The UK Supreme Court inspired confidence in the followers of the Rule of Law around the world when it stated in a landmark ruling that the UK Prime Minister’s decision to prorogue the Parliament was “unlawful”. This ruling has revived the debate over the Independence of Courts in India reminding us of Supreme Court judges recently saying that “independence of judiciary is under threat” and “unless this institution is preserved, democracy will not survive.” The opposition has started questioning why there has been no judicial scrutiny of demonetization, UAPA, Article 370 amendment, working of ED, CBI and I.T department and what’s shackling the Independence of Indian Courts.
A strong judiciary is the pillar of any strong democracy but it appears that the Modi government has compromised the Indian Judiciary first as is evident from the inaction of Indian Courts in matters of utmost national relevance like demonetization, amendment of Article 370 and corruption in Rafale case. Modi regime has written a dark chapter in the history of Indian judiciary where it was rendered paralyzed in the wake of populist measures taken by the establishment.
The effects of demonetization on the Indian economy were devastating and questions were raised about the method in which demonetization was carried out by the government. Many petitions challenging demonetization were filed in the High Courts and in the Supreme Court as well. No final verdict was given but if the approach of the Madras, Karnataka and Bombay High Courts is given heed to, the courts seemed reluctant to interfere in the process of demonetization. While the Supreme Court did make a few observations about the hardships faced by people as a result of demonetization, it had not stepped in to make things any more convenient or right for the people.
This does not imply that there were no legal problems with the demonetization debacle. The petitioners challenging it had questioned the legality of the manner in which it was carried out, the specifics of certain steps and the human rights violations it carried out. This inability of Indian Judiciary to intervene in the government’s steps, while millions of Indians faced difficulty, tells a lot about the state of the rule of law and constitutional government in Modi’s India.
Similar inhibitions on Indian Judiciary were noticed in the undemocratic way Article 370 was abolished. Elected leaders were put under house arrest, internet services were locked down and a curfew continues in the valley till date. The first Prime Minister of India Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru said in the 1952 session of Lok Sabha that “I say with all respect to our Constitution that it just does not matter what your Constitution says; if the people of Kashmir do not want it, it will not go there. Because what is the alternative? The alternative is compulsion and coercion…We have fought in good fight about Kashmir on the field of battle and in many a chancellery of the world and in the United Nations, but, above all, we have fought this fight in the hearts and minds of men and women of that State of Jammu and Kashmir.” India under Modi has not only failed the people of Kashmir but the democratic spirit of India and the judiciary once again seemed under a spell to not take any steps to right the wrongs done by the establishment.
Despite clear evidence of corruption, there has been no verdict on much talked about Rafale deal as well where Modi government appeared to have indulged in a textbook definition of crony-capitalism. Petitions have been filed, protests have been held and questions have been asked but to no avail.