For the past seven decades, the Supreme Court of India has successfully acted as a ‘temple of justice’ for every citizen of this country. In this journey, it has assumed numerous roles, including the custodian of the Indian Constitution, guardian of human rights and defender of democracy. It has kept pace with the developments of society to retain its relevance and has never wavered in upholding constitutional values. But on December 18, 2019, the faith of these very people, especially the youth of this nation, suffered a huge setback when you declined to hear their voices.
As law students, it was extremely disturbing for us when we realized that “halting of riots” has been made a prerequisite by you for entertaining the pleas pertaining to the violent clamp down on the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act throughout the country. In the legendary history of this Hon’ble Court, this is the first time that the plight of the fundamental rights of the people is being heard on a “conditional” basis. We understand that the statements were made with the intention to stop the violence but they sounded too “culpable” in nature and seemed to insinuate that the students are the ones instigating violence and unrest. Irrespective of who started the violence, the students were not given even a single opportunity of being heard in these unfortunate circumstances thereby violating the basic principles of natural justice. On the same day, the Delhi High Court too refused to hear the students’ plea on an urgent basis, despite there being reports of numerous students being injured and illegally detained.
Following this, there were expectations that the apex court would restore the people’s faith by passing an appropriate order to bring peace to this situation. But to our dismay, My Lord did not even care to hear the matter and at the same time refused to even stay the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act. In this infelicitous situation, where the executive is dismantling the Constitution, the police is wreaking havoc, an autocratic system is on the rise and voices are being suppressed, it becomes critical for the judiciary to act expeditiously and save the rights of the people; but your approach did not seem to conform to this principle, sir. My Lord refused to form a panel for a judicial probe and directed the petitioners to approach the respective high courts, completely disregarding the fact that the Delhi High Court had already refused to listen to these pleas on an urgent basis.
At this moment citizens are dying in police firing, thousands are being arrested and detained unlawfully, journalists are being thrashed for covering anti-CAA protests, in the name of “action”, shoot-at-sight orders are being given by ministers, empty cartridges are being found at protest sites, but still the Supreme Court is refusing to recognize the grimness of the situation. Internationally there has been an uproar, with more than 400 students from 19 foreign universities, including Harvard and Yale condemning the violence and Dr Gregory Stanton, the founder of Genocide Watch, even calling it a “preparation of genocide in India”.
If these considerations are not sufficient for an urgent hearing, we don’t know what is!
My Lords have turned their faces away, failing to discharge their positive obligations and becoming oblivious to the suffering of thousands of students. When the doors of two courts have been shut against my face, shrugging off my rights, I have nowhere to go for seeking justice. My Lords have said that “Public Trust is the only legitimate source of power for a judicial system” but I am afraid that with the recent action of yours it is the judiciary itself who is pushing this power into an abyss from which there is no returning. My Lords have expressed sympathy but haven’t chosen to act.
It is our earnest request to My Lords to help preserve the right to dissent when the dissenters of this nation are facing dire consequences including arrest, disappearances and death. Sir, in these vulnerable circumstances the judiciary is the only light of hope of the citizens. Let that hope prevail.
We lay our trust in the judicial fraternity of our nation!
Samriddhi Chatterjee, Sayan Chandra and Aman Garg.
[The authors are under-graduate students of law pursuing B.A LL.B (Hons.) & B.Sc. LL.B. (Hons.) at Gujarat National Law University (GNLU)]
Note: The views expressed in the post are solely that of authors.