1 July 2021 4:22 AM GMT
The Chief Justice of India NV Ramana on Wednesday said that a mere right to change ruler once every few years need not be a guarantee against tyranny."The idea that people are the ultimate sovereign is also to be found in notions of human dignity and autonomy. A public discourse, that is both reasoned and reasonable, is to be seen as an inherent aspect of human dignity and hence essential to...
The Chief Justice of India NV Ramana on Wednesday said that a mere right to change ruler once every few years need not be a guarantee against tyranny.
"The idea that people are the ultimate sovereign is also to be found in notions of human dignity and autonomy. A public discourse, that is both reasoned and reasonable, is to be seen as an inherent aspect of human dignity and hence essential to a properly functioning democracy", the Chief Justice of India said.
Referring to the fact that in 17 general elections held so far in India, people have changed the ruling government 8 times, which is nearly 50% of the elections, the CJI said that this was an indication that the people of India are "intelligent and up to the task" despite large scale inequalities, poverty and backwardness.
"The masses have performed their duties reasonably well. Now, it is the turn of those who are manning the key organs of the State to ponder if they are living upto the Constitutional mandate", he added.
He was delivering an online lecture as part of 17the Justice PD Desai Memorial Lecture. The topic of the lecture was "rule of law".
Judiciary cannot be controlled directly or indirectly by legislature or executive
The CJI underscored that for judiciary to apply checks on governmental power and action, it has to have complete freedom.
"Judiciary cannot be controlled, directly or indirectly, by legislature or executive, or else rule of law would become illusory", CJI Ramana said. The Chief Justice also cautioned that judges should not get swayed by the "emotional pitch of public opinion, which is often amplified by social media platforms".
"Judges have to be mindful of the fact that the noise thus amplified is not necessarily reflective of what is right and what majority believes in. The new media tools that have enormous amplifying ability are incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong, good and bad and the real and fake. Therefore, media trials cannot be a guiding factor in deciding cases. It is therefore extremely vital to function independently and withstand all external aids and pressures. While there is a lot discussion about the pressure from the executive, it is also imperative to start a discourse as to how social media trends can affect the institutions", he said.
When law was used a toll of political repression
In his lecture, the CJI referred to the colonial regime when "law was used as a tool of political repression".
"The British used the law as a tool of political repression, enforcing it unequally on the parties, with a different set of rules for the British and for the Indians.It was an enterprise famous for "Rule by Law", rather than "Rule of Law" as it aimed at controlling the Indian subjects. Judicial remedies lost their significance,as they were administered keeping in view the best interests of the colonial power, rather than what was just or legal", he said.
The concept of "Rule of Law" changed with a growing consciousness about the values of liberty, equality, fraternity and justice after the adoption of the Indian Constitution.
"The move from a colonial past to the present required a shift from the colonial idea of laws imposed by foreign rulers for their benefit, to laws given by our people to govern themselves, laws which are not merely commands but are also embodied by a sense of justice", he said.
The CJI said said it was time to pause and ask to what extent the Rule of Law was used to protect ordinary lives during the pandemic.
"I do not intend to provide an evaluation of the same. Both my office and my temperament prevent me from doing so. But I began to feel that this pandemic might yet be a mere curtain raiser to much larger crises in the decades to come. Surely, we must at least begin the process of analysing what we did right and where we went wrong," the CJI said.
Click here to read/download the full text of the CJI's speech