“And what, incidentally, do you think integrity is? The ability not to pick a watch out of your neighbor’s pocket”? Asks Ayn Rand in the classic Fountainhead and goes on to answer, “No, it’s not as easy as that. If that were all, I’d say ninety-five percent of humanity were honest, upright men. Only, as you can see, they aren’t. Integrity is the ability to stand by an idea. That presupposes the ability to think. Thinking is something one doesn’t borrow or pawn.”
The on-going catharsis in the Court No 1 of the Supreme Court has all the components for a competing episode in the theatre of Indian Judiciary. The histrionic screenplay unfolds in the backdrop of the gruesome and gory murder of 8 men in khaki, in a typical Maoist style operation – just that it was not played out in the forests of Dandakaranya – by a history sheeter roaming free with more than 60 criminal cases pending various stages of trial in different courts. The celebration in social media that followed the killing of Vikas Dubey and his men in police encounter was a sharp slap on the knuckles of our judiciary. What was being mocked at, if not questioned, was the integrity of the Indian judiciary.
The ensuing PIL drama in the Supreme Court is nothing but a cruel attack on the 8 policemen who were butchered on duty, by elements who do not believe in the concept of rule of law. This enactment is beginning to remind one of the ‘Nirbhaya’ case – the one who should not be named – wherein the self-appointed conscience keepers of the legal cottage industry in Delhi took it upon themselves to dictate to the judiciary as to how their perverted idea of deliverance should substitute the idea of dispensation of justice.
“I have dealt cases with Justice B S Chauhan. I too would have suggested his name”, observed the CJI when the Solicitor General, representing the UP Government, submitted a draft notification for appointment of a three member inquiry commission. Instant verdict was delivered by this coterie and the farce did not even break for an adequate recess. Bang came the next petition, orchestrated with significant precision, attacking the retired bureaucrat in the Commission, that it appeared as if the CJI pleaded for the endorsement of this legal cabal while stating “we will not allow you to cast aspersions on someone’s integrity on this. How can you call a man corrupt by a statement that simply says rule of law has to be followed?”. In a court wherein public interest has got substituted by competing vested interests of criss-crossing factions – those that want to selectively shed a cinematic tear only for blood-thirsty murderers as defined in the left-leaning human rights encyclopaedia – an endless stream of frivolous petitions is becoming the new norm. What we are witnessing in Court no 1 is the precise death of ‘obiter dicta’ – one cut every day – under the mindful watch of our robed luminaries.
Who is the director behind this clan which probably subscribes to no ideology other than the ‘rule of expediency’ and wants to remote control the Supreme Court of India? Why should the Apex Court watch this political circus that aims to convert the highest seat of justice into a Lutyens panchayat exhibiting a tendency of judicial masochism? Who is behind these petitioners, lawyers, journalists, media platforms that earnestly want to dish out integrity certificates to – serving and retired – judges and bureaucrats? Should wine tasting sessions or kitty parties in swanky south Delhi living rooms decide what defines constitutional morality for the collective conscience of this country?
The joke, many would argue, is not on the judiciary but on us, the common people, who still believe in the institutional integrity of the courts. This joke gets amplified when you will learn that even after the Supreme Court dismissed the plethora of petitions asking the Commission to begin the enquiry, a fresh set of ‘public interest’ litigations on the same issue have been filed, this time on the basis of a news report that appeared in a digital platform who’s only point of existence is to expend certificates of virtue to every institution this country holds dear. One question that begs reply in this ongoing saga, even before the Commission has commenced an enquiry – when will the tirade of these petitions stop?
The lofty acumen of the three member committee becomes evident when one has a sneak-peak into the 150 collective years in public service they have registered in service to this nation. Should the verdict of a failed journalist ruling on their integrity in a struggling left-leaning media platform be the only reason for the top court to open their doors for this unrelenting caucus in their endless fight to bring down the judicial values we cherish?
By questioning the single-member Commission and restructuring it on the plea of this professional legal clique, did the chief justice unwittingly play into their hands? Where will the line be drawn in the process of establishing justice? Or will that also be outsourced to the disastrous tone of these ‘eminent activist lawyers’? When the Supreme Court very often invokes the extraordinary jurisdiction in the name of public interest, should it not invoke the same authority to stop this brutally vicious tyranny that is being perpetually unleashed in the name of crony human rights?
If the killing of Vikas Dubey has evinced cheer from an otherwise peace-loving and law abiding public chamber, it is a moment to pause and reflect for the highest court of our land. What will be put on trial before the Chief Justice next week is not just the criminal justice system of our nation but the institutional integrity of the Supreme Court of India. Whether the Court No 1 wants to stand by their notion of integrity – the ability to stand by their idea of justice – or outsource this for the certification of the career activists, is a conscious choice that the bench will make. The Chief Justice with more than 40 years of significantly successful legal experience is carrying on his shoulders not just the combined wisdom of his predecessors but the unbearable heaviness of the aspirations of young India. Will he set a precedent by ending this stinking menace of judicial harassment by invoking Article 142 and cause a CBI enquiry? The nation is watching.
The Author is a Senior Journalist