Indeed, what a speech delivered by Supreme Court judge Justice Deepak Gupta at a workshop of lawyers in Ahmedabad! It resembles manna from heaven upon this soil where the constitutional and democratic right to freedom of speech has indeed come under serious attack. What a balm to the parched civilized souls who are simply shattered to witness the severe consequences of daring to express their independent views which run opposite the “mainstream” political and social thought!
Rightly has Justice Gupta remarked: “As long as a person does not break the law or encourage strife, he has a right to differ from every other citizen and those in power, and propagate what he believes is his belief.” But just dare to differ, and you must get ready to face severe consequences. If person concerned person is lucky, they can escape with just barbaric character assassination and choicest of abuses, ranging from “ignorant fool” to “antinational” to “Pakistani” and “enemy of the people.” But all are not so lucky. They face cases of “betrayal of the nation,” “sedition,” get brutally thrashed (remember the assault on Kanhaiya Kumar in the Delhi court compound?) and dispatched to jail. This is the very reason why Justice Gupta laments, “Unfortunately, the common refrain is, either you agree with me or you are my enemy, or worse, an enemy of the nation, an antinationalist.”
Again, Justice Gupta hits the nail hard when he asserts, “Majoritarianism cannot be the law. Even the minority has the right to express its views.” Zealous stress on majoritarianism is another trump card of the present times as the “final proof” of the “greatness” of any act or decision. Whenever any highly controversial decision gets taken, bordering on sheer inhumanity, or a step gets proved to be a total failure, it gets zealously defended that the “whole country is supporting it.” It is simply mysterious how they can arrive at the conclusion so confidently that the “whole country” is supporting the said decision, without initiating a referendum? Even if it is granted that the “whole” or the majority of the country is supporting it, then also it proves nothing. Who will enlighten these folks that truth is not a cheap reality show on TV that it would depend on sheer number or votes. No lesser than Mahatma Gandhi had stressed: “Even if you are a minority of one, truth is the truth.”
So the quality or value of any decision depends upon the humanity/inhumanity embedded in it, not upon the headcount of people supporting/opposing it. Thus, bulldozing the voices which emanate from the minority section, so as to accord sanction to the controversial decisions or impositions by projecting the “green signal of the majority,” is simply not done.
Lastly, Justice Gupta has very wisely portrayed a sorry, intolerant picture by invoking Rabindranath Tagore and suggesting that the epitome of Indian-ness, the creator of our national anthem, and the person who renounced knighthood following the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, could also have faced the music in these “patriotic” times for his comment, “Nationalism is a great menace.”
Drawing lesson and inspiration from the noble views of Justice Gupta, let the people be allowed to express their opinions fearlessly, without being scared of prosecutions or trolling on social media. Since criticism of the executive, the judiciary, the bureaucracy or the armed forces cannot be termed sedition, as rightly advised by Justice Gupta of the Supreme Court, let’s hope that with enhancement of the tolerance level, situation would improve and the people would not be prosecuted or threatened of murder or rape if one dares to question anything related to the Pulwama, Balakot, Kashmir, NRC and the space missions, or merely stating, “Pakistan did not kill my father, war did.”