Aarey protest
People protest against the BMC tree authority's approval of uprooting 2700 trees from Aarey Forest in Mumbai | ANI Photo
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I should have every reason to applaud the Supreme Court’s intervention in the Aarey forest case. I am not a hardcore environmentalist, but just sane enough to note that many of our developmental projects have hidden and incalculable costs for our future, just conscious that we cannot usurp what belongs to future generations. The proposal to build a “Red Category” – highest polluting – railway car shed for Mumbai Metro in an ecologically sensitive zone crosses my red lines.

I have more direct involvement in this struggle. My organisation and I had joined environmental activists in opposing this project. Shruti Madhvan Nair and Kapil Deep Agarwal, my colleagues from Youth for Swaraj, were among the 29 activists who were arrested while opposing the overnight drive to cut nearly 2,700 trees. Rishav Ranjan, the now-famous law student who wrote to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi to stop cutting of trees, is a dear young colleague of mine in the Swaraj family. Other activists and lawyers who led the ground and legal battle are the kind of citizens we should all be proud of.

I applaud these young activists. I wish I could applaud the Supreme Court as well.

The apex of our judiciary responding to a simple letter by an unknown young person is the kind of stuff legends are made of. A gesture like this one can build citizens’ confidence in the judiciary. One should normally bow down to the CJI who goes beyond the call of his duty. Except when you know that the same court and the same CJI has not found time for cases that are the first and foremost call of his duty.


Also read: ‘Posturing & double standard’ — why Shiv Sena is drawing flak for leading Aarey stir


Executive echo in Supreme Court

The manner in which India’s Supreme Court has dithered on the habeas corpus petitions from Kashmir Valley, is shameful, to say the least. These are not stray letters written by young unknowns. These are formal, proper petitions filed in the court whose business it is to attend to such petitions as top priority. So far, the Supreme Court has procrastinated or simply looked away. When the same Supreme Court finds time to attend to Aarey letter-cum-petition, this gesture must look like a cruel joke to our citizens in the Valley.

In a constitutional democracy, judiciary is meant to safeguard public interest against the might of the government of the day, the clout of majoritarianism, and the sway of public opinion. The Supreme Court of India is failing its constitutional duty in all these three respects.

Almost every day we find a new example of how far the power of the executive manages to find its echo inside the Supreme Court. When its judges, who enjoy constitutional immunity, recuse one after another from a sensitive case without assigning any reason, you are left wondering if the judges find the case too risky. When the central government manages to push the Supreme Court collegium into changing its decision in order to humiliate a judge, among the finest judges in the country today, you know that the judiciary’s independence is in peril. When the Supreme Court fails to protect a judge from vendetta investigations soon after her protest resignation, you know that no judge is safe.

As for majoritarianism, the strange developments in the Ayodhya case should worry any citizen of the country.  The Supreme Court has before it a straight forward title suit: who is the legal owner of the piece of land where Babri Masjid once stood. But like the Allahabad High Court, the Supreme Court too has taken unusual interest in every other diversion: pre-history, mythology, sentiment and so on. Is this a precursor to an unusual judgment? We don’t know. But top leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have found a sudden respect for the Supreme Court’s stance in a case which they said was beyond law. Small time BJP leaders say the Supreme Court is with us. Do they know something that we don’t? Incidentally, the Supreme Court has decided to bring forward the Ayodhya case ahead of an older contempt of court petition against leaders responsible for the demolition of Babri Masjid, which the court has not even listed for over 20 years.


Also read: Kashmiris must know their battle isn’t against India but against RSS-BJP ideology


What really drives Supreme Court

As for the judiciary’s immunity to public opinion, the Aarey petition is a case in point. The legal battle over the construction of Metro car shed has been going on since 2015 when an NGO, Vanshakti, had filed a petition in the National Green Tribunal seeking Aarey to be declared a forest. A Special Leave Petition challenging the orders of the NGT and the Bombay High Court has been pending before the Supreme Court since 2018. But the matter hit national headlines only last week. This was accompanied by (justified) middle-class angst and (welcome) celebrity endorsement. This is when the electronic media woke up. This is also when the judiciary seems to have woken up. This is not the first instance. Media attention driven by middle-class angst seems to be the surest way to get judicial attention. This is worrisome, even if it produces some good results in a few cases.

My problem with the honourable Supreme Court’s intervention in the Aarey case is not that the intervention was wrong. My problem is not that the judgment is an exercise in tokenism, since the damage was already done. My real problem is that given the overall context of what is happening in the Supreme Court, this might look like a cynical attempt to earn some cheap brownie points. That could be fatal for an institution that is fast losing its credibility, if not relevance.

The author is the national president of Swaraj India. Views are personal.

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20 Comments Share Your Views

20 COMMENTS

  1. This is facist government,,some problems are created by them. With the discussion,interactive procedures the problems are sorted out but due to inactivity of the government , solution are asked by Courts,a dangerous move to government

  2. Does Shri Yadav know how many cars will get off the road because of these metro lines in Mumbai? Does he know the number of lives that are lost daily in the overcrowded Mumbai locals? It is surprising that The Print provides a platform to the opinionated Shri Yadav without anyone challenging his facts.

