Scrutinise actions of those in power: Justice Chandrachud
Supreme Court judge DY Chandrachud on Tuesday spoke of how the two recent incidents --the burning of an Unnao rape victim and the encounter killings of four men allegedly involved in the rape-cum-murder of a veterinary doctor in Hyderabad - were the most telling representations of citizens facing social, political and economic exclusion .
It is necessary to scrutinise the actions of those in power so that such abuses don’t occur in the first place, Chandrachud said, delivering the keynote address organised by the International Institute of Human Rights Society to commemorate international human rights day.
Justice Chandrachud said the need of the day was to engage citizens in discourse rather than follow a “culture of polarization.”
Speaking on the same platform, former chief justice of India (CJI) justice RM Lodha pointed out to the police encounter and said India was still struggling to protect basic human rights. “Lawlessness is every where. What do you expect when a minister justifies the killing. Atmosphere of mob mentality is making ground. People are going back to Hammurabi days where an eye for an eye was the rule,” he said, stressing the importance of fair trial and natural justice.
Public deliberations will be a threat to those who come to power in its absence, justice Chandrachud said. But deliberative processes in exposing weak arguments, identifying the misuse of power and ensuring human rights is the only way forward to seek an answer to the two “pictorial representations” he referred to, the judge said.
“It is a reminder that we will not wait to be shocked by a terrifying tale of human rights abuse, but rather scrutinise the actions of those in power every day to ensure that such abuses never occur in the first place,” justice Chandrachud emphasised.
Asserting issues as rights is in fact a deviation from the time-honoured democratic understanding that difficult and controversial issues are to be decided by the people through their elected representatives. Courts can secure valuable short-term gains, but not solve the underlying, deeply divisive and often technical social problems our societies face.
“I think the way forward is from this culture of polarization, division we move to a culture of consensus building, of dialogue, of debate, of deliberations,” justice Chandrachud emphasised.
The judge, who was part of the bench that delivered the landmark ruling declaring section 377 of the Indian penal code as unconstitutional, upholding the rights of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community to live with dignity, said political speech and issues must be made “intelligible when the dust and the din of elections end.”
“Governance begins when the model code of conduct ends. Our discourse on governance cannot be as divisive as the trenchant voices of electoral combat. Deliberative arenas, which foster critical public reflection, must be created so that criticism and critique are voiced in an open yet dignified debate,” said justice Chandrachud.
All the four accused in the rape and murder of a veterinary doctor in Hyderabad were killed in a police encounter on the outskirts of the city on the morning of December 6, days after the incident. A 24-year-old rape victim from UP’s Unnao, who was set on fire by five men including two accused of raping her, died in a New Delhi hospital on Friday night after suffering 95% burns.