DC Edit | Why this sudden concern over protecting judiciary?

Suddenly, a group of about 600 lawyers have appeared on the national scene with the noble aim of protecting the independence of the judiciary from the attacks of a “vested interest group”, and sought the leadership of the Chief Justice of India to save the day. Interestingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has joined the chorus and blamed the principal Opposition party for bullying the court.

The charges in the letter to the CJI, dated March 26, are pretty serious. “The vested interest group” is trying to put pressure on the judiciary and defame courts, especially in cases of corruption involving politicians. These tactics are “damaging to our courts and threaten our democratic fabric”, the lawyers fear. The group has also concocted the theory of bench fixing “which is not just disrespectful and contemptuous but an attack on the honour and dignity of courts”, the lawyers said.

They also question the timing of the actions of the group: “They do it with very strategic timings, when the nation is all set to head into elections”. This remind them “of similar antics in 2018-2019 when they took to their 'hit and run' activities, including fabricating wrong narratives”.

One would wonder what warranted such an emergency rescue act by the lawyers that is unparalleled in the history of this country. Normally, it is the government of the day that can exert pressure on the judiciary but the petitioners made no such reference. No act of the government is mentioned in the letter either.

While the lawyers refused to identify the so-called vested interest group, the Prime Minister was candid enough to name the Congress, saying “to browbeat and bully others is vintage Congress culture”. No more than five decades ago had the Congress called for a “committed judiciary”, the Prime Minister reasoned.

The Prime Minister is right when he dug into the history and brandished the infamous demands made of the judiciary by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her minions. A committed judiciary is a must to further the agenda of the government, her government had said.

However, as the Prime Minister himself said it happened some five decades ago when the Congress ruled over the country and its leader was an uncrowned war hero. The Congress, or, for that matter, the entire Opposition combined is in no position to pressure the judiciary, or any instrument of the state, today. In fact, parties in the Opposition have been running pillar to post to retain whatever is left of their own democratic and political rights in the face of the misuse of the law by law enforcement agencies.

The leader of the principal Opposition party has complained that its accounts have been frozen based on a decades-old dispute and the party is finding it difficult to conduct election-related works. Leaders in the Opposition have been both openly and indirectly complaining that they are under pressure from the investigative agencies.

It is imperative that the judiciary remain independent and fair, while the Constitution has enough safeguards to ensure it. It’s only the threat to the Constitution and democratic principles that can pose a challenge to the judiciary’s independence. Given the precarious position of the Opposition, the motives behind this sudden call is, therefore, suspicious. The presence of a senior lawyer who had openly questioned the Supreme Court in pressing ahead with the scrutiny of the electoral bonds scheme in the rescue party gives rise to more misgivings.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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