Travelling Down a Path of Destruction

-- Sristy Agrawal, Bedabrata Pain and Rajashik Tarafder

Delivering the judgement on Arnab Goswami bail case, Supreme Court Justice DY Chandrachud opined: “If we don’t interfere in this case today, we will be travelling down a path of destruction. … Would it not be a travesty of justice if someone is denied bail for this?”

Needless to say, the decision by the highest court of the land to intervene with utmost alacrity and grant bail to Arnab Goswami is only to be welcomed by all Indians. After all, speedy justice and presumption of innocence are elementary principles of the rule of law. But do such venerable principles – of upholding the law and protecting personal liberty, as stated by the Supreme Court, have any value if they are routinely applied in a partisan manner?

The naked inequity of the justice system saw the supreme court grant Arnab bail while Stan Swamy remains thirsty in jail. Swamy’s lawyers had asked for the 83-year-old tribal activist to be given a straw to drink water as his hands were affected by Parkinson’s disease. The NIA has taken the liberty to decide this after 20 days. The Supreme Court has chosen not to intervene in this.

The highest court has also refused to pick up the cases of the arbitrarily detained Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan and many others. In fact, the chief justice of India has openly stated the supreme court discourages article 32 petitions – an article that offers redressal for violations of fundamental rights. It is noteworthy that Dr. Ambedkar, the founding father of the Indian constitution, had called the soul of the constitution. Yet, a large number of activists remain in jail today without any prima facie charges being brought against them. The situation of Habeas Corpus in Kashmir may at best be invoked in jest. In the last year and a half, only 5% of such cases have been dealt with by the High Court of the state.

There was of course a certain level of poetic justice in Arnab Goswami’s arrest. Only a few weeks earlier, this journalist used his platform, not to provide news or challenge the powers that be, but to carry a deplorable media trial. In a most contemptuous manner, he led a cabal of led journalists to harass and intimidate a person and had—in a kangaroo court like fashion—declared her a criminal for abetment of suicide. It was likely no accident that he was arrested on the same charges in a two-year-old case by the Mumbai Police.

No matter how disgusted one is Arnab’s style of journalism and a sheer lack of decency and journalistic integrity, one must not take one’s eyes off an intensifying trend of vendetta politics. Arnab’s arrest is indeed a shameful continuation of brand of loathsome politics where the Indian state, at every level, uses laws not to promote justice, but to settle personal scores or create an atmosphere of intimidation. The reprehensible incarceration of the well-known activists and scholars of the Bhima-Koregaon fame, the spate of arrests of journalists, the attacks on anti-NRC/CAA activists or the victims of communal violence in Delhi, the attacks on students in many parts of India, the open state terror in Kashmir, or the “encounter-raj” that Uttar Pradesh has come to symbolize – are just a few indications of intensification of the violation of rights and silencing of voices. By looking at the profile of those incarcerated – often without trial – under laws like TADA or POTA or UAPA, the only conclusion that can be reached is that these laws have precious little to do with curbing terrorism or providing safety and security to people, but everything to do with squashing political dissidence.

While the “abuse” of such laws have been taken to new levels under the present political dispensation, it must not be forgotten that these laws were passed and put in use by the previous Congress regime. And every single political party, including those who cry foul of these laws, were complicit in the passage and abuse of these laws. Many of these political prisoners remain in jail even today, with each successive regime choosing to only further the use of these tools.

When criminals violate laws, there is the law-and-order machinery to deal with them and restore justice and safety of citizens. But when the state and its functionaries – who are duty bound to uphold law, order, and justice, abuse law with impunity, become promoters of arbitariness and partisanship, and unleash a politics of revenge-seeking and intimidation, which citizen can expect to live in safety and security? How can one expect justice or a just solution to the myriads of problems that Indians are confronted with today?

This is why a firm, uncompromising, and a principled stand in defence of and affirmation of rights of all Indians, irrespective of caste, class, sex, place, religion, is of paramount importance. The significance of the slogan – an injury to one is an injury to all – cannot be understated. Perhaps this is precisely what the supreme court justice, DY Chandrachud, had in mind while referring to “travelling down a path of destruction.”

Published:- 12th November, 2020