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Mainstream, VOL LX No 35 New Delhi, August 20, 2022

Disturb at some rulings of India’s top court - A statement by concerned international scholars

Friday 19 August 2022

A Statement by International Academic Community

We, the undersigned members of the academic community, are deeply disturbed by some of the recent judgements of the Indian Supreme Court, which have a direct bearing on the future of civil liberties and human rights in India. We wish to draw attention, in particular, to the judgement in the Zakia Jafri case, which raises three disturbing questions.

First, since the petitioners had challenged the findings of the SIT report that gave a clean chit to the Gujarat government for the riots following the Godhra incident, and asked the Supreme Court to order an independent investigation, for the Court to dismiss their appeal on the basis of the very same impugned SIT report seems to us to be unjust.

Second, while dismissing their appeal, the Court has quite gratuitously and wholly unfairly attributed ulterior motives to the petitioners. This has even emboldened the executive to arrest co-petitioner Teesta Setalvad, along with witness R.B. Sreekumar, both of whom have also been denied bail. If any patient, prolonged, peaceful, and entirely legitimate pursuit of justice through the due process, is called “keeping the pot boiling”, then this remark, quite apart from being offensive, discourages people from approaching the Court on any matter relating to excesses or dereliction on the part of the executive.

Third, the Court has passed these uncalled-for obiter dicta without even giving a hearing to those against whom these remarks are directed; this sets an unfortunate precedent in jurisprudence.

Apart from the brief period of the Emergency, the Indian Supreme Court has generally played an honourable role in defending the democratic commitments of the country, which is why we are dismayed by the recent tendency discernible in the Zakia Jafri judgement. We urge the Supreme Court to take suo motu notice of the fall-out of the judgement in this case, to expunge the derogatory remarks contained in it, and to dismiss the cases against those who have been arrested on the strength of these remarks.

Signed:

  • Bhiku Parekh, House of Lords, London, U.K.
  • Noam Chomsky, Professor emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Professor, University of Arizona, U.S.A.
  • Arjun Appadurai, Professor, Max Planck Institute, Germany.
  • Wendy Brown, Professor, Institute of Advanced Studies, Princeton, U.S.A.
  • Sheldon Pollock, Professor Emeritus, Columbia University, U.S.A.
  • Carol Rovane, Professor, Columbia University, U.S.A.
  • Charles Taylor, Professor Emeritus, McGill University, Canada.
  • Martha Nussbaum, Professor, University of Chicago, U.S.A.
  • Robert Pollin, Professor, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, U.S.A.
  • Akeel Bilgrami, Professor, Columbia University, U.S.A.
  • Gerald Epstein, Professor, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, U.S.A.

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