ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Cleanse the Judiciary

Some judges in both India’s high courts and the Supreme Court are behaving like the fundamentalist mullahs who claim to be above law and issue “fatwas” commanding their followers to behead Muslim dissidents (for example, the threat against Salman Rushdie). The latest example of a similar “fatwa”-type arbitrary judgment by the apex court and its implementation by a collaborative admini­stration is the hanging of Afzal Guru, against whom the prosecution failed to prove the allegation of his direct parti­cipation in the terrorist attack on Parliament. The judge who sentenced him to death justified the sentence by asserting that it was necessary to satisfy the “collective conscience” of the Indian people – an argument that goes against every tenet of law.

A judge who is capable of such legal impropriety, and those occupying the bench of the Supreme Court who upheld this judgment, should be denounced as unworthy of holding such positions. There is a need to organise a mass campaign against these members of the judiciary, demanding the setting up of an indepen­dent tribunal to examine their judgment and seek ways and means whether they can be brought to trial for culpable homicide.

Needless to say, such a campaign should also take note of the role of the president who rejected the mercy petition, and the home ministry officials who concealed the date of the execution of Afzal Guru from the public and his relatives (thus preventing them from approaching the judiciary for reconsideration on the ground of inordinate delay between the passing of the death sentence and its implementation – a ground which allowed the alleged assassins of Rajiv Gandhi a reprieve from execution). No one can escape accountability, however important they may be.

It is time that human rights activists, lawyers, social activists – as well as judges who still adhere to the norms of strict juridical impartiality – put their heads together and chart out a programme for cleansing the judiciary of judges who are corrupt, and biased in favour of, or in opposition to one community or another. A mass campaign for the reformation of the Indian judiciary on these lines is urgent to prevent a repetition of the miscarriage of justice that we witnessed in the case of Afzal Guru.

Sumanta Banerjee

Dehradun

 

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