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Necessary Clean-up


It seems as though Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi is determined to leave as much of a clean desk for his successor as possible. After finally disposing of the decades-long Ram Janmabhoomi case, the Supreme Court is establishing standards such as passing verdicts on three significant matters on a single day, as it did on Thursday. If such an attitude persists, it may catch on even with the lower levels of the Judiciary and India may, finally, see the actual rule of law.
It has been the practice for long among a particular section of lawyers that their access to the highest courts and comfort with legal processes has been used to throw their weight around disproportionately in public matters. Elected governments have faced challenges in important matters such as the nation’s defence and crucial reform in various sectors, merely because some person carries a personal grudge, or is acting as a proxy for vested interests. In the normal course, such blackmailing and stalling tactics should be seen to be just that, but owing to the judicial delays, they become seriously toxic for the nation’s body politic. In dismissing the petition for an inquiry into the Rafale fighter jet deal, for instance, as a ‘fishing’ expedition, which it exactly was, the court will have, hopefully, discouraged to some extent such misuse of privileged access. Also praiseworthy is the reprimand issued to Rahul Gandhi for his attempt to misquote the Supreme Court on the Rafale issue in his usual entitled way.
The court has pushed the Sabarimala case on to a seven-member bench, which really was not necessary. It is strange that there is lack of clarity in society on the issue. The ban on entry of women of the menstrual age group is an ‘eccentricity’ of this particular shrine. It does not reflect in any way a basic principle of the Hindu religion. As such, the Supreme Court cannot in any way restrict the right of women’s entry, particularly as it would lead to misuse of similar provisions at other places by chauvinistic elements. It should be left to the women to voluntarily abide by the taboo, which ninety-nine percent who believe in the shrine would do. The remaining few should be allowed entry as ‘tourists’ and a ritual added that would ‘mask’ the Deity’s eyes in their presence.
Of course, there are sections in Indian society that have a vested interest in the continuation of legal logjams. They will be critical of the ongoing process. Some have already personally targeted Chief Justice Gogoi’s integrity. That, however, has always been the price paid by those who are determined to get things done!