New Delhi, Dec 24: 2007 turned out to be yet another year of confrontation between the Judiciary and the Legislature and the Executive.
The Judiciary was time and again blamed for indulging in activism bordering on adventurism.
The only exception to the seemingly endless confrontation among the various organs of the state was the December 6 order, passed by a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, telling the Judiciary not to overstep its limits by venturing into the domain of the Legislature and the Executive and leave the task of governing the country to the other organs in the state as Legislature is answerable to the people, not the Judiciary.
Nomenclature of the judgement was changed to an order so that the name of the judge, who had written the judgement for the bench comprising Justice A K Mathur and Justice Markandey Katju, could be held back. In case of a judgement, name of the judge who writes it is mentioned at the top while in an order no name is mentioned.
The very next day, another bench of the apex court refused to hear a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and referred the matter to a larger bench. A three-judge bench, headed by the Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, virtually overruled the order of the two-judge bench and decided to entertain the PIL on the hopeless plight of the widows in ashrams in Vrindavan and Mathura in Uttar Pardesh. The 22-page order virtually laid the entire blame at the doorsteps of the Judiciary for encroaching into the domain of other organs of the state.
The concept of PIL was developed by the apex court so that public-spirited individuals and organisations could stand up for those segments of the society who suffer from economic or other disabilities and are unable to protect their rights. Recently, the courts had frowned on 'Private Interest Litigation' petitions filed under the garb of PILs.
Parliamentarians had been objecting to the Judiciary taking up the responsibility of the governance of the country, which was not proper and good forgetting who is to be blamed for the current mess.
The allegations of corruption were levelled against former Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal, who retired on January 14 this year and had presided over the apex court bench which ordered sealing of commercial premises operating illegally from the residential areas in Delhi.
A two-judge bench headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat on March 29 this year stayed the government notification providing 27 per cent reservation to Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in Centrally-run educational institutions of higher learning and judgement on the validity of the impugned notification providing caste-based reservations has since been reserved by a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court.
Sweeping powers under Article 142 of the Constitution, empowering the apex court to pass any order to do complete justice, has been given by the Constitution makers to ensure that the Judiciary can act as saviour of the weak and the deprived if the need arises. Another example of state inaction is the increasing number of Bangladesh refugees in the border state of Assam. The government has encouraged influx of Bangladeshis in the country just to create vote bank despite having been directed by the apex court to identify and deport these refugees as they are a threat to the security and integrity of the nation.
Unaided private public schools and hospitals, after taking vast government lands at throwaway prices refuse to provide free education and treatment to the poor patients despite the fact that it is one of the conditions for allotment of land at concessional rates. These schools and five star hospitals engage big lawyers and defy both the agreement and the law with impunity.
The Judiciary also had to intervene when people were killed in fake encounters like in case of Sohrabuddin and his wife Kauser Bi in Gujarat.
The Executive failed to decide the mercy petition of Afzal Guru, who has been awarded death sentence in the Parliament attack case.
The Ram Sethu controversy also reached the apex court and is pending awaiting decision. In between the Central government, in its affidavit which was later withdrawn, questioned the very existence of Lord Rama and characters and events narrated in the Hindu epic Ramayana. The apex court had to step in to protect the Ram Sethu from being demolished. Ruling party in Tamil Nadu enforced state-wide bandh for speedy completion of Setusamundaram Project in violation of the court's directions, dated September 30,2007, not to enforce the bandh.
Even issues like Nandigram violence required the intervention of the Judiciary as political parties could not act due to their political compulsions.
It is an indication of ever increasing reliance and faith of the common man, who turns to the courts for redressal of his grievance after having been disappointed and disillusioned with the corrupt and insensitive administration.
Even for the implementation of the police reforms, the directions from the judiciary are required.
Courts are being asked to intervene to check criminalisation of politics in the country.
It is high times the three organs introspect themselves. While the Judiciary must find some mechanism to set its own house in order and to make the judges accountable for their actions, the Executive must also at the same time strive sincerely and honestly to implement the laws made and enacted by Parliament and the Legislature must try to represent the will of the people.