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Bombay HC judge stands up for students’ right to dissent amid widespread protests

Bombay High Court judge Gautam Patel says any govt that claims to be dedicated to the Constitution, democracy, has nothing to fear from giving its institutions autonomy.

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New Delhi: A Bombay High Court judge spoke up on the importance of dissent in educational institutions Tuesday, saying “if the right to dissent is taken away, then you take away the space and opportunity for his (student) fundamental construct”.

The remarks by Justice Gautam Patel came amid widespread student protests in campuses across the country against an amended citizenship law that was passed by Parliament last week.

“Commitment to a plurality of voices and space for dissent is crucial to any educational institution… If you take away that right, I would argue, by an external determination of the student body, you take away the space and opportunity for his (student) fundamental construct,” said Patel.

Justice Patel also said that any government that claims to be a true democracy has nothing to fear from dissent.

Patel dwelled on how the functional — and functioning — autonomy of institutions and statutory bodies is essential to the survival of a liberal civil society and is fundamental to the concept of a democratic republic.

He was speaking at the Vidhi Annual Lecture on the theme ‘Between Scylla and Charybdis: Institutional Autonomy in Democratic Governance’.

” — any government — that claims to be dedicated to the constitution, to democracy, and to liberalism has nothing at all to fear from according a wide functional autonomy to its institutions and their processes. Its future is all but assured. Ideas are bullet-proof,” he said.

Patel’s comment on dissent came soon after Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde said government officers were hesitant in taking decisions as RTI Act was being misused and indicated there could be guidelines framed to regulate the Act.

Also read: Why Modi’s India looks eerily similar to the one under British after 1857 revolt


Hard-hitting judge

The Bombay HC judge is known for his hard-hitting and witty remarks, whether during hearings or in verdicts.

While deciding an interim order in a defamation case filed by Lodha Developers against Krishnaraj Rao, a journalist and RTI activist, Patel refused immediate relief to the builder. “Calling out someone, with fair comment and justification, is not defamation. To put it differently: to say the emperor has no clothes is not defamation. It never has been.”

In March 2018, Patel re-opened an old case decided by him and admitted that he was wrong in his previous verdict and issued a new order. However, since the suit in question was withdrawn, this rectification had no impact on the rights of both parties.

Read the full speech here:


Also read: Legal autocrats are on the rise. They use constitution and democracy to destroy both


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  1. Personal views in some seminar/forum are headlined as a judgement. That’s the style of “The Print”.
    Would u care for what the President of India is standing for?

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