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Bandh a legitimate political activity, avers Sitaram Yechury

Special Correspondent

‘If not allowed, democratic rights will be reduced to a level of impotence’

— Photo: S. R. Raghunathan

RAISING QUESTIONS: (From left) N.M. Sundaram, president, All India Insurance Employees’ Association; Sitaram Yechury, CPI (M) Polit Bureau Member; and CITU secretary W.R .Varadarajan at the V.P.Chintan Memorial Lecture in Chennai on Friday.

CHENNAI: Bandh is a legitimate political activity, and how can courts curb the right by declaring it as illegal, asked Sitaram Yechury, Polit Bureau Member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) here on Friday.

Delivering the V.P. Chintan Memorial Lecture – ‘Judicial Activism and Democratic Rights,’ Mr. Yechury said, “By declaring bandhs and other actions of mass protest as illegal the judiciary is, in fact, creating a multiplicity of rights, and thus laying the basis for conflict between the rights of an individual and rights of a community.”

If such legitimate action is not allowed, instead of enriching the democratic rights and activities it will reduce them to a level of impotence, he said.

On the issue of contempt of court proceedings, the CPI (M) leader said questioning the infallibility of judges would not amount to questioning the integrity of judges. “Pointing out mistakes is not questioning [their] integrity,” he said. Courts in the past have banned strikes and other demonstrable public protests and invoked the principle of no-work, no-pay for the working class.

However, in a recent case, when doctors protesting against reservation for Other Backward Classes struck work heaping untold miseries on suffering patients the courts directed that their salaries be paid for the striking period. “Would pointing out such glaring inconsistencies, reflecting, amongst others, a class bias, amount to contempt of court?”

Reiterating the need to put in place a National Judicial Commission, Mr. Yechury said only in India judges were appointed by judges alone. Referring to the 1993 decision of the Supreme Court taking over the power of appointing judges, he said, “The method of appointment of judges by judges themselves poses challenges to the democratic system.” He called for changes in the system and said as in the case of other countries, the executive, the legislature and the public, along with the judiciary, should be given an appropriate role in the appointment of judges. The system of appointment should be transparent and subject to public scrutiny.

“Today there are two Indias in the making,” Mr. Yechury said, adding one was a shining India and the other a suffering India.

Expressing concern over the widening gap between the two entities, he called upon all democratic systems to come to the aid of the suffering India. In this context, he pointed out that just 36 Indians possessed 25 per cent of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

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