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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 13 New Delhi March 14, 2020

Corona Pandemic, Scindia’s Exit, HC’s Censure

Sunday 15 March 2020


The outbreak of novel coronavirus (Covid 2019) has lately been described as a pandemic, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Thus all visas, barring those in select categories, have been suspended till April 15, 2020.

The Centre has also advised all States and Union Territories to invoke the provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, thereby enabling them to enforce advisories whenever necessary.

On the political plane the situation appears dismal for the main Opposition party—the Congress—with the exit of Jyotiraditya Scindia from it to join the ruling party at the Centre, the BJP. This is a crisis of phenomenal proportions for it carries the portents of the Congress’ disintegration. In the face of the BJP’s rise as a neofascist outfit in national politics, the prospects of such a development is a matter of serious concern and anxiety for every secular democrat who feels that the Congress alone is a bulwark of against the majoritarian fascism that the Right-wing Hindu party upholds and represents. This goes far beyond the petty likes and dislikes of individuals and projects ominous signals for the polity as a whole. What is most significant is the fact that has been highlighed in the national media—Scindia’s entry into the BJP has come at a time when the latter’s core agenda, as epitomised by the citizenship law, is “sparking protests, resistance and even communal violence”.

Against this background the eloquent words in The Indian Express’ editorial need careful scrutiny:

That a prominent leader of the Congress does not just exit the party at a moment such as this one, but does so to join the BJP, is a vote of no-confidence in the party that it would do well to seriously reflect on in more ways than are immediately obvious. And as for Scindia in the BJP, he will soon have to defend what he just weeks ago called the indefensible. That’s between him and his conscience—or, to be precise, his most recent conscience.

Meanwhile, the UP Government’s ominous attacks against those opposed to the new citizenship law (CAA) by putting up hoardings and banners with photographs and personal data of citizens protesting against the Act has been taken suo moto cognisance of by the Allahabad High Court which characterised the State Government’s move as illegal. Not just that. The HC pointed out that the government’s measure “reflects colourable exercise of powers by the Executive” besides being an ”unwarranted interference in privacy of people” and violative of “Article 21 of the Constitution”. Without mincing words it held that the government must retrace its steps after carefully listening to the HC’s censure.

Such an unequivocal denunciation by the judiciary is of special relevance in the prevailing situation when the Union Home Minister with a straight face charges the Congress leadership in both Houses of Parliament with being the originator of the recent communal riots in Delhi.

March 12 S.C.

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