Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sethusamudram & M.F.Husain cases: A study in contrast

On May 8, the Supreme Court, before adjourning the hearing of the Sethusamudram case to July 22, asked the Centre to consider an alternative alignment for the proposed canal, without damaging the Ramar Setu, and to consider whether an archaeological study could be conducted to declare Ramar Setu a national monument.

The Court did so, before hearing the counsel for the respondent, the Union of India, Fali S.Nariman whose turn was yet to come. The court did so on the technical plea that the Madras High Court's direction to the UOI to conduct an archaeological study had not been complied with. The plea was that the direction had not been stayed, even though the connected cases had been transferred to the Supreme Court. The UOI must have asked for the stay of the High Court's direction, as it was also the subject matter of the SLP before the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court must have heard the UOI to know whether it considered alternative alignments, before choosing the one touching the Ramar setu, and whether it also considered the demand seeking the status of national monument for Ramar Setu. The Court simply assumed that the UOI did not consider alternative alignments (based on the arguments of petitioners), and that it did not even consider conducting an archeological study on Ramar Setu. Surely, the UOI has strong reasons to offer on both. Did the Court allow itself to be swayed by emotional considerations, before even hearing the UOI?

MESSAGE: If there has to be a choice between respect for people's so-called beliefs and development compulsions, choose the former.

On the same day, the Delhi High Court Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul quashed three of the six cases pending against 90-year old painter M.F.Husain, for allegedly hurting public sentiments through his paintings of Hindu Goddesses, which were termed obscene. The Judge said in his judgment: "Our culture breeds tolerance both in thought and action. I have penned down this judgment with the hope that it is a prologue to broader thinking." He said there are many artists who embrace nudity as a part of contemporary art.

Message: If there ought to be a choice between respect for one's so-called beliefs and sentiments and freedom of artists, choose the latter.

Rarely, Judges assert their independence without being influenced by the prospect of public outrage. That is why the judgment of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul deserves to be celebrated.. The online link to this judgment can be found on this blog in a couple of days.

Article Alert: Rajeev Dhavan discusses the concept of obscenity in this Mail Today article in the context of Justice Kaul's judgment.
Post a Comment