Judiciary Now the Only Hope
The Supreme Court on Friday, March 10, 2000, by an order fixed April 28 as the deadline for the Delhi Government to improve the quality of Yamuna water which carries over ten crore coliforms including thirty-one lac coliforms capable of spreading the contagious disease. Anguished at the continuous contamination of the river’s water, the court asked the. Delhi government to take steps to improve the quality ‘Significantly’.
Referring to the Central Pollution Control Board filed by counsel Vijay Panjwani, the apex court said, ‘it shows that when the Yamuna leaves Delhi at Okhla, it is no longer a river but a sewer drain’. Noting further that ‘the river cannot be termed as water’ the court said that there has been ‘no improvement in the quality of the water since the last order on January 24.
The Court said ‘alarming’ was not even the proper word so far as the quality of Yamuna water was conceived and at the conclusion of the order issued a stem warning against any interference in this regard from any authority or individual. ‘If there is any interference, either directly or indirectly, the court will be compelled to take appropriate action.
To quote so extensively about the court proceedings and the Court order is just to highlight, how the apex Court of the country has to take notice of matters which should normally be the concern of the civic authority and the administrative machinery
But the tragedy in our country’s political scenario is that the Chief Secretary wants to implement an order of the Court or do something in public good while the minister — a political man, just to keep his voters in good humor — wants to permit the violation of those orders. It is, then, at such a juncture and situation the court has to step in and issue even a warning.
This is not one such case of the abuse of the civic system. The most unhygienic effluents from iron-foundries at Agra flowing into the Yamuna had to be ordered by the Supreme Court to be plugged. The Ganga cleaning plan had to be ordered by the Court to be stepped up.
The Mathura Oil Refinery had to be ordered to stop and control its poisonous gases to besmear the white-marble glow of the Taj. The Court had to order taking off from the road the buses emitting polluting smoke. The Court has to come up with ordering child labor to be withdrawn from the glass industries of Firozabad in U.P. or the carpet industries at Bhadohi or Mirzapur in U.P.
The Court had to order holding no public rallies at the Begum Hazrat Mahal Park at Lucknow, without prior permission of the district administration. There has been a recent order, again of the Supreme Court against littering on the roads and public places in Delhi.
In a recent order, the Supreme Court has asked the Delhi Administration to clear the area occupied by slums and provide the slum-dwellers an alternative place. Slums, even in posh colonies are the black blots and should not grow or exist, but they do exist and need to be removed.
In the cases of corruption and inquiries by the CBI, the courts have time and again been required to pull up the CBI for a very tardy and careless concern and progress in the cases. The Court had to declare the strike by the employees of the Electricity Board in U.P. as illegal. The Court has been required to ask the archaeological department of the Government of India for the proper preservation of the monuments of heritage and cultural value or importance.
The court had to order the release of 220 undertrials languishing in the Tihar Jail for more than three years who had been booked on petty offenses and were unable to furnish sureties, even when ordered to be released on bail. The maximum punishment for their offenses could have been three years. Why could not the administration or the police place such cases before the court earlier for proper order?
Even in matters of the lawyers’ strike in the month of March 2000, the Supreme Court had to be moved to intervene and uphold their previous order passed in 1994 against any hindrance caused to any individual member by any organization in his functioning inspire of the call for the strike.
Further still, there have been cases galore of administrative laxity, or patently prejudicial action against an officer in matters of promotion or postings, and courts had to take upon themselves the responsibility of administering justice.
It was from the time when Justice Bhagwati, as Chief Justice of India initiated the process of public interest litigations — a very welcome initiation indeed — which has brought to the notice of the courts so many matters which the administration should have taken due note of and taken the remedial measures at their own level but failed to do so. The Courts took up such matters and passed due orders granting relief to the long-suffering public.
There have been fingers raised at this judicial functioning and some have even termed it as ‘Judicial activism’ but where the administration fails to grant the clue relief, or found to be indifferent to matters of public interest, there has to be some forum to set things right and the judiciary has been found to be the only form of relief.
Otherwise, could the administration, on its own not check the pollution of Yamuna or Ganga waters; could the administration not stop vehicles emitting polluting gases; can the administration not take action against litterings?
These are matters where the civic or the executive administration should wake up, to take action on their own. The crux of this problem is actually the politicization of every matter and every issue.
The politics of vote deters the minister and the administrator under the direct control of the minister to take drastic measures lest that may antagonize the electorate — their vote-bank. Here ties the banefulness of the democratic setup where ‘vote’ governs governance. Only recently the Chief Commissioner of Police Bombay (Mumbai) has requested to be relieved of his position as transfers in his department which lay under his jurisdiction and authority had been ordered by the minister without even consulting him.
No self-respecting officer can suffer such an erosion of his authority and if such an officer takes a step further and goes to the court to establish his right and authority, the judiciary will have to step in. A judicial order binds all concerned, hence for everything one has to knock the doors of courts and the judiciary has to assume the authority of passing administrative orders.
If our system and those responsible for regulating that system act in time; act judiciously, act without prejudice or predilection; if the administration does really administer, the judiciary shall stand saved from this so-called activism and this extra burden unduly cast on them shall stand lightened and they would be left free to discharge their judicial functions more speedily and clear up the amassed backlog of cases at all levels.
Judiciary actually serves as the watchdog of democracy; it has to; where the democratic process of vote-catching impedes drastic and inconvenient administrative actions. Actually, Judiciary would be relieved of this function if there is a civic sense among the people if law administering authorities act well-in time and act with a clear judicial conscience and interference from petty or even big politicians stand curbed.