    • You are absolutely right about the metro and it’s plus points, but I believe Mr Yadav is making another point, which is, the selective picking by the Supreme Court of matters, when vitally important matters such as habeas corpus petitions have been long pending scrutiny of the Court from facts that arise out of article 370.
      You are right that all such issues are important. However in the habeas corpus cases, what is peculiar is that these petitions seeking an adjudication on the deprivation of civil liberties have been pending for more than two months, and the court is still dithering to hear them. Historically, and I am not referring to the ADM Jabalpur time, but subsequent to that, when habeas corpus cases have come up to the Court, generally speaking the Supreme Court and the high courts have been fairly diligent in hearing such petitions. For they touch upon the most basic rights of a citizen. But in these cases there is zero urgency.

  3. I have disagreements with Yogendra Yadavji on some of his political views, but i agree with him on the status of Supreme Court of India. Sad but its enormous status, independence and relevance is being compromised every passing day.

  4. Yogendra who opposed Rahulji and now opposes Priyankaji. Priyankaji has been fighting for Aarey for alongt ime which is not at all mentioned in this article. infact even Matron Soniaji opposed Aarey long time before Yogendra and gang even came to know of it’s existence. Now he taking holier than thou attitude claiming credit and hiding the contribution of Priyankaji shows what an opportunist he is. What else can be expected from somebody who changed his birth name Salim to Yogendra just to please some communal elements.

  5. Sad to see comments from some, that the author is a leftist intellectual but all fail to see the reason to answer what he brought about the important issues that the Supreme Court failed to address, like the habeas corpus petitions or postponement of case pertaining to adulteration of Art 370 by parliament against the spirit of constitution!
    Spirit of the constitution is to protect all, even if he/she falls in minority’!

  6. Mr Yadav,
    You famously suggested “Congress should die” after 2019 results. Now you are contesting haryana elections.
    Please focus on your seats, not on aarey of Mumbai. BJP will do another clean sweep and like a crybaby you will again be weeping
    andasking Congress to die.

  7. Self-loathing and a parallel hatred for the institutions of one’s country must be a Leftist staple ever since Karl Marx first panned Jews (he was born Jewish, but his family converted to Christianity after a scandal) in his “Zur Judenfrage,” before going on to slam his country, Germany, in “Die deutsche Ideologie.” While it is every Indian’s right to disagree with anything that happens in the country, to stand on pomposity that declares that the Supreme Court of India is “s fast losing its credibility, if not relevance.” takes a ton of gall. Typically for someone with his political persuasion, Yogendra Yadav has to decide that if something is not the way he and his comrades want it to be, then the other side does not matter. Obviously, his support for the Aarey activists, his claims of “his organization” (it has to be something that went according to his diktat, OK!) backing their protest etc, is nothing more than a threadbare cover for him to slime the Supreme Court from. Equally conveniently, for a lawyer, he is content with ignoring his profession’s audiatur et altera pars ethics to not bother about even spending a moment to consider the other side’s views.

    These are the workings of the mind of a wannabe strongman. Perhaps, the best thing about Yogendra Yadav is that his authority is confined to his ability to post his regular diatribes against everything that he disapproves of, and nothing more. After decades of nothing more than authoritative regimes running India, it is best, then, that authoritarians like Yogendra Yadav lack authority in a delightful irony.

  8. What the author has written is totally biased and is propoganda.He hasnot spared Supreme Court either.He thinks that he is thethe only right thinking person and betrays fascist or at least communist thought process .It deserves condemnation and to be consigned to the garbage bin its rightful place.

  9. D author is a failed frustrated china & ISI paid politician who chose to remain silent on ethnic cleansing of Hindus frm Kashmir, on brutal rape & murder of Hindu girls & ladies.On Yakoob Menon Shekhar Gupta & dis so called swaraj abhiyan mentor were hell went to save dat killer man frm gallows bt now wen d SC is free from fixers gang like print owner Shekhar Gupta, Parshant Bhushan Indera Jai Singh etx,they see arrogance in SC

  10. Why did Yogendra Yadav lose his ‘echo’ in AAP? Why was he thrown out from there? People like him are just arm chair activists.

    Coming to Arey tree cutting and a construction of a metro shed there, is Yogendra Yadav aware that 8 people lose their lives everyday while traveling in Mumbai local trains? It comes to almost 2700 deaths in a single year; more than some 2600 trees that are supposed to be getting cut due to metro shed coming up in that area. Is loss of human life in such tragic commuting conditions less reprehensible than tree cutting? In last 6 years alone, train deaths in Mumbai locals are a staggering 18,000; much more than soldiers lost in 1948-62-65-71-99 wars put together.

    Long back, there was a film made in Bangla and Hindi, titled Sagina Mahto. The film reminds one of pseudo seculars and leftists.

  11. Horrible piece of journalism by this author who is fully biased in his mind therefore questions the wisdom of supreme court too.
    The author seems to be leftist

  12. When you guys woke up the SC in the mid of the night for the sake of a terrorist, it was ok for you all. When things don’t go in your favour, the SC is at fault.

  13. There are some people stuffed with negativity. During the Anna andolan everything was bad about that administration, with the change in administration everything did not get corrected, but the very fact that the second government was re-elected with improved mandate means something may have changed for better.It is amazing that some intellectuals although every well meaning do not want even to support good to effectively counter the ills.
    So either opposing is a good business or intellectual arrogance compels them to trash even a majority opinion in a democracy.
    The Courts in this country are fair and are seen to be fair. Right or wrong they do hear everyone. The management of the time element has been talked about a lot. There the inequality based on the type of lawyers engaged etc. will also be rectified in years to come.
    Just as it is not wrong to approach the higher court, it cannot be wrong to act while there is no stay. It appears swaraj is projected above an elected government.

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