Intimidating atmosphere, as 'ramshackled' judiciary refuses to question authorities

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat. Dated: 2/24/2021 1:24:59 AM

“Where will all this take India to? Americans fought because they had vibrant institutions. The judiciary and media actually were in the forefront in protecting people's rights. But back home here we are distressed. What are the avenues for the people to get justice?”

The recent raid on the newsportal “Newsclick” by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) unambiguously shows how the government 'respects' those voices that differ. The ED these days has become the new CBI and is being used as a political tool. It is deeply disturbing how these agencies have allowed themselves to be used as a political tool to harass the opponents of the ruling party.
While the big media has failed and turned into a loudspeaker of the ruling party, the government is not satisfied with the support it is getting from it. Maybe the ruling politicians have come to realise that big media houses have lost their credibility and people have started switching over to alternative media, which may not be as big but are definitely 'taller' than the courtiers. Hence the intimidation.
Rules and regulation these days appear to be meant to control the opponents. One can see how a comedian is arrested on the comments he never made. A top minister announces that Rs 18,000 will be deposited in the bank accounts immediately after 'their' government comes to power in West Bengal without any fear, with spineless courtiers singing songs of his 'valour'. None question that this as unethical and pure bribery of voters. We still wait to hear from the Election Commission what it has to say about it.
A young climate activist from Bengaluru was recently arrested for 'uploading' a 'toolkit' on twitter. There are voices which accuse her of sedition, of favouring Khalistani terrorism! The court 'accepted' the plea of the agencies and sent her to remand. These days we don't see much questioning of authorities. There is a simple acceptance of what they demand. There is no demand for justice, yet there is 'punishment'. Perhaps the power to 'punish' is becoming a glamour for the powers-that-be.
The “Washington Post” recently revealed that the Bhima Koregaon 'evidence' was planted in the computers of the accused by hacking. Yet we did not hear any outrage in the media. The intimidation is growing. We soon will have a social media policy. The party which used social media to divide people and intimidate them is seeking to 'regulate' it. Reading, speaking and participating in debates and discussion is fast becoming a crime. Those who are spreading hatred are enjoying the patronage and can say anything to anyone. Only those who respond to such hatred face the music.
Recently, Rajya Sabha member Ranjan Gogoi said that our judiciary was 'ramshackled' and it needed change. I am not sure why he was upset, but the way things are happening, it is not good for our democratic set up. Gogoi virtually mocked the 'training courses' at the National Judicial Academy in Bhopal, advising them to 'train' the judges about how to write judgments!
While Gogoi, a former chief justice of India, was upset about non-appointment of the judges at various high courts and Supreme Court, those who really value judiciary as the most important institution of a liberal and free democracy would be disappointed at the way our courts have 'prioritised' cases.
Courts are virtually 'accepting' things presented by the executive most of the time. It has no time to ask agencies why chargesheets have not been filed even after two years of the arrests of activists. The biggest disappointment is that while people are languishing in jails for many years without any chargesheet, we don't see any outrage or anger in the courts against the executive.
People may call former chief justice Ranjan Gogoi a hypocrite but somewhere he spoke the truth on judiciary being ramshackled
Eminent lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj languishes in the jail without chargesheet. Over 90% physically disabled GN Saibaba continues to face humiliation with continuous incarceration in Nagpur Jail as one of 'biggest criminals' of India. Reports suggest that he has contracted Covid and is already ailing. There seems to be no respect for basic human values.
An intimating atmosphere is ruling the roost. You can't love the person of your choice. You can't eat food of your choice. You can't watch anything of your choice as that “hurts” feeling those in power. We appear to be turning into a feudal society which wants to control everything. It seems, for everything, we will have to take permission from the state. Where do people get protection and justice? Those who are threatening are roaming free in the name of 'rastrabhakti', while agencies trap and intimidate the political opponents and dissenters.
Where will all this take India to? Americans fought because they had vibrant institutions. The judiciary and media actually were in the forefront in protecting people's rights. But back home here we are distressed. What are the avenues for the people to get justice?
Is there any chance that those who disagree will not be incarcerated for an indefinite period, and in the name of justice you will only get a date for next hearing? An ailing Varavara Rao has not been able to get bail because the courts don’t seem to be convinced. In the Arnab Goswami case, Justice Chandrachud loudly said jail is an exception and bail should be the rule. But is it being implemented?
We may moan about the quality of media and social media. But the biggest worry is the judiciary. People may call Ranjan Gogoi a hypocrite but somewhere he spoke the truth on 'judiciary being ramshackled'.
*Human rights defender

 

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