The Hindu – BJP offered Rs 10 crore each to 7 MLAs to quit party: AAP

Sisodia claims party offering money to more AAP legislators, but won’t be successful

Staff Reporter

New Delhi – India, 02 May 2019. The Aam Aadmi Party on Wednesday alleged that seven of its MLAs were approached with an offer of Rs 10 crore each by the BJP to leave the party before the Lok Sabha election.

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia claimed that the BJP was talking to more AAP MLAs, but insisted that its mission would not be successful. “People from the BJP contacted seven AAP MLAs and said that if they leave the party before the Lok Sabha election, they will give them Rs 10 crore each. They are talking to more, but the seven have told us,” he said.

“I want to tell the BJP, [party president] Amit Shah and [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi ji, don’t try to buy AAP MLAs and fight election; if you have courage, fight election on issues. You will try to buy them and they will tell us [about it]. You can’t buy AAP MLAs,” he asserted.

Mr Sisodia said Mr Modi should be “ashamed”, referring to the latter’s earlier comment that 40 Trinamool Congress MLAs in West Bengal were in touch with him.

“Is it right for the Prime Minister to say that? He is saying it openly that to weaken democracy he is going to buy 40 MLAs. He should be ashamed. There [West Bengal] he wants to buy TMC MLAs, in Delhi, the BJP wants to buy AAP MLAs,” the AAP leader said.

He said the BJP has no issues to fight the election in Delhi. “They were able to get one of our MLAs from Bawana before the MCD elections, but people taught the BJP a lesson. If you have any agenda to change the country, then fight the election on it,” Mr Sisodia said. “Modi ji, if you have done anything for the people in the last five years, then fight the election on it,” he added.

AAP leader Gopal Rai said the alleged attempt to buy legislators showed that the BJP’s seven candidates in Delhi are going to lose. “The BJP’s actions show that it does not believe in democracy. Delhiites will reply like they did in Bawana [bypoll which AAP won by a huge margin],” he said.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who took out his first election roadshow in Delhi on Wednesday, said, “In the last three days seven of our MLAs have said that BJP people have contacted them and offered Rs 10 crore to break them. This is not becoming of a Prime Minister.” When asked whether AAP had any proof, Mr. Kejriwal said, “Will give all proof on time.”

Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari dismissed AAP’s claim as a “joke”. “Are they the same seven [AAP MLAs] who beat up Kejriwal a week ago,” he said, denying any such attempt by the BJP to poach seven AAP legislators.

The Hindu – Punjab’s voters say real issues are missing from discourse

Vikas Vasudeva

Patiala – Panjab – India, 17 May 2019. Focus on ‘religious issues’ by political parties distracts from pressing concerns on unemployment, agrarian distress, and the drug trade.

As the election draws closer, the political discourse in Punjab continues to be dominated by ‘religious issues’. But many voters, especially youth and farmers, feel it is an attempt by political parties to divert attention from the real issues of unemployment, drug abuse and trade, and agrarian distress.

As the campaign gained pace across Punjab, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and its alliance partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could be seen repeatedly raising the 1984 anti-Sikh riots issue.

The ruling Congress, on the other hand, is attacking the Akalis on the “Bargari sacrilege” of 2015, and the Kotkapura-Behbal Kalan police firing incident that followed it.

In Patiala, home town of Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, a Punjabi University student Navdeep Singh strongly feels that if a country needs to progress, it cannot afford to get stuck in its past, be it on religion or any other issue.

“Political parties in their manifestos promise to give jobs but later, when it comes to implementation, there’s no accountability. In 2014, the BJP government promised to gives jobs but what happened? The same is the case with the State’s Congress government here, promises were made but there is nothing on the ground.

I feel the time has come to evolve a mechanism where the manifesto of political parties should be made a legal document, which, if not implemented, could be challenged under the law,” said Mr. Singh, who is pursuing doctorate in Economics.

“As I complete my doctorate, I would want to venture something on my own. I am not averse to a job but the problem I have been witnessing, especially in the private sector, is the non-availability of a job in keeping with the qualification.

If I get a job that is below my qualification, then what’s the whole point of getting an education? It’s one of the reasons that India is facing the problem of a ‘brain drain’,” he said.

