Four judges and two musketeers

It was such a surreal moment for a country that often boasts its judiciary as an institution that remains insulated from the grime of a decadent democracy. The first-of-its-kind press conference by four senior Supreme Court judges jolted us from our deep slumber to see the reality that there is something terribly amiss with the system.

Are we there to write eternal dirges for the Indian judiciary? Thank God we are not there yet. But, in the onward journey of our rickety democracy, the notion that the Indian judicial system will remain a formidable institution devoid of any flaws can be a utopian hard sell.

The four judges were primarily anguished over the discrepancies in roster management, charging the Chief Justice with assigning high-profile cases to lower benches. The propriety and legality of speaking to the media by the judges came under question. Ironically, these four judges were part of a seven-member bench, which sent Justice CS Karnan to jail for six months. One of the ‘crimes’ by Karnan was that he spoke to the media! Karnan had dwelt at length on the many maladies that have blighted the Supreme Court.

The unwitting outcome of this extraordinary act by the judges – going public to vent their anguish – was that the mainstream media, which hitherto blithely ignored the expose of The Caravan magazine on the mysterious death of CBI special judge BH Loya presiding over the fake encounter case of Sohrabudheen Sheikh, has been forced to cover it, putting BJP national president Amit Shah in the dock.

No doubt, Loya’s name is shining bright when we thought that we have reached a cul-de-sac. Not only did he refuse to be bought – he was offered Rs hundred crores for going soft on Amit Shah – and he had to pay with his life, if we are to go by the Caravan reports.

The whole sordid saga should be read against dictatorial tendencies and the brazen disregard for democratic institutions shown by the current government headed by Narendra Modi. The four judges gave a virtual jolt to the chief musketeers of the Hindutva project, Amit Shah and Narendra Modi, in their grandiose march towards a Hindu nation.

A realization has dawned on those trying to influence, that judiciary cannot be coerced or bought just like that. Yes, we are not yet reached a situation where we have to write a non-nostalgic elegy to Indian democracy. These judges give a whiff of hope to the majority who repose faith in the good sense and sangfroid of Indian democracy, except the war-mongering, chest-thumping, dictatorship-loving fans of the Modi Brigade.

(BF Firos is a Journalist and Writer)

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