This refers to the editorial “Constitutionally off-track” (Oct. 3). Justice B.N. Agrawal’s outburst against the Tamil Nadu government on the basis of what the AIADMK lawyer said, without making any effort to know the other side, was unwarranted, that too on a matter of constitutional importance.
Every political party, at one time or the other, has called for bandhs and paralysed normal life. The judge, instead of making comments on a common democratic exercise, could have suggested what forms of protest are acceptable and do not affect the common man.
A. Mohamed Aslam,
The judge’s outburst does not augur well for the democratic polity, particularly the judiciary. It is true that State-sponsored bandhs cause tremendous inconvenience to the people. But the highest court of the land cannot speak of recommending the dismissal of a duly-elected government.
It is time a debate was initiated on the judiciary’s role vis-À-vis the constitutional obligations of the legislature.
The editorial has put the debate on judicial activism in a commendable perspective. Tolerance of dissent is the essential feature of parliamentary democracy.
In the context of declining parliamentary values, the rise of judicial intervention may be welcome. But the judiciary cannot undermine other institutions.
Muttineni Anantha Lakshmi,Hyderabad
This is perhaps the first time that a judge has openly asked the plaintiff to file a contempt petition. Whether courts can rightfully ban bandhs is itself debatable.
The subject of making laws and enunciating general principles of public importance should best be left to the legislatures. The function of the courts is to interpret the Constitution, not write it.
In recent years, the judiciary has intervened in many laws passed by the legislature, including the law providing 27 per cent reservation for the OBCs in elite educational institutions.
Even for small things, the Chief Secretaries of many States have been hauled up. Only recently, the Delhi High Court sentenced four journalists to imprisonment for contempt. Does the judiciary feel that one pillar can hold the Indian democracy?
Justice Agrawal’s observations are clearly a case of judicial over-reach. Even though the observations have no relevance in law, steps should be taken for their withdrawal.
Justice Agrawal’s oral observation that the court would recommend the dismissal of the Tamil Nadu government is a clear departure from the doctrine of separation of powers. The comments are not consistent with the provisions of the Constitution. Nor are they in the interest of a sound and healthy judiciary.
Judges should interpret the law as it exists and as laid down by the representatives of the people. The Constitution clearly says it is the executive’s prerogative to recommend the dismissal of a State government when it is satisfied that there is a breakdown of the constitutional machinery.
That a Supreme Court judge should invite a petitioner to file a contempt of court petition is ironical. The judiciary is held in high esteem.
Such remarks by judges will only mar the image of the prestigious institution.
Politically sensitive issues such as the Babri Masjid, the Cauvery water dispute, the Mullaiperiyar row and, now, the Sethusamudram issue, which should have been resolved through political acumen and statesmanship, have all been referred to courts for resolution. Any observation or order by courts on the issues generates tremendous heat. Judges should exercise restraint while passing comments in open courts on such issues because they lead to needless controversy.
C.P. Prasanth Gopal,Chennai
The Hindu deserves congratulations on publishing such a bold editorial. Let the Supreme Court ensure that all subordinate courts function on all working days without any interruption due to strikes by advocates and absence of advocates. And let it evolve a clear transparent guideline for listing the cases pending in various courts and publish it.
While I fully agree with the views expressed in the editorial, I would like to point out that only after the judge’s outburst did buses start plying and shops open their shutters.
Normally bandhs and strikes are called against the establishment. But the DMK’s bandh call was unjustified as the party is in power at the Centre and in Tamil Nadu.
It is the daily wage earners who suffer the most during bandhs. There is no insurance for their lost wages. A law should be enacted saying the party that calls for a bandh or strike should bear the economic losses.
Can a ruling party, whose business is to govern, call for cessation of work and cause inconvenience to the people? One can understand calls for strikes and bandhs given by the opposition or a particular section of society.
No one can deny political leaders the right to call for bandhs or go on a fast to press their demands. But however noble their intentions, bandhs provide a chance for anti-social elements to impose their writ on unwilling citizens. The right of a party to strike should in no way interfere with the right of a non-concerned citizen to go about his work. The Supreme Court deserves praise for doing the needful to protect the people’s rights.
The DMK should have resorted to some other means to draw attention to the Sethusamudram project. Strikes and hartals, which were used as effective means to protest against the British occupation of India, cannot be used in independent India.
Thinlas Dorjay,New Delhi