Lost turf

In Patiala, the Congress candidate, former Union Minister Preneet Kaur, is embroiled in a battle to reclaim the party’s lost turf as the seat is set for a triangular electoral contest. Ms Kaur, wife of Captain Amarinder, tasted bitter defeat at the hands of Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Dharamvira Gandhi in 2014 Lok Sabha poll.

Another student on the campus, Jaswant Singh, shared similar sentiments: “Unemployment is a big issue here, but the main political parties have been raising ‘religious issues’ to divert attention from real issues. Youth from Punjab are going to foreign countries in search of jobs.

There is no guarantee of a job even after completing my studies. These days, there are hardly any jobs in the government sector. The private sector offers jobs but then, there’s no job security there.”

Patiala, which has traditionally seen a fight between the Congress and the SAD, is witnessing a triangular contest this time with AAP rebel Dr Gandhi fighting as a joint candidate of the Punjab Democratic Alliance.

The SAD has fielded former minister Surjit Singh Rakhra as its candidate. The AAP’s Neena Mittal is also in the fray.

Patiala-based farmer leader Avtar Singh Korjiwala of the Bhartiya Kisan Union Ekta (Dhakonda), points out that political parties continue to adopt an indifferent attitude towards the farmers’ plight.

Also, in this election, there is hardly anyone talking about the drugs menace in the State, he added.

“Be it the ruling Congress or the SAD-BJP, no one cares for us. Now they are raising ‘religious issues’ to deflect attention from their failures. Our Union is urging farmers across the district to boycott the elections. If they don’t want to boycott, then farmers should opt for NOTA (None of the Above),” Mr. Korjiwala said.

The Hindu – Guilty in anti-Sikh riots will be punished: Rahul Gandhi

‘Sam Pitroda should publicly apologise’

Special Correspondent

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 13 May 2019. Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Monday said those found guilty in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases should and will be punished.

He said his party leader Sam Pitroda’s hua to hua remark on the tragic anti-Sikh riots was shameful.

“Pitroda should be ashamed of his remark on the 1984 riots and should publicly apologise for it,” said Mr. Gandhi, at his rallies in Hoshiarpur and Khanna in Punjab.

An ideological fight

Mr Gandhi termed the ongoing parliamentary polls an ideological fight between false promises and realistic commitments.

“Modi and his BJP had cheated the people of India with their lies and false propaganda, while the Congress has always remained true to its promises,” said Mr Gandhi.

“People will not forgive Modi for standing as a mute spectator when Dalits and minorities were being attacked, youth were being deprived of jobs and scholarships, farmers were committing suicide or were being thrown behind bars and the money of the people was being stolen from them”, he said.

Mr Gandhi said, “The Prime Minister destroyed the common people, through his ill-conceived demonetisation and GST (Gabbar Singh Tax) and he is now running from even debating with him on issues of corruption and the Rafale deal as he had no answers to his questions.”

He said the Congress party’s NYAY scheme will not only ensure Rs 72,000 for 5 crore families a year, for the next five years, but will also ensure employment to youth and improved business for shopkeepers as well as small and medium-sized traders by increasing the purchasing power of the people.

“NYAY will give employment to those who were rendered jobless by the demonetisation,” he added.

The Hindu – Tough test for the BJP in Haryana

Political analyst says farmers’ issues could impact outcome, but party buoyed by Jind bypoll win.

Vikas Vasudeva

Chandigarh – Haryana – India, 11 May 2019. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the BJP almost swept Haryana riding on the “Modi” wave and an undercurrent of anger against the ruling Congress for alleged regional biases in recruitment and development.

For the May 12 election in the State, the voters are, however, set to rate the ruling BJP on its performance and fulfillment of election promises in the State and the Centre.

In 2014, the BJP won seven of the 10 seats and the Indian National Lok Dal two. The Congress retained just the Rohtak seat, won by Deepender Singh Hooda, son of the then Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. The BJP contested eight seats, while its then ally, the Haryana Janhit Congress, lost the two it contested.

A leading political analyst in the State opines that in 2014, the BJP benefited from a confluence of favourable factors.

“Apart from the undercurrent [against the Congress] and Modi wave, Jat division and non-Jat consolidation proved to be a catalyst in 2014,” said Kushal Pal, Head of the Department of Political Science at Dyal Singh College in Karnal.

