Saturday, October 13, 2007

"Scandal in the Palace": A Reply to Vikram Raghavan and Dilip

Arundhati Roy's article in Outlook magazine has elicited two critical responses from Vikram and Dilip. (Vikram's post and Dilip's comments are here,) Both need to be examined. I don't know what would be Arundhati's reply to these comments, though it would be ideal if she responds. Having said that, I feel I disagree with both Vikram Raghavan and Dilip.

First, Vikram says she made sweeping denunciation of judicial activism and PIL. Having read her piece carefully, I am unable to cite even one sentence which could be described as "sweeping denunciation" of judicial activism and PIL. I don't think one could read in that article that she is against judicial activism and PIL in general. That would be over simplification. She is only critical of the manner the Judiciary of late has been handling PIL matters, which suggests that the Judiciary has been arbitrarily selective in delivering justice. Vikram is entitled to his view, that she is rambling, and unnecessarily acerbic. I would say it is justified, because it was meant to be a polemical piece. But "flatly inaccurate"? Vikram has not cited any examples of that in her piece.

Then, Vikram asks whether she is aware of the history of PIL and the citizen movements it engendered. What led him to assume that she is not aware of this? Does she have to demonstrate her awareness of this in this short piece? Similar assumption leads him to suggest that she is unaware of the position accorded to Rule of Law in our Constitution. She is only commenting on how Judiciary has approached the issue of Rule of Law in practice.

Dilip accuses her of distortion of Justice Pasayat's judgment. I thank him for the helpful reference to the relevant paragraphs of the judgment, which help us understand the context. But on reading those paragraphs, I only find that she is vindicated in her comment. Dilip says the paragraph she quotes is not the Bench's own view of the matter, rather a statement of the Expert's Committee's position. The full paragraph from the judgment which he cited can be attributed to the Bench, not to the expert committee. The Bench referred to the Expert Committee's recommendation in the first two sentences, and the last sentence. But the remaining part of the paragraph can certainly be attributed to the Bench. The Bench has clearly suggested that corporations and institutions cannot indulge in malpractice in getting the approval or sanction. What makes the Bench to assume that institutions which it has referred to cannot indulge in such malpractices? Are these institutions inherently incapable of indulging in such malpractice? The judgment selectively refers to only a few institutions. A full list of such institutions and an inquiry into how they secured sanction/approval can help to throw light on the Bench's hypothesis. Even if in this case, the Bench is correct, as a generalisation, it is certainly a weak proposition that a Bench can make to justify its order.
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