Just twelve days before completion of Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary on 2nd October India witnessed three events grimly depicting the serial demolition of justice endangering the very foundation of our nation. It is extremely worrisome that justice was being demolished in institutions of governance of our Republic which was founded on the strength of noble ideals of freedom struggle and the Preamble of the Constitution proclaiming to secure to all citizens "Justice, social, economic and political; Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship."
Demolition of Justice With Regards to Babri Mosque Demolition Issue
Among three instances of demolition of justice it would be pertinent to first reflect on the CBI Court judgment on criminal cases filed against L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and several others after demolition of Babri Mosque described by the Supreme Court as "egregious violation of law" and “in breach of the order of status quo and an assurance to this Court”. And yet the CBI Court acquitted all the accused and observed that the Mosque was demolished by anti social elements. The Court delivered the judgement and the justice stood demolished because no one was punished for the criminal dismantling of the Babri Mosque.
Such a judgment which did not ensure justice reminds us the first President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad who while unveiling the bust of Mahatma Gandhi in the premises of Odisha High Court recalled his appearance as an advocate before a judge of a court in British India and said that the judge when requested by him to give justice in a case bluntly said that "Judges are not here to do justice, but to decide cases according to evidence on record". That observation of President Rajendra Prasad was cited by President K R Narayanan who while inaugurating the fiftieth anniversary celebrations of the Supreme Court in 2000 remarked that "mysterious are the ways of justice" and quoted a British editor's statement that "the law court is not a cathedral but a casino where so much depends on the throw of the dice". The judgement of the Special CBI Court on destruction of Babri Mosque is a mere judgement and does not dispense justice to remedy the demolition which was described in 2010 by
Supreme Court Justices PC Ghose and RF Nariman as "the crime which shook the secular fabric of India.” The unpunished crime would haunt the Republic and the demolition of justice in the absence of punishment for those who committed the crime in flattening the Babri Mosque would intensify the deepening insecurities of a sections of our own citizens who are now being lynched because of their faith and being framed by police because they protested against highly discriminatory laws enacted after 2019. The demolition of justice because of the absence of fairness in the functioning of courts of law was recently reflected in the argument of former Judge of the Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju who while pleading for fugitive Nirav Modi argued before the London’s Westminster Magistrates Court that he would not get a fair trial in India if extradited.
Demolition of Justice in the passage of Farm Bills
While the demolition of justice is indicative of the demolition of the fair trial in judiciary which interprets law and delivers judgement, we find the lamentable demolition of justice in legislature and that too in the apex legislature, the Rajya Sabha. It was agonisingly demonstrated in the House on 20th September 2020 when the Farm Bills were not put to the vote of the House by the Deputy Chairman Shri Harivansh in spite of the demand of some of the opposition Members out of which a few were shouting for division from their respective seats. The screaming headline of the leading daily Indian Express dated 27th September 2020, "Deputy Chairman Said Opposition Wasn't in Seat When Asking for Division, RS(Rajya Sabha) TV Shows Otherwise" and Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta's analysis on the same date in thewire.in
under the caption "RS TV Footage, MPs' Accounts of Farm Bills Debate Paint Picture of RS Rules Violation" brought to public domain the glaring acts of commission and omission on the part of the Deputy Chairman in flouting the Constitution, rules of the House and parliamentary convention in declaring that those Bills were passed by voice vote.
After the Deputy Chairman responded by issuing a clarification to those screaming headlines the Indian Express on 28th September 2020 carried a news item under the caption, "MP Siva was in seat but order key for division: Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh". So at last the Deputy Chairman conceded that at least one Member was on his seat and he demanded division. But regretfully he justified denial of granting of division to Shri Siva on the ground that there was disorder in the House. It is in variance with the statement of the Deputy Chairman that he asked Members to go back to their seats and division would be allowed only thereafter.
Rule 252 of the Rules and Procedure and Conduct of Business in Rajya Sabha clearly mandates that even if one Member asks for Division then Chair has to grant it. In fact Shri Siva has been asserting from 20th September itself that he asked for division from his seat and yet Deputy Chairman did not allow it. While later the Deputy Chairman conceded that Shiva was in his seat while demanding division yet he clarified in response to the media expose that " “as per rules and practice, in order to have a division, two things are essential. Firstly there should be a demand for division and equally important that there should be order in the house.”
Deputy Chairman's assertion that there should be order for granting division is equally applicable for granting voice vote. If division could not take place because there was no order then how was voice vote allowed by him when chaos was prevailing in the House ? According to Rule 257, "In the case of grave disorder arising in the Council, the Chairman may, if he thinks it necessary to do so, adjourn the Council or suspend any sitting for a time to be named by him". It is, thus, clear that in case of disorder in the House Rule 257 should have been invoked by the Deputy Chairman. But instead of doing that he went for voice vote and thereby violating Rule 257.
Deputy Chairman's decision not to allow physical voting by applying division violated the Constitution which provides in Article 100(1) that all questions in either House of the Parliament or in joint sittings of both the Houses of Parliament should be decided by majority of Members present and voting. It means that there has to be physical voting to decide if the Bills or any other matter in the House has got majority support in its favour. Non application of division by the Deputy Chairman for the passage of the Farm Bills and his decision to pass them by voice vote is nothing but demolition of the Constitution, rules, law and justice.
Demolition of Justice in Case of Rape and Death of Dalit Girl and Denial of Funeral Rites to her family
And the third example of the heart rending demolition of justice was brutally manifested in UP on 30th September 2020 when police did not allow the family of a Dalit girl to cremate her body after she died in a Delhi hospital following gruesome gang rape two weeks back in a farm field in the UP by upper caste man who severely beat her and completely paralysed her body. The police personnel brought the dead body from Delhi and cremated it at 3 AM by locking up the family members of the girl and the pathetic pleadings of the girl's mother that they should be handed over the dead body of their daughter so that they would conduct the funeral in a dignified manner fell on deaf ears. The ghastly rape and maiming of a Dalit girl by upper castes, her eventual death and the denial of her last rites to her family by the police underline the prevalent caste atrocities and prejudices best embodied in the statement of Dr. B R Ambedkar that "Caste system represents the ascending order of reverence and descending order of contempt". The demolition of justice so grisly demonstrated in the rape and death of a Dalit girl and refusal of police to hand over her body to her family for a dignified cremation is a frightening indicator of an architecture of governance where justice for people seem to be trampled upon in a brazen manner.
The sanity and strength of the Republic has to be salvaged by invoking and enforcing the ideals of the constitution, constitutional morality and jurisprudence at the core of which remain justice.
The prescribed method of Dr. Ambedkar for Education, Organisation and Agitation and his insistence on constitutional method for this purpose is the categorical imperative.
#The author served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to President of India late Shri K R Narayanan and had a tenure in Prime Minister’s Office and Joint Secretary in Rajya Sabha Secretariat. Views expressed in the article are in his personal capacity.