“Also, the BJP got the support of the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda, which helped the party in a big way as north Haryana has a sizeable strength of Dera supporters. Another factor that worked in the BJP’s favour was the crossing over of senior Congress leaders like Birendra Singh and Rao Inderjeet Singh,” he said.

This time, however, the performance of the BJP at the Centre and in the State are likely to be a larger factor in influencing voting intentions. The recent win in the Jind Assembly election and victories in the municipal polls in five cities have buoyed the BJP’s confidence.

However, with the Congress fielding seasoned campaigners like Kumari Selja and Ashok Tanwar in many seats, the party is seen offering a “challenging fight”.

“People will assess the BJP on what has been delivered by it on key promises, which included two crore jobs, and this doesn’t look to be working in favour of the party,” Professor Pal said.

The BJP has been consistently evoking the national security issue. “Haryana sends its youth to the armed forces so air strikes post Pulwama and surgical strikes will find some favour. But with the BJP not in favour of farm loan waiver schemes, it could dent its farmer vote base,” he said.

The Congress is publicising its proposed ‘Nyay’ scheme, besides policies aimed at benefiting farmers.

“The grand old party is also banking on its old warhorses including former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda and his son Deepinder Singh Hooda,” observed Mr. Pal. “Besides, it has fielded heavyweight leaders including Kumari Selja, Ashok Tanwar and Kuldeep Sharma to not let the election be a cakewalk for the BJP,” he added.

This time, the INLD’s breakaway faction, the Jannayak Janta Party, is in the fray and is contesting seven seats in alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

The Hindu – Five years on, no relief for jailed Delhi University professor Saibaba

Professor Saibaba, held for Maoist links, is now battling several health conditions

Sonam Saigal

Mumbai – Maharashtra – India, 09 May 2019. Arrested on 09 May 2014, on charges of having Maoist links, Delhi University Professor G N Saibaba, who is 90% physically handicapped, has remained incarcerated in Nagpur Central Jail’s ‘anda cell’ (solitary confinement) since his conviction on 07 March 2017.

On 30 April 2019, a panel of experts with the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) wrote to the Indian government urging authorities to immediately release Saibaba, citing his “seriously deteriorating” health condition.

“Dr Saibaba’s health problems require immediate and sustained medical attention and are reaching a point of being life-threatening,” the five Special Rapporteurs Catalina Devandas, Michel Forst, Dainius Pūras, Nils Melzer and Agnès Callamard wrote.

Saibaba has been wheelchair-bound since he was five because of polio and suffers from 19 medical ailments. “He has a cyst in his brain due to which he keeps getting unconscious and has maladies in his gall bladder and pancreas,” his wife Vasantha Kumari, said over telephone from Delhi.

“He also has issues in his kidney and spine because of which he needs comprehensive treatment”.

Ms Kumari said jail authorities kept assuring her that they would help her disabled husband inside the prison but had provided little assistance. “There is no one from the jail authorities and the neighbouring adivasi co-convicts help him to eat and go to the washroom”.

HC rejects bail plea

On March 25, Saibaba’s medical bail plea was rejected by the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court. The court had observed that the “offences are serious in nature” as reason for not granting suspension of sentence.

Explaining that his detention in the anda cell left her husband exposed to extremes of temperature that was worsening his health condition, Ms Kumari wryly observed, “prisons were meant for reformation but now they are meant for torture.

The conditions of prisons matter only when we want to bring back Vijay Mallya but are not even taken into consideration when there is a disabled convict”.

She said if he could not be granted bail he should at least be shifted to another jail.

“We have written to the authorities to shift him to Cherlapally central prison in Hyderabad because that’s where his brother is, who can go visit him regularly and my mother-in-law will also be at peace,” Ms Kumari said. “The Nagpur jail has no emergency room and none of us are around if something happens,” she added, her voice trailing off.

“Pragya Singh Thakur, an accused in a bomb blast that killed six people can be granted medical bail and be allowed to contest elections, but Saibaba should not be allowed to even be transferred to another jail,” Ms. Kumari said.

Saibaba’s daughter Manjeera said: “UAPA [Unlawful Activities Prevention Act] has been misused and my father has become a case study.”

