Election no guarantee against tyranny, says CJI

Source: The Hindu, Indian Express

Relevance: Points can be used in an essay.

Synopsis: Elections are not a guarantee that the government will not turn tyrannical. A vibrant public discourse, criticism, and protests prove much more effective.

  • Chief Justice of India (CJI)’s views on what constitutes a robust and resilient democracy and other equally important issues, like rule of law.
Key points:
On the issue of independence of the judiciary

The judiciary cannot be controlled, directly or indirectly, by the legislature or the executive, or else the rule of law would cease to exist.

  • At the same time, judges should not be influenced by public opinion either, which usually gets amplified through social media platforms. Media trials, therefore, cannot be a guiding factor in deciding cases.
  • However, this doesn’t mean that judges and the judiciary need to completely disassociate from what is going on because at the end of the day they have to decide questions that pertain to social issues.
On rule of law

CJI elucidated four principles of the rule of law.

Clear and accessible laws: The first principle of rule of law states that laws must be clear and accessible. When laws are expected to be obeyed, the people at least ought to know what the laws are. There cannot, therefore, be secretive laws, as laws are for society.

Equality before law: The second principle relates to the idea of “equality before the law”. Laws are to be applied on an equal basis in a non-arbitrary fashion. An important aspect of “equality before the law” is having equal “access to justice”.

Right to participate in the creation and refinement of laws: Members of the society have the right to participate in the creation and refinement of laws that regulate their behaviors. The very essence of a democracy is that its citizenry has a role to play, whether directly or indirectly, in the laws that govern them. In India, it is done through elections.

Strong and independent judiciary: The last principle of rule of law enshrines the principle that the judiciary is the primary organ that is tasked with ensuring that the laws which are enacted are in line with the Constitution. This is one of the main functions of the judiciary, that of judicial review of laws. The Supreme Court has held this function to be a part of the basic structure of the Constitution

  • In the end, CJI quoted, Maha Kavi Gurajada Appa Rao, a great poet, and reformist of the 19th / 20th Century. He said: “Desamamte Matti Kadoi, Desamamte Manushuloi”. Gurajada gave a universal definition to the concept of nation.
    • He said, “a nation is not merely a territory. A nation is essentially its people. Only when its people progress, the Nation progresses”.
On a strong democracy

The mere right to change the ruler, once every few years, by itself need not be a guarantee against tyranny.

  • Elections, day-to-day political discourses, criticisms, and voicing of protests are integral to the democratic process.
Also Read: Does India have a rule of law?
Print Friendly and PDF