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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Are Bandhs Really Democratic?

The Supreme court has turned over it's own decision regarding Bandhs on it's head. The surprising thing in this case is that it is not only an establishment overturning it's opinion, it is a case where the same individual Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan, has reverted his own opinion. Yes, KG Balakrishnan was part of the Kerala High Court bench which had termed Bandhs as illegal, back in 1997. At that time the judgement was upheld by the Supreme court. Eleven years later the same man as the Chief Justice of India has overturned the very decision that he had taken and the Supreme Court had upheld. To me it says only one of two things, First Justice KG Balakrishnan is fickle minded and should not be relied upon to be rational anymore. Second, the Chief Justice has succumbed to political pressure and can no longer stand up to his convictions. Either way it is bad for the Indian judiciary.

"What (will) this court do. It is their right to express their feelings," are the words that the Supreme Court bench used. There are many ways of expressing feelings, or does the SC bench not know that. Or are they just translating their behaviour at home to express their feelings. Angry with wife, stop doing anything till such time she comes to her senses. Whatever happened to tools like communication, discussions, brain storming, media interviews. The statement only shows the helplessness of the courts, and the Supreme court, mind you. What is worse is that all the present bench has to do is only cite the precedence and the earlier judgement of the supreme court which termed Bandhs as illegal and unconstitutional, like it did in Oct 2007 for the DMK Bandh in Tamil Nadu. What has changed in the last few months since then. So, obviously some vested interests or external political pressures are at work here.

The decision taken back in 1997-98 was based on the upholding the interests of the public and correctly so, that Bandhs were getting too frequent and were disrupting everyday life. People were suffering, businesses loosing money, public amenities like hospitals, transportation etc shutting down and at worse people were being coerced into being part of the Bandh against their will. The state and the country loosing money is in any case the last thing on anyone's mind.

The Bandhs are generally called by the political parties which, as any electoral polls will show do not represent even 50 % of the population of the state or country. How can they be then a form of protest to just "express their feelings"? A Bandh does not express the solidarity of the entire state behind the cause since more often than not the public is terrorised to stay inside their homes and shops threatened with dire consequences if they open. It is just a case of political vandalism. Destroying property, causing loss to the economy and terrorising people just to project some vested interest to the masses and also to gain cheap popularity or shall I say, show of power.

In 1997 the HC had said, "No political party or organisation can claim that it is entitled to paralyse industry and commerce in the entire state or nation and is entitled to prevent the citizens not in sympathy with its viewpoint from exercising their fundamental right or from performing their duties for their own benefits or for the benefit of the state or the nation." The Supreme Court had upheld the decision at that time. Is the Supreme Court now saying that it is alright to paralyse industry and commerce? Is the Supreme Court now saying that it is okay for some individuals or political parties to hold the citizens, state or country to ransom? Is it okay to snatch the fundamental right of citizens to move around freely, even so, for a few hours, using sheer terror tactics?

India has finally started showing some growth and development, a consitent and strong economy and has just started to be counted as a nation of power amidst the International community. Why would the Supreme Court want to send us back to the days of misery, unemployment, poverty and hooliganism? We are still grappling with external terrorism, why does the Supreme Court want to encourage Internal terrorism? A society can be free and offer the freedom to citizens only when it has the wherewithal and the inclination to control abuse or misuse of that very freedom. We don't As is the misfortune of our society, some unscruplous elements will again misuse the freedom to express their feeling and take us back into the dark days of fear and terror.

I hope better sense prevails on Feb 16 and the Supreme Court and the honorable bench do not turn their current thoughts into a decision which will undo whatever little was achieved in the last eleven years.

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