Mumbai

‘SC mute spectator as students, academics charged under UAPA’

Justice A.P. Shah   | Photo Credit: B_VELANKANNI RAJ

Justice A.P Shah, retired Chief Justice of Delhi and Madras high courts, said the Supreme Court was a mute spectator while the police charged protesters, students, academics and poets with sedition and booked them under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in the Delhi riots case this year. He said protesters were labelled anti-national and accused of “destabilising the government”, but the apex court found reasons not to address the case.

Justice Shah made the comments while delivering the Justice Hosbet Suresh Memorial Lecture on the topic, ‘The Supreme Court in Decline: Forgotten Freedoms and Eroded Rights’, through videoconferencing. “The start of the Supreme Court’s decline coincided with the coming to power of the BJP-led NDA government in 2014. Every institution, mechanism or tool that is designed to hold the executive accountable is being systematically destroyed since 2014,” he said.

A former chairperson of the Law Commission, Justice Shah spoke about the role of the Supreme Court in different times. He said the apex court is tilting more towards the executive than making it accountable through constitutional mechanisms and institutions. The court has failed to protect rights and counter majoritarianism, he said.

He cited the Sabarimala and Ayodhya judgments, where the apex court compromised the principle of rule of law to rule in the favour of the government. “In the Ayodhya judgment, the court despite acknowledging the illegalities committed by the Hindus in 1949 and 1992, effectively rewarded the wrongdoer,” he said.

Justice Shah said the Supreme Court instead of dealing with the issue of fundamental rights over the internet and communication shutdown in Jammu & Kashmir, handed over the issue to the executive-led Special Review Committee. He said, “This has added to the sufferings of the population of Jammu & Kashmir on the fronts of health, education, business and economy.”

He said the opaque system of “master of the roster” was central in the allocation of cases to Benches favourable to the executive. “This has contributed to change in the character of courts from justice-centric and focused on the rights of ordinary people to courts delivering judgments favouring the executive. This system has eroded the important principle of independence of the judiciary enshrined in the Constitution,” he said.

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, chaired the event. Mr. Dave expressed concern over the silence of common citizens when members of vulnerable sections like Muslims and Dalits are killed in India.

Movements like the Black Lives Matter campaign triggered by the killing of George Floyd in the U.S. have been missing in India over issues of justice and dignity of common citizens, he pointed out. The judiciary in such a scenario has a crucial role, but the courageous voices of citizens are vital, he said.

The lecture had over 300 attendees, including eminent scholars Uma Chakravarti, Steven Wilkinson, Harbans Mukhia; former Vice President Hamid Ansari; retired judges Madan Lokur and Abhay Thipsay; and advocate Prashant Bhushan.

The event was jointly organised by the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Bohra Youth Sansthan, Central Board of Dawoodi Bohra Community, Citizens for Justice and Peace, Institute for Islamic Studies, Peoples’ Watch and Majlis Law Centre.

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Printable version | Nov 1, 2020 1:05:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/sc-mute-spectator-as-students-academics-charged-under-uapa/article32650970.ece

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