Millennium Post

Free and fair judiciary

A government above appeasement politics ensures a robust judiciary, writes A Sakthivel

Free and fair judiciary

Free and fair judiciary is necessary for democracy and it matters much for an established democratic country like India where "justice for equality" plays paramount importance to realise social, economic and political justice.

If we ponder on the recent judgments of the Apex Court of India, we can say without any doubt that the top court passes its verdicts on important issues pertaining to national and social interest without anticipation of political opposition, particularly from the government of the day or ruling political party. It was not the case with earlier governments, especially with Congress and its supported ones.

From banning triple talaq, implementation of NRC in Assam, solving age-old Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi dispute to giving its clear verdict on Rafale deal, Supreme Court has delivered its decision freely and fairly in a time-bound manner.

People of India have perceived the true spirit of the country's justice system from the last five and half years of Narendra Modi government. The present government at Centre thoroughly cooperates with the judiciary to solve longstanding issues without ifs and buts. It would be dishonest to the nation if we do not put light on India's grand old political party – Congress, its approaches and stands on the issues on which Supreme Court has passed its historic verdicts and in the process to pass some more.

If we talk about anti-triple talaq law, Congress has been adopting anti-approach against this law considering its Muslim vote bank since former PM Rajiv Gandhi's regime in which he ignored all legality of Shah Bano case and had passed an act called "Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986" which diluted the judgment of the Supreme Court and restricted the right of Muslim divorcees to alimony from their former husbands for only 90 days after the divorce. The Act was passed in Parliament to nullify the Supreme Court's order on Madhya Pradesh's Shah Bano case, in which the top court delivered a judgment favouring maintenance given to Shah Bano Begum, an aggrieved divorced Muslim woman. The notable point on this case was that the Shah Bano had won the case in a civil court in 1979, Madhya Pradesh's High Court in the year 1981 and Supreme Court in 1985, but she lost her legal right before Rajiv Gandhi's government at Centre and appeasement politics of Congress party.

During the first term of Narendra Modi Government in 2016, a similar kind of case but this time from Uttrakhand's Shayara Bano came before Supreme Court along with few more resembling ones and these cases had more issues than Shah Bano. The cases filed before the top court against triple talaq practice also contained issues like polygamy and nikah halala. While hearing the anti-triple talaq plea, the Supreme Court had issued a notice to Central government and sought its response over the issue. Responding to the Supreme Court, the Central government's actions stood exactly opposite to those of the Rajiv Gandhi government in Shah Bano case. The Central government led by Narendra Modi stood in favour of Shayara Bano considering the welfare of Muslim women and decided to abolish the shameful triple talaq practice which is not even prevalent in Islamic countries like Pakistan.

The Supreme Court passed its order banning triple talaq by observing it as unconstitutional under Article 14 read with Article 13(1). The court also directed the Central government to bring appropriate law to criminalise triple talaq practice within six months. Following the directives of the top court, the Modi government brought anti-triple talaq bill in Lok Sabha in December 2017 and passed it. Initially, the Congress party also supported the bill but when the bill went to Rajya Sabha, where the opposition has more seats than ruling BJP, they resorted again to the same tactic of Muslim appeasement politics that they have been doing since Shah Bano case under Rajiv Gandhi's leadership. Despite the obstacles created by the opposition, the Narendra Modi government, committed to bring justice to Muslim women, passed the bill in its third constant attempt in Rajya Sabha. Now, the triple talaq practice is banned throughout India.

Former PM Rajiv Gandhi deprived Shah Bano of justice but present PM Narendra Modi's commitment to get justice for Muslim women helped Shayra Bano of Uttarakhand to get justice from the court as well as Parliament of India in the form anti-triple talaq law.

If we go beyond Rajiv Gandhi's regime, we would come to know that the present legal inequality among different religions was founded at the time of first prime minister of Independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru, who was only interested in the Hindu Civil Code Bill instead of a uniform civil code for all religions. Nehru had ignored the Constitution. Article 44 of the Constitution states, "The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens, a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India". Supreme Court also observed on UCC during the hearing of Shah Bano case that article 44 of the Constitution, in relation to bringing of Uniform Civil Code in India, remained a dead letter and held that a common civil code will help the cause of national integration by removing disparate loyalties to laws which have conflicting ideologies.

In spite of having unquestioned support in favour of his government, Nehru had not taken any step to remove discriminatory and dividing temporary laws like article 370 and 35A while a determined Narendra Modi has done it.

After being in power for decades, pseudo-secular Congress, as described by Makarand Paranjape, abruptly failed to make a way for an amicable solution to Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi dispute which has come to an end now through Supreme Court's latest verdict.

Due to the fear of losing vote bank, Congress party had been unable to implement the NRC process which is very vital in stopping infiltration and strengthening national security.

The secular credentials of Congress party hit many times in its political journey since independence; the first one was in implementing civil codes to Hindus only. The second was when Rajiv Gandhi government passed "Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986" and third when the Congress party opposed then anti-triple talaq bill. We can say "Hathi ke dant khane ke kuch aur, aur dikhane ke kuch aur".

A Sakthivel is a Media Watcher and News Analyst, BJP Central HQ. Views expressed are strictly personal

A Sakthivel

A Sakthivel

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