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The impeachment call: in whose interest?

The impeachment call: in whose interest?

In situations where the values upheld by the country are forgotten, or the governments or organized forces deride them, the citizens with concern about it and eager to move forward rooted in the idea of India, usually come out against it. Freedom fighters, retired judges, military and civil service officers, artists, cultural workers and political leaders have on many occasions raised similar issues in in public. Since decades ago, there has been a practice of awakening public conscience on issues affecting the country and the common people, such as spread of communalism, communal polarization, fallouts of privatization, militarization and death sentences. Jurists who cared little about pleasing any, even while in service like VM Tharkunde, VR Krishna Iyer, Rajinder Sachar, Hosbet Suresh and PB Savanth even after their retirement, continued to be among the people as watchdogs against denial of justice. They showed the fortitude risking their own safety to visit the places where injustices and atrocities took place and conduct fact-finding. On the anti-Sikh genocide in the capital city during the Congress rule and the Gujarat genocide during the BJP rule and on many other occasions, in the process of fact-finding they walked into the streets where fire and smoke still had not settled, and moved among people still in tears or seething with malice. As done during their service, even after retirement, it did not concern them as to who were in power while taking a stand, while raising fingers of blame or while recommending corrective action. A few months ago, former judges and retired army chiefs issued joint statements against the autocratic tendencies that are bringing the country to the verge of danger and the calls for genocide that have been heard louder for some time; they requested the President and the Prime Minister to intervene urgently. Neither of them responded to them, probably because they deemed the issues not grave enough to warrant urgent intervention.

In a recent case, a Supreme Court bench of Justices Surya Kant and JB Pardiwala had passed harsh strictures against the highly provocative remarks insulting the Prophet made by the BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma (now suspended under compulsion) that had cost India its reputation in the international scene. More than 100 ex-civil and military service personnel, including 15 ex-judges, came out with a joint statement against it. Their allegation was that the judges involved over-reacted and made an indelible stain. Let's forget for the time being that not even one of these hundred signatories has a record of having said anything about the misery of the people of the country caused by the injustices of the government. It is nothing new for courts, judges or their judgements to be criticised; nor are they prohibited. But this is perhaps the first time in independent India that a class capable of shaping public opinion, including retired judges, has come forward against judges for making remarks about the damage to secularism and the country's dignity. As a continuation of this, campaigns too have started in the cyber world demanding the impeachment of Justice Surya Kant and Pardiwala. In the coming days, this campaign is likely to take new forms.

Our country offers the freedom to debate and question the court's observations, criticisms and judgments, a situation made possible by the country's constitution. And this constitution, however much some may disparage it, guarantees freedom of action and opinion to even those who reject it. However, it is clear that the right-wing forces are extending the pattern of trying to silence rival politicians, media outlets publishing opposing views and journalists who bring out unpalatable truths, to the realm of judiciary too. And what drives them to do it is clear. With role models like Justice Aqil Qureshi standing tall till the last minute, despite being suffocated by denial of promotions and transfers for judgments that upset the powerful, one can believe that judges will remain steadfast. But one doubt arises: when they signed the joint statement triggering such a campaign, did the former judges not hesitate even for a moment with paused breath? Or do they believe only in the judgments written with the wishes of the government in mind, like in the Babri Masjid case and the Gulbarg Society case?

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TAGS:Petitions by former civil servants judges Justices Surya Kant & PB Pardiwala calls for impeachment Nupur Sharma comments cyber campaign against judges 
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