The simple right to change leaders is not a safeguard against tyranny: CJI NV Ramana

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Noting that “the mere right to change rulers, once every few years, is not in itself a guarantee against tyranny,” Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, citing lawyer Julius Stone, said Wednesday that “the elections, day to day. by day, political speeches, criticisms and protests ”are“ an integral part of the democratic process ”.

While stressing that judges cannot stay “in ivory castles”, he said they “must be aware that the noise” amplified on social media “does not necessarily reflect what is right and what the majority believe ”.

Presenting via virtual mode the 17th Justice PD Desai Memorial Trust conference, organized by the Praleen Trust, on “the rule of law”, CJI Ramana said that in the 17 general elections since independence, “the masses have had enough. fulfilled their functions ”and now it is“ the turn of those who run key state organs to ask themselves whether they are fulfilling the constitutional mandate ”.

“It has always been well recognized that the simple right to change rulers, once every few years, is not in itself a guarantee against tyranny… The idea that people are the ultimate ruler is also found in notions of human dignity and autonomy. Public discourse, both reasoned and reasonable, must be considered as an aspect inherent in human dignity and therefore essential for the proper functioning of a democracy ”, he declared.

On the need to ensure the independence of the judiciary for the maintenance of the rule of law, the CJI declared: “The judiciary cannot be controlled, directly or indirectly, by the legislature or the executive, otherwise the rule of law would become illusory. At the same time, judges should also not be swayed by the emotional tone of public opinion, which is amplified by social media platforms. Judges should be aware that noise amplified in this way does not necessarily reflect what is right and what the majority believe.

“The new media tools which have enormous amplifying capacity are unable to distinguish between good and bad, good and bad, and right and wrong. Therefore, media lawsuits cannot be a determining factor in judging cases. It is therefore extremely vital to function independently and to resist all outside help and pressure. While there is a lot of talk about executive pressure, it is also imperative to start a speech on how social media trends can affect institutions… The above, however, should not be understood as meaning that judges and completely disassociate themselves from what is going on. Judges cannot stay in ‘ivory castles’ and decide issues that are social issues, ”he said.

After more than 70 years since Independence, he said, as “the whole world faces an unprecedented crisis in the form of Covid-19”, it is at this point that “we must necessarily pause and ask ourselves, to what extent have we used the rule of law to ensure the protection and well-being of all of our citizens.

“I don’t intend to provide an assessment of the same. My function and my temperament prevent me. But I began to think that this pandemic could be a curtain raiser of much bigger crises in the decades to come. Certainly we need to at least start the process of analyzing what we did right and where we went wrong, ”he said.

Emphasizing the four principles of the rule of law, CJI said the first principle embodied that “laws should be clear and accessible”.

“This is the fundamental point that when laws are supposed to be obeyed, people should at least know what the laws are. So there can be no secret laws, as laws are for society.

“Another implication of this principle is that they must be written in simple and unambiguous language,” he said.

Citing the third principle that guides the rule of law, members of society, he said, have the “right to participate in the creation and refinement of the laws” that govern their behavior.

“We live in a democracy. The very essence of a democracy is that its citizens have a role to play, directly or indirectly, in the laws that govern them. In India, this is done through elections, where the people can exercise their universal right to vote to elect the people who are part of the parliament which promulgates the laws… In the 17 national general elections held so far, the people have changed their ruling party or combination of parties eight times , which represents almost 50% of the number of general elections.

“Despite large-scale inequalities, illiteracy, backwardness, poverty and so-called ignorance, the people of independent India have shown themselves to be smart and up to the task. The masses have done their homework well enough. Now it is the turn of those who run key state organs to ask themselves whether they are respecting the constitutional mandate, ”he said.


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