Oh, My Lord
Judiciary has always been perceived to be a holy cow which cannot be spoken about. But the two recent judgments in cases involving Bollywood star Salman Khan and Tamil politician J Jayalalithaa have surprised many and apparently have shaken peoples’ faith in law courts. Social media is abuzz with mixed reactions, mainly criticism describing the decisions as amazing.
Many people are angry with politics and politicians and even the corrupt bureaucratic system. But the people never talked so openly about the judiciary that it has protected wealthy and influential people. Awaiting decision, a large number of cases involving constitutional rights and life of common people are pending for long in the courts.
Directly or indirectly, those in power have always tried to woo the judiciary. questions of constitutional propriety had emerged when Modi government had appointed former chief justice P. Sathasivam as Governor of Kerala. It has set a precedent that Chief Justice or even judges of Supreme Court can aspire to take up such post-retirement assignments.
On many issues, our judiciary has sought to be seen as ‘politically correct’- playing in tune with popular sentiment. In a recent order the Supreme Court has restrained ruling parties from publishing photographs of political leaders or prominent persons in government-funded advertisements. In the process, the apex court order went against the country’s federal system.
The Supreme Court has decried “personality cult” as an anti-thesis of demo-cracy and barred publication of photos of leaders in government advertisements except those of the President, Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India. Nobody can fathom why the photo of chief justice of India should be included in advertisements.
The Constitution had placed Chief Minister on a par with the Prime Minister, and in any State people would give priority to their Chief Minister over the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister represents a political party that has a majority in Parliament and the President is elected with the support of political parties. Many state governments are now moving the Supreme Court again for review with the argument that the reason that the photographs of President and Prime Minister should get a place in the advertisements is also applicable to the Chief Minister of a State.
It’s high time that the country think about judicial reforms and take firm steps to make it robust and impartial and freeing it from all forms of influence. The incidents of decade-long trials and convict walking free on bail within few hours of conviction will erode peoples’ faith in judiciary. Judiciary must not just be impartial, but the people should also feel that it’s impartial and it is essential for a stronger democracy.