JOHN ERIC GOMES, PORVORIM
On January 12, 2018, four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court (SC) held an unprecedented press conference wherein they basically hinted that the apex court needed reforms otherwise democracy would be endangered. The enormous contrast between the arrest of ailing octogenarian Fr Stan Swamy, putting him behind bars and when he asked for a sipper, as he was suffering from Alzheimer’s and could not hold a glass, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) seeking 20 days to reply, and the grant of bail to Editor-in-chief of Republic TV Arnab Goswami in an abetment of suicide case through an urgent hearing in the apex court could not be more stark! Without the pros and cons of why they were arrested, there is no problem in Arnab getting bail that was rightly due to him. The problem lies in the attitude and the unequal treatment meted out. The apex court does not act or speak in one voice. What Justice Chandrachud reportedly said while ordering the release of Arnab on bail is not promulgated widely in public interest but is most important. He said: 1) It is the job of the Supreme Court to protect individual freedom of speech, liberty and privacy against State power, especially when they target individuals. 2) If a channel or a show hurts your sentiments, simply choose not to watch it. Others’ sentiments are hurt by you depriving them their right to watch it. 3) If we do not intervene in these cases today, we are walking on the path to destruction. 4) Abetment to suicide vide Article 306 requires proof of actual incitement. Justice Chandrachud’s judgment needs to be widely promulgated and is now a precedent that the apex court must act upon. Arnab has been calling for Rhea’s arrest, and the little that I saw on Republic TV live when he was arrested and the crowds garlanding him on his release with his usual rhetoric, wholeheartedly backed by the central government, reminded me of what is known as ‘Trumpism’ these days! Prashant Bhushan was hauled up for speaking against the apex court.