An Open Letter to the Chief Justice of India.
Milord, I hope this open letter to you doesn’t invoke contempt of court against me. I know it might. However, the urge to put across some points to you in a layman’s words, sans legal jargon, was too strong to resist.
When someone sent me your viral photograph on a hunky Harley Davidson superbike, I thought it was some villain from a South Indian movie posing before a shot. Without a helmet and a mask, you cut an I-don’t-give-a-damn macho pose. Coincidentally, the bike belonged to the son of a ruling BJP party member and the photo-op was done in your hometown Nagpur that also houses the RSS headquarters.
Machismo, or toxic masculinity as it’s also known as, Milord, can seriously hurt mental health. Thus say the psychologists. And a person in your position cannot afford that. Someone whose one stroke of pen can settle matters related to life and death ought to be in an excellent state of mental health.
Milord, you’re one of the most powerful men in India by virtue of the office you hold and you don’t need to stamp your authority by posing like a model. And, at least, as long as you are in that office, your top priority should be to safeguard its sanctity and reputation. Sobriety, calmness and carefulness are the traits that one would want to associate with you as against pomposity, machismo and glamour. Why on earth do you have to make a show of your personal likings and hobbies?
Over the last few days, Milord, more than your viral Harley Davidson picture, what is being widely discussed in India and elsewhere is how the Supreme Court of India held noted lawyer and social activist Prashant Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt charging him with “scandalizing the court” for writing a couple of tweets.
You’re not the court, Milord. You’re the head of the court and questioning your personal behaviour that can have a bearing on the sanctity and stature of the judiciary doesn’t amount to contempt of court. Or does it?
Pray tell, is your machismo really so fragile that a couple of tweets that raise questions surrounding your viral picture should challenge it?
A dissenting tweet questioning your public behavior shouldn’t outrage you. Widespread incompetence, corruption and injustice in judiciary should.
Milord, there are petitions pending in the supreme court of India for over a year against the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A that created havoc in J&K and yet the judiciary doesn’t budge and allows the law to take its own slothful course to let the petitions die their own slow death. There are other countless examples. Shouldn’t this be a matter of grave concern rather than a couple of innocuous tweets criticizing you?
By holding Prashant Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt of court, you might have already set a precedent and bullied many potential dissenters into silence. And that, Milord, is a huge disservice you’ve done to the Indian judiciary and the Republic of India. And, for that, you will be remembered long after you’re gone.
Do you realize, Milord, how it reduces the Indian judiciary to a kangaroo court and India to a banana republic? There are many in India and abroad who believe India is already there. And some of the recent developments, including the verdict in question, augment that assertion.
I daresay, Milord, I find Prashant Bhushan more ‘macho’ than you for standing up for his principles and refusing to apologise and articulating logically his point of view in the face of a stern supreme court verdict.
I don’t know if this open letter would prompt you to ponder upon some of the points it has raised. What I do know is that judges, bureaucrats, IPS and Army officers who stay on the right side of the government and speak and act against those seen as dissidents – like Prashant Bhushan – by the State are suitably rewarded.
The prime example of that is your predecessor, Justice Ranjan Kumar Gogoi, who headed the five-member constitution bench of Supreme Court that delivered the Babri Masjid verdict and of which you were also a part.
Was it a coincidence that four months later, Justice Gogoi was nominated to Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Parliament of India? Is it also a coincidence that he’s tipped to be the chief ministerial candidate for the BJP in Assam in next year’s Assembly polls?
(Shabir Hussain is a journalist and political analyst.)