By K Raveendran
When an ordinary citizen complaints that the so-called rule of law in this country is essentially meant to protect the rights and privileges of those who wield influence and authority, or close to such people, it would be considered as borne out of frustration of the underprivileged. But when the highest court of the land says exactly the same thing, it means a lot. It is a wake-up call that, despite the constitutional guarantees, democratic norms and all that we have been touting as vital attributes of a civilized society, we are living in a make-belief world, which is far removed from reality.
This is exactly what the Supreme Court said about the application of rule of law principles in the case involving the son of Union minister Ajay Kumar Mishra in the incident in which farmers protesting in Lakhimpur Kheri were mowed down by a vehicle in his convoy. Farmers say those in the vehicle included the minister’s son, but Yogi Adityanath’s police was going in circles to avoid his arrest. An FIR was registered against him only days after the gruesome incident. After exhausting all options to let him roam around freely, the police finally ‘summoned’ him by pasting an ‘invitation’ on the door of the minster’s home.
The Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice M V Ramana, hearing a letter petition about the case by an advocate, recorded its complete dissatisfaction about the conduct of the police and the investigations. When the counsel for the state government told the court that main accused, who is the minister’s son, has been served summons on him, the court asked if this was the norm in all murder cases.
“Is it the way you treat the accused in other cases as well? Sending notice?”, the Chief Justice wondered. “We expect this to be a responsible government. When there is a serious allegations of murder and gunshot injury…how the accused in other parts of the country are treated? Sending notice like please come please tell us?”, the CJI said. Justice Ramana reminded the counsel that the law provided for everyone to be treated equally.
“What is the message we are sending? In normal circumstances, if 302 case is registered what will police do? Go and arrest the accused”, the CJI reminded. “And it is a case of brutal murder of 8 people. Law must have taken its course against whoever is involved”, Justice Surya Kant, fellow judge on the bench, pointed out.
The court also questioned the propriety of the case being investigated by a special investigation team set up by the state police. “This is what happens when all the people are local people”, said the CJI, who asked whether it was not better to hand over the case to the CBI, although he did not forget to refer to the general perception about the central agency as well.
The CJI’s response is in keeping with his approach he has been elucidating ever since took office as the highest authority in the country’s judicial system. Addressing an event last week, Justice Ramana had underlined the need to ensure equal access to justice for all for the protection of constitutional guarantees of equality. The CJI highlighted the undeniable truth that only inclusiveness can ensure a vibrant democracy and sustainable growth would be impossible to attain without inclusive access to justice, that the framers of our Constitution were aware of the social and economic reality and therefore, they emphasised the Welfare State where no one is denied the basic needs of life.
“In order to protect the rights, we have equal protection of the laws and equality before the law. But this will be rendered meaningless if the vulnerable section cannot enforce their rights. Equality and access to justice complement each other,” Justice Ramana said.
As if to lessen the embarrassment of the UP police over its conduct in the case, Ashish Mishra, the son of Union minister Ajay Mishra, has appeared before police. He had skipped the summons on the first day citing health reasons. His ‘gesture’ will give the police some courage to report back to the Supreme Court that it has mended its ways, but it is anybody’s guess if Yogi Adityanath’s police would show consistency by pursuing the case its logical conclusion. (IPA Service)