She added, “I think its a huge game. They are able to prove that even without evidence we can convict a person. His case is serving as a huge cornerstone.”

Ms. Kumari said, “I know why Saibaba is suffering, because he stood for the rights of dalits and adivasis and other minorities. There is no democracy left. He is in prison for his ideology.”

The Hindu – Asia Bibi leaves Pakistan, reaches Canada: lawyer

The 47-year-old mother of four was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting Islam in a row with her neighbours.

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 08 May 2019. The 47-year-old mother of four was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting Islam in a row with her neighbours.

Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was acquitted by Pakistan’s Supreme Court in a blasphemy row last year, has left the country and reached Canada, according to media reports on Wednesday.

The 47-year-old mother of four was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting Islam in a row with her neighbours. She always maintained her innocence, but has spent most of the past eight years in solitary confinement.

In this 20 November 2010 file photo, Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman, listens to officials at a prison in Sheikhupura near Lahore, Pakistan.

Italy is working to help relocate the family of a Pakistani Christian woman acquitted eight years after being sentenced to death for blasphemy, amid warnings from her husband that their life is in danger in Pakistan.

Who is Asia Bibi?

“Asia Bibi has left the country. She is a free person and travelled of her independent will,” a source in the foreign office was quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper.

Ms. Bibi’s counsel Saiful Malook confirmed that the woman has reached Canada, the Express Tribune reported.

The Supreme Court had on October 31 last year acquitted her of blasphemy charges.

The judgement triggered protests across Pakistan with protestors led by political party Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan and other groups blocking major highways and roads in different parts of the country.

The Hindu – A miscarriage of justice

Will the honourable Justices stand up as the collective conscience of the Supreme Court?

Dushyant Dave

Op/Ed, 07 May 2019. Finally, the in-house committee has spoken: “No substance in the allegations contained in the Complaint dated 19th April, 2019 of a former Employee of the Supreme Court.” In the absence of any known procedure, the non-observance of the principles of natural justice and the absence of effective representation of the victim, the report, even though not for the public, is non-est and void ab initio.

The story so far

The complaint made by the victim of sexual harassment to the judges of the Supreme Court had two equally serious facets. One related to sexual harassment, a very serious charge. The other related to the victimisation of the complainant and her family “at the hands of the Chief Justice of India [CJI]”, as claimed by her. It is this latter charge to which the nation needs to pay equal, if not greater, attention.

The charge on this count, as per her affidavit, involves the following: after the alleged incident on October 11, 2018, her transfer to the Centre for Research and Planning on October 22, change of position to “Admin, Material Section” on November 16, issuance of a memorandum on November 19 by Deepak Jain, Registrar, accusing the victim of violating conduct rules and seeking an explanation, her third transfer to the Library Division on November 22, the issuance of a memorandum on November 26 rejecting her explanation and proposing further action, her suspension on November 27, and the communication of December 18 from the Registrar that the charges against her stood proved. On December 21, she was dismissed from service.

Meanwhile, according to her affidavit, on November 27, her husband, a head constable with the Delhi Police, Crime Branch Division, was transferred to the Third Battalion. On December 8, her husband, and the latter’s brother, also a constable with the Delhi Police, were suspended over telephone, and the orders followed the next day.

On January 2, 2019, an inquiry was initiated by a Deputy Commissioner of Police against her husband on the ground that “unsolicited calls were made to the Office of the Hon’ble Chief Justice amounting to official misconduct”. On January 11, the victim and her husband were summoned to Delhi’s Tilak Marg police station by Station House Officer (SHO) Naresh Solanki.

In their presence, the SHO called the Registrar, Mr. Jain, to discuss ways to reach the residence of CJI Ranjan Gogoi. The SHO, the victim and the husband went there, and in the presence of Mr. Jain, the victim was forced to fall at the feet of the CJI’s wife.

Upon their return to the police station, the SHO had a long conversation with the victim and her husband. On January 14, the disabled brother-in-law of the victim, who had been appointed temporary Junior Court Attendant under the orders of the CJI himself on October 9, 2018, was removed from service.

On March 3, an FIR was registered on a complaint by a person named Naveen Kumar at the Tilak Marg police station in respect of an alleged demand made by the victim in June 2017 for a bribe of Rs 10 lakh for getting him a job in the Supreme Court and his payment of Rs 50,000 as advance.

