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by Sristy Agarwal, Bedabrata Pain, and Rajashik Tarafder
Delivering the judgment on the Arnab Goswami bail case, Supreme Court Justice DY Chandrachud opined: “If we don’t interfere in this case today, we will be traveling down a path of destruction. . . . Would it not be a travesty of justice if someone is denied bail for this?”
Needless to say, the decision by the highest court of the land to intervene with utmost alacrity and grant bail to Arnab Goswami is only to be welcomed by all Indians. After all, speedy justice and presumption of innocence are elementary principles of the rule of law. But do such venerable principles—of upholding the law and protecting personal liberty, as stated by the Supreme Court, have any value if they are routinely applied only in a partisan manner?
The naked inequity of the justice system saw the supreme court grant Arnab bail while Stan Swamy remains thirsty in jail. Swamy’s lawyers had asked for the 83-year-old tribal activist to be given a straw to drink water as his hands were affected by Parkinson’s disease. The NIA has taken the liberty to decide this after 20 days. The Supreme Court has chosen not to intervene in this.
The highest court has also refused to pick up the cases of the arbitrarily detained Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan and many others. In fact, the Chief Justice of India has openly stated that the Supreme Court discourages article 32 petitions—an article that offers redressal for violations of fundamental rights. It is noteworthy that Dr. Ambedkar, the founding father of the Indian constitution, had called this article the soul of the constitution. Yet a large number of activists remain in jail today without any prima facie charges being brought against them. The situation of Habeas Corpus in Kashmir may at best be seen, by now, as a cruel joke. In the last year and a half, only 5% of such cases have been dealt with by the High Court of the state.
There was of course a certain level of poetic justice in Arnab Goswami’s arrest. Only a few weeks earlier, this journalist used his platform not to provide news or challenge the powers that be, but to carry a deplorable media trial. In a most contemptuous manner, he led a cabal of journalists to harass and intimidate a person and—in the fashion of a kangaroo court—declared her a criminal for abetment of suicide. It was likely no accident that he was arrested on the same charges in a two-year-old case by the Mumbai Police.
No matter how disgusted one is with Arnab’s style of journalism and a sheer lack of decency and journalistic integrity, one must not take one’s eyes off an intensifying trend of vendetta politics. Arnab’s arrest is indeed a shameful continuation of a brand of loathsome politics where the Indian state, at every level, uses laws not to promote justice, but to settle personal scores or create an atmosphere of intimidation.
While the “abuse” of such laws has been taken to new levels under the present political dispensation, it must not be forgotten that these laws were passed and put in use by the previous Congress regime. And every single political party, including those who cry foul of these laws, were complicit in the passage and abuse of these laws. Many of these political prisoners remain in jail even today, with each successive regime choosing to only further the use of these tools.
When criminals violate laws, there is the law-and-order machinery to deal with them and restore justice and safety of citizens. But when the state and its functionaries—who are duty-bound to uphold law, order, and justice, abuse law with impunity, become promoters of arbitrariness and partisanship, and unleash a politics of revenge-seeking and intimidation, which citizen can expect to live in safety and security? How can one expect justice or a just solution to the myriad problems that Indians are confronted with today?
This is why a firm, uncompromising, and principled stand in defense and affirmation of the rights of all Indians, irrespective of caste, class, sex, place, religion, is of paramount importance. The significance of the slogan—an injury to one is an injury to all—cannot be understated.