The Supreme Court of India: it is the highest court of the land; the court of last resort; the court whose verdict cannot be challenged in any other court. What will happen if its verdicts are ignored? What will be its status if its judgements are not implemented in letter and spirit? What will be the consequences if its role as the sole repository of public trust is violated? There is only one, and only one, answer to all these questions -- India’s status as the largest democracy in the world will get stained, and dented.
But it is happening. The Supreme Court has been in the thick of news in the recent past for the wide-ranging, earth-shaking verdicts it pronounced. The apex court struck down a colonial-era law making adultery a crime; it diluted the government’s attempt to make Aadhaar card an omnipotent weapon infringing upon the privacy of individuals; it restored the right to equality to women worshippers by permitting them, irrespective of age, to enter Sabarimala temple. There were a few more such verdicts from the apex court that changed the contours of people’s customs, practices and belief systems.
The people and organizations can make light of these judgements only at the risk of contempt of court; they can look the other way, but they will be putting axe to one of the pillars of democracy; they can pay no heed to it, but it will lead to chaos of unending consequences. Unfortunately, the country is witnessing a scenario which is tantamount to countering the spirit envisaged in the Constitution of India. Consider the Vijaydashmi speech made by RSS chief Mohan Bhagawat urging the Central Government to bring a law to remove hurdles in the construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya. His demand comes at a time when Supreme Court is seized of the issue and hearing in Ram temple case is to resume on October 29. Refusal to wait for the verdict by the apex court means that the RSS – the heart and brain behind the government – does not give much credence to the judgement going to come.
The other issue that agitates any law-abiding person is the developments in Kerala over the Sabarimala issue where parties, organisations and leaders have refused to pay heed to the Supreme Court verdict. The protests that marred the State go counter to the judgement of the court. It is a clear indication that certain sections of the society are not willing to accept the Supreme Court verdict and act accordingly. We had a taste of it when Karnataka government refused to heed to the Supreme Court verdict to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu. Yet another proof for people in authority cocking a snook at the apex court is a BJP MP throwing down the gauntlet at the last week’s verdict on controlling cracker-bursting during Diwali and other festivals.
These are dangerous trends in a democracy. Governments, parties and leaders are joining hands with orthodoxy. Any attempt to insult and disregard apex court rulings has bigger ramifications. This will put the authority of the Supreme Court in peril. This poses the biggest threat to Indian democracy.(Published on 29th October 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 44)