‘Judiciary has put private liberty, human rights on back-burner’

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 22

The Supreme Court’s handling of cases relating to personal freedom came in for severe criticism on Tuesday from former Supreme Court Judge Madan B Lokur, former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, former Law Minister Kapil Sibal and activist Medha Patekar who questioned the court’s priorities in handling of issues of human rights and personal liberty.

“Yes you are right…unfortunately in the last two years or so I think the idea of social justice has really gone on the backburner. And unfortunately this year because of the pandemic that certain situations had arisen where I think the Supreme Court should have been far more active than it ever was to look after the interest of people…migrants for example persons who were thrown out of jobs variety of people from all walks of life…

“But I think the Supreme Court could have definitely done much better that it did this year. So really I would agree with you that over the last couple of years the idea of social justice has gone on the backburner. It’s unfortunate. I suppose we have to live with it,” Justice Lokur – who used to head the social justice bench – said during a panel discussion on ‘Personal Freedom and Judiciary’ moderated by TV journalist Rajdeep Sardesai.

The panel discussion was organised on launch of ‘In pursuit of Justice: An autobiography’ by late Justice Rajindar Sachar, a former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court.

Sibal was scathing in his criticism of the top court for its handling of issues of detentions in Kashmir, petitions against CAA and handling of the migrant crisis.

“The fact of the matter is that the Supreme Court has lost its way. Not just two years ago but several years ago. What’s happening in the Supreme Court today is that issues that are highly political are taken up.  Issues that deal with liberty are brushed under the carpet. There were people in Kashmir who were detained for over a year…the Supreme Court took no notice of it,” Sibal said.

Agreeing with Justice Lokur, Rohatagi said, “The prime place which was given in the Constitution—and the Supreme Court is the conscience keeper of the nation—to cases of infraction of liberty and the like have been pushed back and what comes to mind are cases of habeas cases and other cases which are now taking anywhere between six months to a year to decide.

“They were always treated with utmost priority. A habeas corpus case was taken up immediately and decided within two weeks. But that’s not so. Other thinks seem to have taken over.”

However, Rohatgi added a word of caution, saying, “It’s very well to blame somebody. But I think the Supreme Court has also taken on too much. The role of a traditional court has long been lost. If you take on too much sometimes your priorities differ and this kind of inconsistencies come but yes, the Supreme Court should shrug off this inaction on these kind of cases and take them up vigorously.”

Both Sibal and Patekar said corporate matters were being given more importance.

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