By Mahesh C. Bhatt
The framers of the Constitution made the Supreme Court the final authority on any dispute – civil or constitutional, concerning fundamental rights or religious beliefs and conventions. The verdict of the apex court is binding to all citizens, state authorities – including the Union of India – and even the armed forces. Controversies and disputes can continue only till the top court gives its final decision.
Once the controversy is settled by the Supreme Court, citizens have the liberty to criticise the judgement analytically – there is, however, no liberty as far as the implementation is concerned. It is the duty of all authorities to obey irrespective of the merits of the verdict.
Political parties are also constitutionally-recognised institutions. They form governments and run the country because of the constitutional setup itself. Unfortunately, in the Sabarimala matter, the party in power at the Centre, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has not only opposed the verdict but also supported the movement to disobey the mandate. Even theBJP president openly supported the defiance movement, ignoring the fact that the party is in power because of the same constitution and rule of law that also empowers the Supreme Court to adjudicate disputes.
The defiance movement with the support of the ruling party has prevented the implementation of the mandate of the Supreme Court till today.
Little Rock Nine judgement
I am reminded today of the Little Rock Nine incident in the 1950s, when the US Supreme Court declined the request of schools in the Little Rock School District, Arkansas, to delay desegregation, instead mandating that black students be admitted in the schools meant for white students.
It was a historic judgement against discrimination on the basis of race. The Sabarimala judgement is similarly based on the principle of equality of all citizens and is against discrimination between men and women of a particular age.
It is time to take some inspiration from the events that unfolded after the Little Rock Nine judgement when the US president sent 1,200 paratroopers to guard and escort black students into the white school against the backdrop of a rioting mob. Will our president take inspiration and send Indian armed forces to enforce the Supreme Court order? Will the Union cabinet headed by the prime minister advise the president to send armed forces to Sabarimala to implement the mandate of the top court?
It is also worth mentioning here that even the head of Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan took a courageous and philosophically sound stand of supporting the judgement to acquit Asia Bibi in the blasphemy case – though his government has been criticised for agreeing to a compromise with the extremists whereby Asia would not be allowed to leave Pakistan until the review petition against her acquittal is considered by the country’s Supreme Court.
Indian citizens must try to find a solution before the system collapses. One option is to move the Supreme Court to initiate contempt proceedings against all leaders who are supporting the movement to disobey the mandate of the highest court of the land. Indian citizens should additionally request the Supreme Court, under Article 142 of the constitution, to not hear any contemnor who moves a review petition on the principle that a contemnor cannot invoke the constitutional and equitable jurisdiction of the apex court.
If the Supreme Court judgement is allowed to be disobeyed, it will set a terrible precedent and pave the way for similar instances of the masses – and political leaders – defying other key mandates. For example, some in the minority community may choose to disobey the triple talaq judgement. And one cannot even fathom what could ensue when the Ayodhya verdict is ultimately delivered.
Source: The Wire