CHENNAI: In a land of many myths, Soli Sorabjee says the latest is “that you can alleviate poverty by practising austerity.” The myth is disproved, says the former Attorney-General, by the fact that “after you disembark at the airport, the austerity disappears,” to be replaced by a cavalcade of cars that inconvenience regular life in a city.
Having dealt a snub to the Union government’s recent austerity drive promoting economy class travel for Ministers, Mr. Sorabjee delivered a talk on Monday at the Rotary Club of Madras which attempted to demolish another myth: that the judiciary is the weakest branch of the Indian state.
Landmark judgments of the Supreme Court have had far-reaching effects on the lives of India’s citizens and have changed the way India is governed, said Mr. Sorabjee.
However, the greatest threat to the judiciary could now come from within. “Nothing pains me so much as when things are said about the higher judiciary which would have been unthinkable 30 years ago,” he said. With regard to the allegations against Karnataka High Court Chief Justice P.D. Dinakaran, Mr. Sorabjee noted that the Supreme Court collegium was looking into the case. “The allegations may not be well-founded. But the very fact that such allegations are being made, against a High Court Justice being considered for elevation to the Supreme Court, is distressing to me,” he told journalists after the meeting. He does not favour an ombudsman for the higher judiciary. “Who is then going to check the ombudsman?” he asked. However, “I do feel that the way the collegium is functioning is not satisfactory.”
With regard to the mercy petition of S. Nalini, convicted for her role in the assassination of the former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, Mr. Sorabjee said her hunger strike was ill-advised. When asked if she deserved mercy, he said: “Everyone deserves mercy. But there are some guidelines to be followed.” Her petition could be considered on the grounds of the length of time she has undergone in jail as well as her present physical condition, but the government should not succumb to a pressure tactic such as a hunger strike, he said.
Mr. Sorabjee was presented the Vocational Excellence Award by the Rotary Club of Madras and the Association of British Scholars, Chennai.