The judiciary is setting the balance right
There's a common proverb in Hindi , 'Laton ke bhoot baton se nahin mante'. Those who only understand the language of force can never be counseled by words. This old Indian wisdom applies to many in the ruling class. Some think of themselves as monarchs with unbridled command. Their delusional egos seem to dwarf even Mount Everest. The same goes for the overarching ambitions and vested interests of these political masters.
This is evident in the increasing alienation of the people in a system of governance, which is meant to be of the people, by the people and for the people. There are apparently deliberate attempts to weaken the foundations of the judiciary, one of the three pillars of democracy. The resulting tremors are shaking the roots of our country's unity and integrity. The leaders who were elected with high hopes are using all the power at command to strike hard at the very bedrock of nation's existence.
The powers-that-be have spared no effort to undermine the judicial system. The Union government as well as several state governments have consciously ignored many salient court judgments. On the contrary, the tendency to adopt an aggressive stance towards the judiciary is on the rise.
However, 'Achhe Din' finally seem to be ushering in, to balance the relationship between the legislative and judicial arms of democracy. The judiciary is reasserting its rightful authority. It needs to be commended for the way it has rejected political opportunism in the form of horse trading while ignoring the risks.
The Uttarakhand government was democratically elected in the same manner as the central government was. Yet, the latter argued before the Uttarakhand High Court that the judiciary cannot question the presidential order to impose Centre's rule in the state.
The court ridiculed this stand by stating in its judgment, "There is no decision like that of a king, which can't be subject to judicial review. That's the essence of the Constitution. Even the President can go wrong, everything is subject to judicial review."
While this observation is indeed a slap in the face of the ruling dispensation, it also reaffirms the vibrance of our democracy.
In another development, the apex court admonished the Gujarat government for submitting a note instead of an affidavit in a drought-related case.
"Don't take things so lightly, just because you're Gujarat doesn't mean you can do whatever you like," the court said. The remarks are significant considering that Gujarat unofficially enjoys a special status being the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Courts still face a stiff challenge as virtually every government, no matter how liberal it portrays itself to be, wants to keep the media as well as judiciary subservient to its interests. The print media has suffered this state hegemony for long. But fortunately, judges are not that helpless.
It is true that judicial activism has been a subject of debate for some time. Even President Pranab Mukherjee has recently warned against the judicial overreach. While speaking at the fourth Retreat of Judges of the Supreme Court at the National Judicial Academy in Bhopal, he stated, "Each organ of our democracy must function within its own sphere and must not take over what is assigned to the others. The balance of power between the three organs of the state is enshrined in our Constitution. The equilibrium in the exercise of authority must be maintained at all times."
Cautioning judges against the perils of judicial activism, he added, "judicial review is part of the basic structure and cannot be altered even by taking the procedure provided in law. It is the judiciary which ensures the effectiveness of judicial review."
A seasoned politician like Pranab Mukherjee, who has spent his entire life in Delhi's power corridors, did not make this statement without any reason.
Today, the corruption is at its peak in the same corridors. High-flying personal aspirations are overshadowing constitutional norms and asserting themselves in a feudal manner. The common man is longing for food and water. All it has for hope is the promise of 'Achhe Din'.
In contrast, the Achhe Din of the ruling elite are marked by malfeasance. The helmsmen of the country claim to act against the corruption, albeit only of their adversaries.
The Uttarakhand High Court's remark that "no government will survive five years if corruption is used to impose Article 356" was a courageous one. It has completely exposed the present state of affairs in politics. It is a different matter that the Centre appealed to the Supreme Court and secured a stay on the High Court's judgment till 27 April.
As the Navratri festival signifies the reawakening of Goddess Shakti, our judiciary also seems to have renewed its commitment to tread on an independent path. This should be a precedent for the lower courts as well.
It is said in Hindi that 'chori ka maal mori mein' implying money earned the wrong way would always be lost. The wealth created through corrupt practices can never bring prosperity to future generations.
The central government's bid to wash its hands off the responsibility of ensuring drought relief, was foiled by the Supreme Court.
Stressing that the entire responsibility of forecasting, managing, and mitigating droughts does not lie with states alone, the bench stated, "It's not only money. You are also under a duty to say that everything is not alright, please take remedial measures. If the state does not do so, you have recourse to other sections of the Constitution."
Often we see some judges 'delaying' such important cases. These are the ones who don't want to rub the powers that be the a wrong way. The result is that urgent matters end up lingering on for years altogether.
Instances from Rajasthan
The Rajasthan government razed several centuries-old monuments that came in the way of the Jaipur metro project. The courts failed to intervene in the face of this arrogance of power. The concerned officials of the archeology department have not been held accountable till date.
They are aware that the Ramgarh lake near Jaipur is still running dry even five years after the Rajasthan High Court had ordered the district administration to remove numerous encroachments that came up in its catchment area. It is only one among the hundreds of court verdicts that await implementation.
Now, the wind seems to be blowing in a different direction. The youth of the country is clamouring for positive change. Development is taking center stage over communal and caste politics. Corrupt politicians would soon have to pack their bags. No government can dare to work against the public interest if the courts decide to fulfill their responsibility in letter and spirit.
Translated by Deepak Sharma