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Understanding the skewed reasoning of the apex court’s judicial process

While it is encouraging that the grant of bail has been prioritised in some cases, a number of other journalists are languishing in prison, with the top…

On 11 November, the Supreme Court intervened to grant bail to Republic TV anchor Arnab Goswami. The bench was perhaps right in so doing on two counts. First, abetment to suicide is a dodgy plaint. Second, bail, as the top court has observed, should be the norm, not the exception.

Having said that, one must look at the rhetoric employed in the verdict. The word ‘rhetoric’ is being used advisedly, because its loud strains sound like oratory €” in context. The bench said high courts were not protecting the “personal liberty of citizens”, a judicial trajectory that signified a “travesty of justice”. This, it also said, meant that “we are travelling (on) the path of destruction”.

The top court also questioned the need for preemptive arrest. In 2011, it had directed lower courts not to send accused persons to jail before conviction.

“The courts owe more than verbal respect to the principle that punishment begins after conviction, and that every man is deemed to be innocent until duly tried and duly found guilty,” a Supreme Court bench had said in 2011. This position has since been iterated.

In normal circumstances, this reiteration should have given Indian citizens abundant reason to celebrate. Unfortunately, this libertarian principle is being followed selectively. The problem is not that high courts, as the bench observed, are indifferent to the fundamental rights of citizens. The problem is that the supreme appellate court has for the past few years been remiss in fulfilling its role in protecting fundamental rights €” especially in respect of habeas corpus petitions and, thus, the personal liberty of citizens.

court doing little about their plight.

The Kashmir Valley has seen a draconian suppression of press freedom. Aasif Sultan was the first to be booked, even before the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was revoked. He has been in jail for considerably over two years. Aasif was arrested under provisions of the Unlawful Activities…

Suhit K Sen

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