Track Record Of Supreme Court In Last 8 Years Is Disappointing : Former SC Judge Justice Gopala Gowda
In a scathing criticism, former Supreme Court judge Justice V Gopala Gowda said on Saturday that the "track record of the Supreme Court in the last 8 years is disappointing".
He highlighted that the Supreme Court has refused to hear important matters relating to Article 370 and electoral bonds. Drawing a contrast with the approach of the Supreme Court during the pre-2014 period, he said :
"In 2014, the apex court was not hesitant in going against the central executive in matters involving high political stakes, be it in the cancellation of 2G licenses and coal gate case. The Court also passed several oral remarks, including the famous "CBI is caged parrot" remark. Judiciary was seen as a crusader against corruption. But post-2014, the Supreme Court presented a weaker self. The verdict in politically charged cases such as Sahara-Birla (where enquiry was sought against PM Narendra Modi), Loya case(where enquiry was sought regarding death of judge trying the case against Amit Shah), Bhima-Koregan, Rafale, Aadhaar etc., have invited a lot of criticism of the public. When it comes to taking on the system, the Court acts hesitant".
Criticising the Supreme Court's verdict allowing the construction of Ram Mandir at the place where Babri Masjid once stood before its demolition, he said, "Ayodhya judgment has made the right reactionary forces claim Gyanvapi mosque and other mosques in the country, despite the law enacted in 1991(Places of Worship Act). This is a great threat to the Republic of India, a multi-religious country"
The former judge was speaking at a National Convention on the topic Save Constitution, Save Democracy organised by the All India Lawyers Union, Delhi Union of Journalists and Democratic Teachers Front.
He started his address by saying that during the last eight years, the values of liberty, equality and fraternity are being endangered "because of the ascendence of right reactionary forces in the society" and "attempts to transform the democratic state into a Hindu fascist state". Independent supervisors of the executive like the CAG and the Election Commission have been reduced into the "extended organ" of the Union Government.
The former judge stated that "minorities are frightened in this country today". Lamenting that free and fair elections are no longer held in the country, he said,"Elections have become rituals to legitimise the right reactionary forces which have come to power. This democratic decay has resulted in immense social and economic crisis to Dalits who constitute 20% of the population and historically disadvantaged groups like adivasis. The Muslims are in fear psychosis for their existence".
In his lecture, the former judge criticised the CAA and NRC, for changing the "bedrock of the secular republic in India". He also expressed concerns about the dilution of the principle of federalism through fiscal coercion of states and misuse of the office of Governors so as to undermine the powers of the duly elected governments.
As regards the demonetisation judgment, he said that the Union Government directed the RBI to pass the resolution and there was no independent exercise of statutory powers by the central bank. Lauding Justice BV Nagarathna for her dissent, he said, "The lonely judge had the courage and conviction to uphold the Constitutional democracy in this country".
The former judge also highlighted the attacks against journalist and the referred to reports regarding diminishing of media freedom in the country. He referred to the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh and the imprisonment of journalist Siddique Kappan.
"When a journalist from Bombay was arrested, the Supreme Court granted him bail in one day, though his bail petition was pending in the trial court. However, when Siddique Kappan's case came, the Supreme Court asked him to go to the lower court", he said making a veiled reference to the relief granted by the Supreme Court to Arnab Goswami.
The ex-judge also commented about the ongoing row between the Centre and the Supreme Court over judicial appointments
"I am not saying that the collegium system is not perfect, I have my reservation on certain aspects.. But when collegium system is in force, is in vogue, it is binding on constitutional authorities", he said..
Before concluding he said, "the current trajectory of Indian politics reminds one of first decade of Pakistan and Afghanistan". Therefore, it is important for lawyers to organize campaigns to protect the Constitution before it becomes too late, he said as a parting message.
The video of the speech can be watched here :