|Justice P N Bhagwati|
And the matter is virtually buried by the media, but for a couple of articles in the Indian Express and Firstpost.com. But here also the grouse of the authors seems to be more on the 35 years’ delay! Are we not missing the real issues?
What are the issues? Why does he feel sorry now?
Year 1976. Emergency had been declared in India. Emergency meant suspension of fundamental rights, including the right to life and personal liberty as mentioned in Article 21. Many political leaders, journalists and others were arrested all over the country on frivolous charges. High Courts across the country were flooded with habeas corpus petitions seeking the production of those arrested. The Government argued that right to personal liberty has been suspended and as such High Courts cannot entertain habeas corpus petitions. In other words the relatives and friends of those arrested could not do anything but to wait helplessly for their release. Most of the High Courts (barring Andhra, Kerala and Madras) rejected the Government’s arguments and upheld the citizens’ right to file habeas corpus petitions. Government preferred an appeal to the Supreme Court. A five member bench comprising of Justices A N Ray, P N Bhagwati, M H Beg, Y V Chandrachud and H R Khanna heard the case. Except for H R Khanna all other judges rejected the verdict of the High Courts! Citizens of India had lost their right to life and personal liberty, held the Supreme Court. Justice Khanna differed from the rest of the judges.
Now P N Bhagwati says he is sorry for this judgment! He says he ‘yielded’ to his colleagues; he was not in favor of the majority view initially; he was persuaded! Yielded to whom? Persuaded by whom? By the other judges? Or by anyone else? Is the persuasion not a crime- perhaps as serious, if not more, as ‘yielding’? Also what was the motivation for the other 3 judges to ‘persuade’ P N Bhagwati to change his verdict? Who or what motivated them? While Bhagwati’s apology itself is being forgotten, does anyone- the Government or the Supreme Court- have the time to look into the role of other judges?
And who are the other judges?
Justice A N Ray, who was promoted as Chief Justice of India by the Indira Gandhi Government in 1973- just three years before the ADM Jabalpur- superseding 3 senior-most judges.
Justice M H Beg became the Chief Justice of India in 1977 and Y V Chandrachud in 1978!
Let us revert to P N Bhagwati. He welcomed Indira Gandhi when she assumed power in 1980 after the defeat of 1977.He was promoted as the CJI in 1985. He was hailed by media as one of the “progressive” judges! He was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 2007.
Justice H.R. Khanna did not get his promotion.
The vital question still remains.
Does a simple apology wipe out all the sins?