How Mrs Gandhi got ‘committed’ judges

The Congress party is exerting pressure on the Supreme Court. It’s done that before—successfully

Unhappy with Supreme Court decisions that went against their reservations agenda, the UPA government’s luminaries have ratcheted up their rhetoric casting aspersions on the motives of the judiciary. Taking an unprecedented shortcut (one that is unavailable to its legal opponents) the government secured the Chief Justice of India’s intervention in the case.

Arjun Singh, the human resources development minister, expects a “just and compassionate face of justice”, implying the court’s decision was neither, and oblivious to the possibility that the two may be mutually exclusive. His party colleague, Digvijay Singh, was more direct in his remarks. He accused the court of bias against the ‘socially deprived sections’, by stating that he is not accusing the court of bias.

Such rhetoric is the thin end of the wedge. Many of us are too young to remember this, but exactly 34 years ago, another Mrs Gandhi was ruling the country. That Mrs Gandhi’s government too was implementing a progressive agenda that promised to improve the lot of the poor. Bank nationalisation, for example, would help alleviate poverty by allowing the poor access to sources of credit. Those that came in the way of the Indira Gandhi government’s “progressive” agenda—that ended up near-totally shackling up both economic and political freedom in India—were labeled as lacking ‘commitment’. And when the nation’s seniormost judges showed commitment to such things as the constitution and justice, they were superseded, and more ‘committed’ judges installed in their place.

Today there’s another Mrs Gandhi in power, and her government is driving yet another ‘progressive’ agenda. Her functionaries have begun questioning the commitment of the judiciary. Those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to have it repeated on them.

15 thoughts on “How Mrs Gandhi got ‘committed’ judges”

  1. Why does this not elsewhere ? (No, i dont mean Africa or Asia).

    What are the checks that we are missing. Why doesnt Bush replace any judge who gives a ruling against him or his teenage daughters caught for underage drinking?

  2. The current case is not about Mrs Gandhi vs the court but the legistlative vs the Judicary. the Indian constitution is very clear on the three pillars of our democracy, E,L and J. According to the Constitution, Parliament and the state legislatures in India have the power to make laws within their respective jurisdictions. This power is not absolute in nature. The Constitution vests in the judiciary, the power to adjudicate upon the constitutional validity of all laws. If a law made by Parliament or the state legislatures violates any provision of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has the power to declare such a law invalid or ultra vires.

    Now the question is does reservation above a certain percentage become ultra vires! The parliament thinks it is not and needs reservations for OBC’s. I think in a healthy democracy the parliament being the representative of the people should have the the power to decide this. The courts should interpret the laws and stay away from interfering too much in the jurisdictions of the legislator or it will be question where a few judges will start running the country.

  3. Shadows,

    Even the Indian PM can’t replace a Supreme Court judge who rules against his kids. Both in the United States and at times (like under that Mrs Gandhi and perhaps under this Mrs Gandhi too) in India, the appointments to the higher judiciary have a partisan political bias. In the US, judges are openly seen as pro-Republican/pro-Democrat or Conservative/Liberal. As Yossarin points out in his post (linked in the article), India might end up the same way.

  4. We make fun of Pakistan and it’s dictatorship when their CJ is sacked. We ourselves are in a dictatorship of the Congress party and pliant media.

  5. >> judges are openly seen as pro-Republican/pro-Democrat or Conservative/Liberal. As Yossarin points out in his post (linked in the article), India might end up the same way. >>

    Yes, but there is a big difference.

    I can be conservative today and liberal tomorrow. My kids need not be conservative or liberal. These are political positions that are drawn in sand, not etched in stone. This is completely different from being “pro caste justice” vs “pro social justice”.

    The day we end up that way, we have to start thinking about whether or not this country can remain as one. Caste justice = social justice without data.

  6. I pray that SC allows the Government to go ahead with OBC reservations. If they don’t, I can bet that Arjun Singh and Laloo Yadav would start making a case for Emergency.

  7. MN wrote:
    The courts should interpret the laws and stay away from interfering too much in the jurisdictions of the legislator or it will be question where a few judges will start running the country.

