that their dubious methods might not work any longer. The nomination of Pragya Thakur, a prime accused in Malegaon terror case, to contest elections only proves how desperate they are to promote their Hindutva agenda to cover up all their failures. In addition to splashing money, it is a gift of the gab of these yogis, sanyasis, and sannyasins, and the aura of their ochre robes that are being tapped. Such people can even 'curse' someone to death, like what Pragya claims!

Unfortunately, as against the provisions of only representative democracy in the Constitution, India has been reduced to a 'choiceless electoral party democracy', with a deadly cocktail of caste, religion, liquor, and money trying to influence the elections. A virtuous common man who lacks monetary resources cannot even dream of contesting elections. People are anguished; feel that there is no redemption. Yet, the wise among them think that an independent Supreme Court is the only resort to put things in order and to bring back the glory of all other institutions.

Since ruthless people are on the job to atrophy the apex court, the country has to stand united in its support, to maintain its independence; to bring about a change. Otherwise, the loss is of the people; of the country.

(Dr. N Dilip Kumar is a retired IPS officer and a former member of Public Grievances Commission, Delhi. The views expressed are strictly personal)

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