Are we above the Supreme Court?

Submitted by Editor on Thu, 2016-12-29 13:44 By filing a writ petition (Writ Petition (Civil) No. 888/1996), Almitra Patel of Bengaluru won the case concerning managing solid waste in urban areas. She was just a citizen without any political background. As a result of this, the whole nation was forced to establish a system for managing solid waste scientifically. I had an opportunity to spend few hours with her a couple of years ago. She is still fighting for the complete and genuine implementation of the order.  Let us see other important cases of similar nature, which had a major impact on our society.  In 1985, Shah Bano won the case against the Muslim personal law in Supreme Court. It granted her alimony. But the majority of Muslim community felt that the judgment was an encroachment on Sharia law. The then Central government amended the Constitution against the spirit of the judgment. Now, Shaira Banu’s case is being heard in the SC. The Modi-led NDA government has submitted that ‘Triple Talaq’ is against gender-equality.    In 1986, A PIL filed by MC Mehta enlarged the scope and ambit of Article 21 and Article 32 to include the right to healthy and pollution-free environment.  Vishaka Guidelines, fundamental rights for working women, was the result of a SC judgement in 1997. It also set forth basic definitions of sexual harassment at workplace and provided guidelines to deal with it.  In 2006, the SC declared that a rape accused could be convicted on the sole evidence of the victim in spite of medical evidence not proving that it was rape.  In 2009, it also declared Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, as unconstitutional.  (Later, this was overturned by the SC in December, 2013).  In the disputed land case in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992, the SC said the land shall be divided into three parts. The petitioners have gone on appeal for various reasons.  The SC has also restored the rights of a child. In a judgment on a paedophilia case, it said: “Children are the greatest gift to humanity. The sexual abuse of children is one of the most heinous crimes.” In 2013, the SC, introduced negative voting (None-Of-The-Above or NOTA). Now, an individual has the option of not voting for any candidate if he/she doesn’t find any of the candidates worthy. Four out of the five accused in the horrific Nirbhaya gang-rape case were convicted and given the death sentence. The case also resulted in the introduction of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 which provides for the amendment of the definition of rape under Indian Penal Code, 1860, Code of Criminal Procedures, 1973, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. In a landmark judgment in April, 2014, the SC recognised transgender persons as a third gender and ordered the government to treat them as minorities and extend reservations in jobs, education and other amenities. We also know how the SC revised the Section 66A in Shreya Singhal versus Union of India in 2015. The Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, which allowed arrests for objectionable content posted on the Internet, was struck down as unconstitutional.  The National Anthem case, where the court made it mandatory for cinema goers to stand when the National Anthem is played at theatres, is the latest in this series.  My question is simple: Any judgment may have angered a section and made them to criticise it. Courts are meant to provide justice as per the Indian Constitution. Then, which is the right way? To oppose and violate Supreme Court judgment or to fight/appeal? Nobody bothered about human rights violation when Shyam Narayan Chouksey stood for paying respect to the National Anthem; he was booed. Humiliated, he decided to fight this case. He struggled for 13 years and won. He used the same civil rights which PUCL and other self-declared human rights activists use.    We can't be selective in respecting a judicial body like the SC. We cannot hate it or like it based on our whims and fancies. I am also angered with many of its judgments. For example, I am still at loss to understand how the court decided that horse racing is not gambling, or the basis on which the court banned traditional Kambla and Jallikattu. Having said this, I follow its orders. I have every freedom to fight it. This is what is being done by all activists. Whether they belong to left or right, they have to fight it inside the halls of the SC. If the so-called Hindu majoritarianism is real, then how come on the day of Ramjanmabhoomi judgment the whole nation remained silent?  It is not because citizens decided not to be violent but that the Indian society has matured. It showed people's respect for the peaceful hearing of the judgment.  India is a nation of tremendous diversity. We have to find ways and means to preserve the human dignity through judicial and legal means. Be it gender inequality, oppression of vulnerable sections or religious hatred, the only way to fight for justice is legally. Follow the rule, but fight for your individual freedom and other rights. Protest the judgment, but do not violate it. If you do, there will be disorder and chaos. Prioritise your protest.  When we can't fight urban local bodies for a simple act of managing solid waste, there is no point in fighting for human rights. Unless we respond to local issues, we will lose our right to become global fighters of freedom. The present violent conflicts world over are not just the result of many interlinked, complex geo-political ambitions, but they stem from a tendency to be violent and dictatorial.  The judgment on the invalidity of Section 66A of Information Technology Act may be welcomed by those fighting for individual rights, but it is opposed by others too.  If the police violate this rule and arrest somebody, are we going to sit quiet by citing individual freedom? If transgenders are ill-treated on a road, are we going to be mute spectators saying any person can violate the SC judgment?   Every citizen/individual has a right to fight for freedom and rights. But one cannot be whimsical. Moreover, we cannot apply double standards when it comes to the decisions of the SC.