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Judicial activism mustn’t mean disrespecting other democratic institutions

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By Abhinav Verma

Judicial activism, if not judicious enough, is bound to adversely impact executive functioning. Honourable courts taking suo moto cognisance of issues affecting people in a big way and that need urgent attention from time to time, and directing governments to act accordingly is not new in India. It is good also as it spurs government of the day to prompt action to deal with an emergency situation. But, judicial activism, if taken too far, also has a tendency to denigrate other pillars of democracy such as the executive and the legislature, which weakens democracy. Courts and the legislature or executive at loggerheads with one another, is not the sign of a healthy democracy.  

There is a very thin line between democracy and mobocracy. Democracy is successful only until the time the three institutional pillars respect one another. The moment they start mocking and denigrating one another, it turns into a mobocracy. Therefore, no institution whatsoever should be allowed to breach this basic decorum of democracy.

What we are witnessing in the State of Uttar Pradesh, for example, is a consistent attempt by the courts to deride the works undertaken by the State Government for Covid-19 management. This is unwarranted. Besides, to make derogatory remarks about the health infrastructure in UP, which has undergone a massive improvement in the last one year, as well as issuing generalised threats to erring officials and front-line workers engaged in the battle based on presumptions and media reports is not just uncalled for; it also lowers the morale of Covid warriors who risk their life everyday to protect people. 

Furthermore, at a time when the Government along with bureaucrats as well as health officials and workers is engaged in the battle against coronavirus, to drag the Government every now and then to the courts and ask it to do things which are humanly impossible is totally unjustifiable. But, unfortunately it is happening. 

The Allahabad High Court recently directed the Yogi Adityanath Government to make two ambulances with ICU facilities available to one lakh villages of the state amid growing cases of Covid-19 within a month. It also directed the UP Government to establish oxygen plants in every 20-bedded hospital of the state within a month. The Court directed the deployment of one policeman every two kilometer. These directions are as weird and as much divorced from reality as it is to expect the courts to settle hundreds of thousands of their pending cases within a year or two. Another court made a weird and laughable suggestion to the Yogi Government to convert LPG cylinders into oxygen cylinders, which is simply impossible. Such things happen only when you enter into an unknown territory, one you hardly know anything about, but you must make an observation.  Then the point is, why are the courts doing this. Certainly, we as people can’t question the honourable courts and the honourable judges, but the questions do arise in our minds. 

The Allahabad High Court blames Yogi Government for the spike in cases in the second wave of coronavirus in the state of Uttar Pradesh, but the same court turned down the UP Government’s proposal for postponing panchayat elections due to rising Covid cases. But, again we can’t question the honourable courts and the honourable judges, though the question lingers in our minds. The honourable courts certainly do not owe an answer to people, but they can’t stop us from thinking about it. The court directed the Yogi Government to ensure that the phase-wise elections concluded by April 30. Yet, the Yogi Government left no stone unturned to ensure polling officials’ and the people’s adherence to the Covid protocol during the elections.    

Read Also: Delhi HC on Black Fungus drugs, SCBA writes to CJI Ramana on vacations        

So, it’s in the interest of the largest democracy of the world today that institutions mind their own businesses rather than keep interfering in each other’s domains and day to day activities. The honourable judges are highly respected in India and they must abstain from anything that belittles the institution of courts. It does not mean that they should not make observations or offer suggestions to the Government in critical times like these. But, the suggestions should be practical, intended to bring about real change and improvement, rather than just to mock governments.

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