Based on this FIR, the victim and her husband were arrested from their village in Rajasthan, hand-cuffed and subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment. The victim was remanded for a day on March 10. She was released on bail on March 12.

The affidavit in support of the complaint appears truthful and honest. The details are heart-rending and extremely troubling, and reflect a deep malaise that appears to have set in in high offices. These incidents are all corroborated by official records.

Collectively, they establish beyond doubt the victimisation of the woman, her husband and other family members at the hands of the state machinery, including the Registry of the Supreme Court.

Violations of rights

Each of these actions is either unconstitutional or illegal or criminal in nature. Clearly, they establish a well-designed conspiracy to victimise the victim beyond redemption so as to ensure that neither she nor her husband and her family members could raise their heads again to seek justice in respect of the complaint made against the CJI.
Together, they constitute gross violations of the constitutional and fundamental rights of the victim and her family members, including those guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21. Clearly, the motive behind ensuring grossly inhuman, illegal, unconstitutional and disproportionate punishment to the victim and her family members seems to be to suppress her will and spirit so that she does not raise any charge about the incident of October 11, 2018.

One thing is clear: complainant Naveen Kumar, who alleged that the victim demanded a bribe and willingly offered, according to his own case, Rs 50,000, has made himself an accomplice to the alleged bribery to secure public employment. He must therefore face the rigour of the law.

The case on its own showing appears to be concocted and its timing raises serious questions about its authenticity. If the bribe was demanded in June 2017, it is a curious coincidence that the complainant from Jhajjar, Haryana surfaces in March 2019 and that too in Tilak Marg police station to make the complaint. It activates the entire police machinery against the victim and her family.

This was the final nail in the coffin, as the proverb goes, pushing the victim and her family to the wall and igniting in them the courage to stand up against the CJI and make the complaint on April 19.

Those who have doubts about the so-called delay in the complaint must be prepared to put themselves in the shoes of the victim, a Class III employee pitted against the Chief Justice of India, one of the highest and the most powerful constitutional functionaries.

Her approaching lawyers who are widely respected as human rights activists was natural and cannot be viewed with suspicion under any circumstances.

The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation recognised procedural safeguards as necessary and said they have “historical origins in the notion that conditions of personal freedom can be preserved only when there is some institutional check on arbitrary action on the part of public authorities”.

In Uma Shankar Sistani v. Commissioner of Police, Delhi (1996), the Supreme Court ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation to investigate the circumstances under which a false complaint was registered against the petitioner, leading to his arrest. The FIR against the victim in this case needs the same treatment.

Equally, the punishment of dismissal imposed on her is grossly disproportionate, even assuming that the charges against her were proved. The Supreme Court has consistently frowned upon such punishments.

In Ranjit Thakur v. UOI (1987), the court interpreted the doctrine of proportionality “as part of the concept of judicial review” to ensure that if the sentence is an outrageous defiance of logic, then it can be corrected.
Grounds for judicial review

Irrationality and perversity are recognised grounds of judicial review. The court has held that if the punishment is outrageously disproportionate and the court considers it arbitrary in that it is wholly irrational or “a punishment is so excessive or disproportionate to the offence as to shock the conscience of the Court the same can be interfered with”.

On each one of these counts the punishment of dismissal imposed upon the victim is completely arbitrary and perverse. It must go.

Where can she and her family members get justice if the police at the highest level is pitted against them? Will they ever get a fair investigation and fair reports in the criminal cases? It is doubtful.

Can she and her family get justice at all at the hands of the judiciary, considering the respondents would be the CJI and the Supreme Court? Only time will tell. But certainly for the present, the picture is dark for them.

All these raise extremely troubling and discomforting thoughts in the minds of many. Is it the Supreme Court as an institution that is responsible for what has happened, or is it the CJI?

The dichotomy will emerge only when other Justices act independently, uphold the majesty of the law and steer the institution out of troubled waters. If they fail, the institution is doomed to serious loss of face and credibility. It is time the collective conscience of the Justices prevails.

