Sinister trend of populist campaigns to influence judgments: Ravi Shankar Prasad

Care and caution: PM Narendra Modi with Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, CJI S.A. Bobde and judges in New Delhi.

Care and caution: PM Narendra Modi with Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, CJI S.A. Bobde and judges in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Ravi Shankar Prasad flags use of campaigns to sway verdicts

A “sinister and dangerous” trend is developing whereby “some people” launch populist campaigns about the kind of judgment they expect from the court, only to unleash criticism if the verdict fails to live up to their presumptions, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Saturday.

He said populism is the resort of those who have lost the popular mandate. 

“In a democracy, we welcome dissent. We welcome populism too. We have a problem when populism impinges on well-settled constitutional principles. And populism also becomes a problem when those who have been rejected in the popular mandate become the biggest flag-bearers of populism... In our constitutional scheme, it is very clear, the government must be left to those who were elected by the people of India to govern...” he said. 

Mr. Prasad was speaking at the inaugural session of an international judicial conference attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday.

'Terrorists, corrupt, have no Right to Privacy'

In a separate segment of his speech, the Law Minister touched on the limits of right to privacy, saying courts have "many a time" clarified that privacy does not extend to terrorists and the corrupt.

“The Supreme Court has held that right to privacy is a fundamental right. The judgment has become a beacon globally. It is a wonderful judgment saying that right to privacy flows from Article 21, the right to life and live with dignity. But our courts have also stated that terrorists and the corrupt have no right to privacy because right to privacy has acquired critical proportion in the wake of digital landscape expanding globally. This is the age of information, information is power. This is the age of communication, communication is power,” Mr. Prasad said.

In his address, the Minister emphasised that judges must be left "completely independent to give judgments in accordance to what they think is correct under the rule of law".

“But there is a sinister trend developing globally and is also in our country… Some people start campaigning as to what kind of judgment they expect, and if the judgment is not in accord with that, they unleash all the forces of criticism against judiciary,” Mr. Prasad said.

Mr. Prasad said criticism of the judiciary for a judgment was welcome, but “some kind of norm has to be maintained if rule of law has to acquire continued resonance”. The Law Minister said though he was “a great supporter of social media” and its freedom to empower, using populism to impinge on well-settled constitutional principles was a dangerous trend.

Obviously, they are accountable to the Parliament and, in many ways, to judicial decisions and the people,” he said.

Senior Supreme Court judge, Justice N.V. Ramana, said the issue of populist trends affecting justice administration was of “fundamental importance”. “Populist decisions affect the constitutional rights, and more often than not, rights of one group are pitted against the rights or interest of other group(s). Courts will have to guard constitutional values as well as balance all constitutional considerations”. 

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 9:01:05 AM |

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