By Sushil Kutty
The two Sena were back in the Supreme Court on Wednesday locking horns demanding the disqualification of the legislators of the “other Sena”. For the benefit of the public, the Uddhav Sena and Shinde Sena are engaged in a fratricidal war, both groups bent on eliminating the other from the face of Maharashtra. And the Supreme Court is taking its own sweet time to settle the ownership tussle. The next hearing is put on August 1. One would have expected that fresh from holiday, the apex court would have put some of the replenished energy in taking a decisive stand.
Alas, nothing like that. The Supreme Court is on the cusp of a change of guard. CJI N V Ramana will demit office August 26 and he has been quoted saying that “65 is too early an age for someone to retire”; and more recently that he is “too busy to think of post-retirement plan.” Part of the “too busy” was spent in the United States, from where the CJI delivered a few homilies to the people in New Delhi, which largely focused on what India could learn from the United States.
The CJI can be forgiven. In fact, he should be given the benefit of doubt as his homily struck some raw desi nerves who took umbrage at the unsolicited advice to learn from the Americans what could not be learned from India’s rock stars in every diverse field. Fact is, anybody in the judiciary saying he is “too busy” should be told under harsh floodlights of the number of “pending cases”, and what’s not being done to bring down the burden of proof that the courts are sagging under the weight of their own inadequacies.
Justice N V Ramana will not be the first CJI to retire with the feeling that “65 is too early an age for someone to retire” and he’s “too busy to think of a post-retirement plan”. If we haven’t noticed, the top court has been in a similar state of mind of late, a mild case of dilemma, to be or not to be. Hamlet letting things hang.
Both the Uddhav and Shinde “factions” want closure, but the Supreme Court is as if “what’s the damned haste?” Meanwhile, the people of Maharashtra have a government that doesn’t itself know whether it’s government or is it a stop-gap arrangement?
The growing child, the adolescent mapping her emotions and learning how to keep them under control, should be excused if she doesn’t have a clue as to who runs India, the multiple governments of the day or the multiple courts of the realm! That’s it, point-blank, in your face, isn’t what we call “our democracy” the handmaiden of the all-powerful judiciary?
CJI Ramana is not the first justice to notice that “process is the punishment in India’s criminal justice system” and that “hasty arrests and difficulty in getting bail” are intrinsic to the elastic process. To the random public, his words weren’t an eye-opener. Millions had gone through the rigours, sapped their energies fighting the process, now asking themselves why such displays of wisdom only when the entitled woke is in the dock?
Also, suddenly, the ecosystem is split between who controls the system and who cannot? In the two-Sena case, the apex court clocked long hours before coming to the conclusion that it was incapable of putting a stop to the uncertainty that is plaguing Maharashtra ever since Eknath Shinde rebelled under BJP tutelage and succeeded in unseating Uddhav Thackeray, after splitting Balasaheb Thackeray’s Shiv Sena, much like people are getting exercised over the fact that the judiciary appears split as displayed by the rulings and observations made in cases being prosecuted under the same sections.
For example, how can Section 295 A and Section 153 be read differently for the fact-checker, and entirely differently when it is the alleged blasphemer? India’s courts cannot be “too busy” to ignore this dichotomy that plagues them when such cases are more the rule than the exception. And if anybody is tempted to link this to “too early” and “too busy” that is a sorry declaration! (IPA Service)