Dushyant Dave is a senior advocate and the former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association

The Hindu – Panthic issues rule Bathinda campaign

It’s a tough test for Harsimrat Kaur

Vikas Vasudeva

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 02 May 2019. The campaign for the Lok Sabha election has gained pace in Punjab’s Bathinda, the stronghold of the Badal family of the Shiromani Akali Dal, with “Panthic” (Sikh) issues dominating the discourse.

The ruling Congress is attacking the Akali Dal by raising the pardon granted to the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim in a blasphemy case and the Kotkapura-Behbal Kalan police firing in 2015, which followed the Bargari sacrilege.

The sitting MP and Union Minister, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, of the Akali Dal is raking up the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

At Bathinda recently, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh raised the issue of “sacrilege” when the Akali Dal and the BJP ruled the State.

People would punish Ms Badal for her “arrogance” and the cases of “sacrilege”, he said.

“People have not forgotten Bargari or Kotkapura, which were a brazen attempt by the Badals to create communal tensions,” he said.

For Ms Badal, the two-time MP, the election is a litmus test. She highlights her work for the State and the Sikh community, and the “anti-incumbency” factor against the ruling Congress. “I have taken up issues of Punjab as well as the Sikh community.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always reacted positively to my demands,” she said after filing her nomination earlier this week. Ms Badal said Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had delayed the AIIMS and Ladhowal mega food park projects.

Ms Badal accused the Congress of weakening the case of the Sikh community by defending the accused in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. On the other hand, she said, the NDA government had established a SIT to probe the cases and had reopened some cases to deliver justice.

The Congress has fielded Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, the MLA for Gidderbaha.

The Hindu – Despite tall talk, government learnt no lessons from Pulwama

Congress says country needs accountability for this ‘failure’

Mumbai/New Delhi – India, 01 May 2019. The Congress on Wednesday attacked the BJP-led Central government over the Naxal attack and said that despite its “tall talk” no lessons from Pulwama have been learnt.

Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel said the country needs preventive action, accountability for this failure and not ‘jumlas’ (rhetoric) and lectures. “We condemn the brutal terror attack on our jawans in Maharashtra. India stands firmly behind their families, well wishers & friends in this hour of grief,” Mr. Patel tweeted.

Chief spokesperson of Congress Randeep Surjewala, tweeted, “Strongly condemn the attack on C-60 Commandos in Gadchiroli. My condolences. Their sacrifice would not go in vain.”

Meanwhile, Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar demanded the resignation of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis following the IED blast by Naxals in Gadchiroli in which 15 policemen and a civilian lost their lives.

Mr Fadnavis holds the Home portfolio and “he should step down immediately”, Mr Pawar tweeted. “Those who feel shame of conscience if not shame of public opinion would have resigned. But the people who are in power today are not going to do so,” Mr Pawar added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attack saying perpetrators of such violence will not be spared. He tweeted, “Strongly condemn the despicable attack on our security personnel in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra. I salute all the brave personnel. Their sacrifices will never be forgotten.”

Meanwhile, Union Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir said the government will ensure that such incidents do not recur. Mr Ahir is the MP from Chandrapur which borders Gadchiroli in eastern Maharashtra.

“We have yet to get complete information about the incident. “We will definitely give a befitting reply,” the Minister said.

The Hindu – A time of deep turmoil for the Supreme Court

“Whether you like it or not, My Lords, you have seriously eroded the independence of the judiciary from within by such acts. It does not need outsiders to do it, it seems”

Dushyant Dave

New Delhi – India, 21 April 2019. Speaking for the Gauhati High Court in 2006, Justice Ranjan Gogoi said in the matter of Ganesh Electric Stores vs. State of Assam & Ors: “Law will reach its most glorious moment when ‘men’ can be made wholly free from the shackles of arbitrary and despotic power, however subtle the exercise of such power may be.

However, over the years, two basic principles have been recognised as fundamental in the doctrine of natural justice. The first is ‘nemo judex in causa sua’, that is, ‘no man shall be a judge in his own case’; the second is ‘audi altarem partem’, that is, ‘hear the other side’.”

In 2018, speaking for the Supreme Court of India in Lok Prahari v. State of UP & Orissa, Justice Gogoi recognised the seven principles of public life in the report by Lord Nolan and recapitulated them as “Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty, and Leadership.”

