The Indian judiciary is answerable only to the Constitution, and not the political parties say the 48th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, N V Ramanna to the Indian-American gathering held July 1, at the India Community Center in Milpitas, California.
“We celebrate the 75th year of Independence this year and as our Republic turned 72, with some sense of regret, I must add here that we still haven’t learned to appreciate wholly the roles and responsibilities assigned by the Constitution to each of the Institutions,” CJI Ramanna said at the event hosted to facilitate him, and was organized by the Association of Indian Americans(AIA) and attended by over 700 people from various Indian organizations, elected officials and community leaders.
“The party in power believes that every governmental action is entitled to judicial endorsement. The parties in opposition expect the judiciary to advance their political positions and causes. This flawed thinking of all hues flourishes in the absence of proper understanding among people about the Constitution and the functioning of the democratic institutions,” CJI Ramanna added.
“It is the vigorously promoted ignorance among the general public which is coming to the aid of such forces whose only aim is to run down the only independent organ i.e.. the judiciary. Let me make it clear. We are answerable to the Constitution and Constitution alone,” he said.
“To enforce checks and balances envisioned in the Constitution, we need to promote constitutional culture in India. We need to spread awareness about the roles and responsibilities of individuals and institutions. Democracy is all about participation,” he said.
CJI Ramanna’s comments came just two days after a Supreme Court bench allowed a single day for vote of confidence in the Maharashtra state assembly, the trail events led to the return of the BJP in Maharashtra. Just the day before, a division bench of the SC pulled up former BJP leader Nupur Sharma, accused her “loose tongue” of having “set the country on fire”, while dismissing her petition to transfer her case, the apex court did not take any suo motu action against her for the crimes that the bench accused her of committing.
In an open letter to CJI Ramanna, Sarita Pandey, an artist and digital media professional, who also volunteers for human rights advocacy groups had reminded the CJI about the difference between the protests in his home country and the one where he was guest at an informal gathering with NRIs in Washington, June 26.
“… there is a stark difference between the protest in the US and India and the price that the protesters in both countries might have to pay for speaking out about what they believe in. The protesters outside the White House/Supreme Court right now do not have to worry that their houses will be demolished, nor do they fear that they will be jailed or, worse, killed by a state-sponsored mob,” wrote Pandey, a resident of DMV area (District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia).
Justice Ramanna who was on the East Coast lately and had attended a community event there as well, said that he had the privilege of visiting the Independence Hall in Philadelphia and found some striking similarities between the journeys undertaken by India and the United States to become independent Constitutional democracies. In both countries, the declaration of independence was followed by intense debates in the assemblies on the Constitutions that were adopted.
“India had the advantage of drawing from the best and most suitable aspects of the Constitutions already in force around the world. As pointed in the preamble, the Indian Constitution guarantees Justice, Liberty and Equality to its people and promotes Fraternity,” he said and added that the Indian Constitution guaranteed universal adult franchise “since the very inception of our Republic in 1950.” He also pointed out that the United States achieved universal adult franchise in 1960s.
Justice Ramanna however said that the Constitution should not be viewed as a static, unchanging document. He said: “I am reminded of what I read on the wall of Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC a few days ago.” He quoted: ‘…laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times’.
During his 30 minutes speech, he also mentioned how the IT sector has uplifted women. He said that the unprecedented opportunities offered by the IT sector to women have changed how Indians perceive the role of women in our society. More and more women from India have found their wings in this emerging sector. This helped them become empowered, independent, and self-reliant. An empowered woman changes the dynamics of the family and society in a positive way.
Urging the Indian diaspora to give back and take care of the well-being of society back home, he said, “To enjoy your wealth, you need to have peace around you. Your parents back home also should be able to live in a peaceful society which is free from hate and violence. In the 21st century, we cannot allow petty, narrow and divisive issues to dictate human and societal relationships. We have to rise above all the divisive issues to remain focused on human development. A noninclusive approach is an invitation to disaster.”
“It is time to think about new approaches. Globally, Indians are in the forefront of innovations. You are the mind, energy and engine for the growth of the global economy. It is time India and Indians draw proportionate benefits through your talents,” he added.
Meanwhile, Justice Ramanna, born in Ponnavaram village in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh also gave a brief speech in Telegu.
Vijaya Aasuri, the co-founder of the Association of Indian Americans (AIA) a conglomeration of 40 community organizations that were present to honor CJI at the event, told indica, she was impressed to see he was so passionate about the Telegu language and made a very meaningful speech.
“He [Justice Ramanna ] emphasized the importance of one’s own mother tongue, and how proud you should feel and pass on to the next generation,” Aasuri said.
Anuradha Ali Setty, an attendee was impressed he asked to promote women and how IT has helped lift women.
Another attendee Santosh Addagulla was impressed and told indica, did you listen to him, he said, “Inclusivity strengthens the unity in society which is key to peace and progress. We need to focus on issues that unite us. Not on those that divide us.”
Another community leader Jeevan Zutshi, founder of the Indo-American Community Federation (IACF-USA) and the founding member of Kashmiri overseas association (KOA) sharing his views on the Chief Justice’s speech told indica, “I was very impressed to meet the Chief Justice who appears to be the right person to bring justice to those who have had it denied in the past.”
Adding on Zutshi said, “When killings were taking place in Kashmir in broad daylight before he took over as Chief Justice, no one took it seriously. After listening to him, I got a strong feeling that he will bring all those to justice who harmed ‘Kashmiri Pandits’ and law-abiding Muslims.”