    How much is “too much”? The primary job of the Supreme Court is to interpret a law and ensure that it does not violate the constitution. That’s exactly what this Supreme Court is (or has been) doing in the OBC quota law. When the executive, at the behest of the legislature or vice versa (the demarcations between the two in a parliamentary democracy such as India are not quite clear) attempts to browbeat the judiciary into submission to its will , it is the former that is trespassing into the latter. Will of the people? You must be kidding. In a democracy, where the government decides to dole out free TV’s to the people, when they don’t have decent sanitation facilities, are you seriously contending that the will of the people prevails? Bah!

    Also, as I have commented in my blog on “the Magnificent Constitution of India”, India has the dubious distinction of amending its constitution 93 times – the latest one relating to the OBC quota – that is about 2 per year. If that doesn’t make its judiciary into a cardboard pillar, I don’t know what does!

  8. “When the highest judicial forum in the land appears to succumb to Government pressure, and that too within a day of its judgement, it is time to fear for India’s future.”

    Anuradha Dutt in Pioneer

    “While the Chief Justice is vested with the power to reschedule dates, the decision to advance the date of hearing to May 8 has left a vast majority of the people aghast. The question uppermost in the people’s mind reflects poorly on both the executive and the judiciary: What transpired between Monday afternoon and Tuesday mid-morning for the Supreme Court to change its view so radically? No less astonishing is the brusque manner in which objections to the rescheduling of dates have been brushed aside, indicating a certain disdain for those who refuse to be bullied by authority. This does not augur well for democracy in India.”

    Pioneer edit

    Links are valid only for today.

  9. BAD OMENS!
    Look forward to ‘Emergency’.

    Just look at the steps the UPA (Un Provoked Assassins of Democracy)has taken so far…
    1.
    Censorship:A football misManager shall decide for us.Just like Vidya Charan Shukala then minister for I&B.This ‘family retainer'(Priya Da) had attempted to block us too,not long ago…remember!

    2.
    Committed Judiciary:Then it was ‘Allahabad’s High Court’ now it is the ‘Supreme Court’.

    3.
    Then it was Sanjay: Now it is the ‘Crown Prince’.

    4.
    If it was Barua then: Now Laloo.Recall? “Indira is India and India is Indira”

    5.
    If it was DD then:Now we have so many 24×7 channels.

    6.
    KS said than,”When asked to bend they(media= then press)crawled”: What about the so called 24×7 channels today leave alone the press? Lucky we had ‘media barons’ like Ram Nath Goyenka and Aroon Shorie of Indian Express which has become-as a friend call- ‘Spinindia’.

    7.
    Communists: Then! and yet again this time!

    Bad Omens friends!Bad Omens!!

    Prudent Indian.

  10. >> they were superseded, and more ‘committed’ judges installed in their place.

    Nitin, then how could this happen. How could Indira fire judges and appoint ones who are compliant with her. Maybe it was allowed during the Emergency.

  11. Shadows,

    Justice A N Ray was appointed CJI over three of his seniors. The seniors resigned.

  12. The Rational Fool wrote

    “How much is “too much”? The primary job of the Supreme Court is to interpret a law and ensure that it does not violate the constitution. That’s exactly what this Supreme Court is (or has been) doing in the OBC quota law. When the executive, at the behest of the legislature or vice versa (the demarcations between the two in a parliamentary democracy such as India are not quite clear) attempts to browbeat the judiciary into submission to its will , it is the former that is trespassing into the latter. Will of the people? You must be kidding. In a democracy, where the government decides to dole out free TV’s to the people, when they don’t have decent sanitation facilities, are you seriously contending that the will of the people prevails? Bah!”

    Government giving out free TV is not a bad idea. Given a choice in most villages, people would prefer not having sanitation facility than having a TV… most villages use their toilets as storage rooms and use the “open” for their sanitation purpose. Is this a healthy trent.. not at all but that the reality. A TV serves many purposes.. I dont know if you know a TV was used as a means to entertain people there by being it as a instrument in the birth control program.

    Now the point I made was the judiciary in India cannot take over the role of running the country, that best left to our parlimentarians, what ever we think about them. By the way our people are not fools as some of our intellects think, they might not be educated but they still can think and decide what is right for theselves.

  13. By the way Rational Fool…

    What is wrong in amending our constitution. Do you think we can have the same views/rules in 1947/1950 still be applicable in 2007. By the way Indian Contract act states 1857… if the constitution was not amended ..my God..we will be following the laws of 1857!!!!!!! amendment is necessary evil for progress. Thank our fore fathers for being wise enought to have a provision to permit a amendment

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