Disturbing development

But what happened in the Supreme Court of India on the morning of Saturday is just the opposite. The constitution of the bench, of course in the exercise of the power of the Master of the Rolls, Chief Justice Gogoi himself styling it as ‘a matter of great importance touching upon the Independence of Judiciary’, and permitting mention by the Solicitor General are all acts done by the CJI contrary to ‘nemo judex in causa sua’.

The proceedings of the court, or rather the Bench, are even more disturbing. There was no cause, no matter, no petition, and no reason for the court to take upon itself the perceived duty to protect its reputation.

More puzzling

The order issued thereon is even more puzzling. If the Bench comprised three judges, how in God’s name did the order come to be issued in the name of only two judges? Was it to get over the salutary principle referred above? Surely it could not have been, after all that happened in the open court hearing.

Under no circumstances could and should the Supreme Court have done what it did on Saturday morning. It is an institution to uphold the majesty of law, not to undermine it. It is a temple of justice, not an instrument to cater injustice. It is the highest court of this great land to protect the basic human values and fundamental rights.

It has to protect the most cherished of those rights, the freedom of speech and expression and protect the true guardians of democracy, the media.

It has no power to stop them from doing their duty, much less to advise them “to show restraint, act responsibly as is expected from them and accordingly decide what should or should not be published as wild and scandalous allegations undermine and irreparably damage reputation and negate independence of Judiciary.”

Saying that, the court kindly requests the media “to take off such material which is undesirable.”

Surely the Supreme Court of India does not have any advisory jurisdiction except on a Presidential Reference. In fact, time and again, judges are heard telling lawyers and litigants when requested to advise on what to do while matters are being dismissed: “it is no part of our function to advise you.”

The order so made has itself seriously damaged the reputation of the Supreme Court of India. Judges so concerned about the reputation of the court should have refrained from undertaking this slippery exercise.

My Lords, you have acted against every known judicial norm and practice. You have acted against your law which you have brilliantly and rightly declared over decades. Please remember, the law so declared binds Your Lordships too.

Government’s hand

The entire set of events seeks to overpower independent media and discourage reporting on a matter which I consider to be of a far greater ‘importance touching upon [the] survival of democracy.’

Involvement of the government through its top law officers to initiate the process when the government is the biggest litigant before the court (including in some cases like Rafale, and the CBI Director’s matter besides matters involving virtually all opposition leaders) is certainly objectionable and negates the court’s independence by itself.

In present times, the government and the party in power would like to muzzle whatever little independent media that is left out. So was the court right in allowing itself to be protected at the instance of a law officer? I don’t think so.

What is even sadder is that the Chief Justice of India has done what was objected to by four senior judges of the Supreme Court of India, including Justice Gogoi himself, on January 12, 2018, and that is constituting a bench in the most selective way (and that too on a Saturday morning, during holidays).

There have been repeated wrong moves in this regard by previous Chief Justices of India, and that too in their own ‘causes’. Whether you like it or not, My Lords, you have seriously eroded the independence of the judiciary from within by such acts. It does not need outsiders to do it, it seems.

Let me make one thing clear, citizens, including lawyers who stand up to defend the underdogs, respect the institution the most. They do nothing to damage its reputation. In fact, they help in building it by their own courage, which results in courageous judgments by the courts.

The judiciary comprises outstanding judges and its reputation remains intact despite odd judicial conduct from time to time. It does not need self-serving individuals or the government to enhance it.

But then those good judges must also be aware that the institution belongs to all and each of those within it, judges and lawyers alike, must work to protect it from attacks from within. If they fail, the institution will fail, and it appears to be failing.

Public confidence

Remember what the Court said in the K. Veeraswami case: “The judiciary has no power of the purse or the sword. It survives only by public confidence and it is important to the stability of the society that the confidence of the public is not shaken.”

What prompted the court to hold such an extraordinary hearing in more extraordinary fashion is a mystery. Surely, the court is not constituted by the framers of the Constitution to protect one of its own. It is not my purpose to go into allegations that have surfaced against the Chief Justice of India, I earnestly hope they are proved to be wrong upon fiercely independent inquiry.

But that definitely is not the matter touching upon the judiciary, much less its independence or reputation. There can be no doubt that Saturday’s proceedings have shaken public confidence, and quite badly so.

The author is a Senior Advocate and a former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association