Judicial activism ? Or Executive inaction?
Executive excesses? Or, executive apathy?
How the public mood swings? From helplessness to activism! By brave individuals and dedicated citizens!
Judicial activism springs from the fact some bold individuals file public interest litigations on a variety of issues, from land encroachments to environment protection to human rights violations. Only then the higher judiciary moves to act. So, judicial activism is part o0f the public moods. There must be more such independent space, not less, for citizens to fight and seek justice in the larger public interest.
There has recently been an important conference of chief ministers and chief justices. A sensitive combination? Yes, we thought. Then, we also wondered whether this face to face meet of the two important organs of the state, namely, the executive vs judiciary was brought about to do some soul-searching. Anyway, it was a wholly beneficial meet. The PM raised the twin issues of corruption in judiciary and delay in the delivery of justice.
The chief justice of India agreed with the two aims but also pointed out the lack of number of judges and other financial and infrastructure inadequacies. Yet, the judge said that corruption has to be attacked and also delivery of justice be done faster. Talking in Chennai soon afterwards the chief justice said that politics has no place in judicial appointments, in the high courts, keeping in mind, we guess that Chennai lawyers as a class are prone to play the caste card in judges selection etc. The political parties, at least some of them have one aim: to elevate their caste men to high court judges. Yes, the state of the judicial appointments have become so politicised and much of what is wrong with this side of the story in never told. The disease is all pervasive from New Delhi down to the State capitals!
Anyway, the next day of the PM-chief justice face off almost all the newspapers carried editorials on the subject. What they wrote is also predictable. Pending cases:35.21 lakh cases pending in High Courts and 2.56 crore in the lower courts as of Dec.2005.
What went unnoticed or not much commented upon was what the PM said of judicial activism. The PM had in mind the spate of public interest litigations, some of them lately become publicity interest litigations!
The PM cautioned the judiciary to go slow on the pils. The unsaid part of it is that judiciary takes up several issues of public interest, from environment protection to human rights violations to land encroachments(as in the Delhi demolition cases)where powerful politicians and vested interests are threatened.
So, what the PM said was right or wrong? The very day after we saw a number of letters to the editor on the same topic. The Hindu alone carried some 7 or 8 letters. The letters too were expected lines. The cynical public is tired of the words of politicians. The PM is now known for saying the right words on the right occasions.
The PM’s words obviously didn’t carry weight with the public mood. It was pointed out that how powerful politicians always get off the judicial scrutiny, no one politician of stature who was caught in corruption scandals had been put behind bars so far, right? So, the public voice roared!
Also the PM’s credibility was questioned over him retaining the “tainted” ministers in his own Cabinet!
Yes, the current mood was also dominated by the Best Bakery case and the conviction of the lone witness, Sahira Zeikh by the Supreme Court for one year in jail and Rs.50,000 fine.
This was done in the instance of witnesses turning hostile. Then, there was this reopening of the Jessica Lall murder case.
So, the Executive is found wanting not to show any rush to amend the criminal procedure law to ensure the hostile witnesses are suitably punished. Also, much more important, that instead of punishing a helpless victim, a poor woman, and the government must go for CBI enquiry and really catch the more powerful vested interests(whose names are all known) who manipulated the helpless women to turn hostile under pressure from muscle and money power.
Is the government ready for such battles? Surely not! Our justice system is the only hope. The people have enormous faith in the Supreme Court’s wisdom to become active and pronounce judgments and give directions to the government.
So, judicial activism is wanted? Yes, more such judicial activism only can inspire confidence among the public to tackle the highly corrupt government machinery. Not the restrain the PM called for. Such words were meant for a suitable occasion. That is all!