'We Are Answerable to the Constitution Alone' - CJI
Highlight: CJI lashes out at efforts to run down judiciary
'Supreme Kotha' has been trending –for want of another word– on Twitter with the most vile tweets against the Supreme Court ever since it rejected a plea by BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma to club all the petitions against her. And did so with strong observations questioning her words on Prophet Mohammad and maintaining that she was "single-handedly responsible for what is happening in the country."The vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and JB Pardiwala slammed Sharma for her 'disturbing" remarks adding, "these are not religious people at all, they make statements to provoke."
The social media was made to erupt with a strong attack not just on the court but on the individual judges whose photographs were circulated on Twitter with ugly comments. The tweets were provocative and nasty, mocking at India's judiciary and violating all tenets of free speech and expression. This onslaught provoked a response from the Supreme Court judges, including the Chief Justice of India N.V.Ramana while addressing an event in California. "It is the vigorously promoted ignorance among the general public which is coming to the aid of such forces whose only aim is to run down the only independent organ i.e., the judiciary. Let me make it clear. We are answerable to the Constitution and Constitution alone", the Chief Justice made clear.
In his remarks the CJI said that "democracy is all about participation" and "we need to promote Constitutional culture in India. We need to spread awareness about the roles and responsibilities of individuals and institutions. Democracy is all about participation". He further said, "This principle of inclusivity is universal. It needs to be honoured everywhere in the world, including in India. Inclusivity strengthens the unity in society which is key to peace and progress. We need to focus on issues that unite us. Not on those that divide us. In the 21st century, we cannot allow petty, narrow and divisive issues to dictate human and societal relationships. We have to rise above all the divisive issues to remain focused on human development. A non-inclusive approach is an invitation to disaster." And he reminded the gathering of Indians in the US that to remain millionaires they needed peace. He further reminded them, "Your parents back home also should be able to live in a peaceful society which is free from hate and violence. If you cannot take care of the well-being of your family and society back home, what is the use of your wealth and status here?"
Justice Pardiwala also broke his silence a day ago to point out, ""Personal attacks on judges for their judgments lead to a dangerous scenario where the judges have to think about what the media thinks instead of what the law really thinks. This harms the rule of law." He further added that this tendency of personalised opinions in the digital and social media against judges, rather than a constructive critical approach, was harming the judicial institution and lowering its dignity. "In India which cannot be defined as a completely mature or defined democracy, social media is employed frequently to politicise purely legal and constitutional issues," Justice Pardiwala said.
The two senior judges have made it clear that they are guided only by the Constitution of India. And that this kind of personal attack on social media in particular was coming in the way of independent and honest jurisprudence. It is imperative for those who control the media– social, digital, electronic, print — to ensure that the institutions of democracy are fully protected from such harm. Dragging the apex court into a volatile cesspool weakens the Indian Constitution. Democracy flounders when its pillars sag by orchestrated attack that borders on intimidation. The other pillars of democracy — the executive and the legislature – have to protect the judiciary today from such attacks with the fourth pillar, the media, expected to play a healing role.