Wading into the raging row on intolerance, Chief Justice of India T S Thakur on Sunday said it is a “political issue” and that there is no need to fear till the judiciary is “independent” and the rule of law prevails.
“Yeh siyasi pahlu hain (this is a political issue). We have a Rule of Law. So long as Rule of Law is there, so long as there is an independent judiciary and so long as courts are upholding the rights and obligations, I do not think anyone has to fear for anything,” the CJI said in an informal interaction with journalists in New Delhi.
“I am heading the institution which upholds the the Rule of Law and the rights of every citizen will be protected… I think, we are capable of protecting the rights of all sections of people. My institution is capable of upholding the rights of citizens. Certain rights are for the citizens and certain rights are for non-citizens also and we are capable of protecting the rights,” Justice Thakur said.
He further said, “India is a big country, we should not be afraid of anything. Yeh sab perception ki baten hain. Jab tak judiciary independent hai, koi baat ki dar nahi honi chahiye (These are all matters of perception. There is nothing to fear till the judiciary is independent).”
However, he refrained from commenting on the political aspects of the intolerance debate, saying “siyasi log iska kaise upyog karten hain, main kuch nahi kehna chahunga (I do not want to comment anything on how politicians use this).”
“But, we are committed to uphold the Rule of Law and protect right of all citizens of the society and people from all creeds and religions. There is no fear to any section of society,” Justice Thakur said.
Observing that certain rights are available even to non- citizens, including terrorists, he said they are the beneficiaries of the Rule of Law and can be tried only in conformity of law and “cannot be hanged” without due process.
“In so far as we are concerned, we have no such impediments. We have no such bias and we have no such reluctance. We can protect the rights of all citizens,” he said while specifically answering questions on the recent trends and the issue of intolerance.
Making it clear that he was not referring to any particular incident, the CJI said this country has been home to all religions and even those who were persecuted in other countries have “thrived” here.
The Chief Justice said “people persecuted in other societies, have come here and thrived. We have Parsis and their contributions are immense. We have legal luminaries and industrialists. We have people upholding rule of law like F S Nariman, Nani Palkhivala and you know their contributions.”
In response to a question as to why the Supreme Court or the High Courts did not take suo motu cognizance of recent murders of some writers, he said, “an order of the Supreme Court or the High Court cannot stop the crime. Crime has been part of human life. Till the time there are humans, there will be confrontation. That keeps going on.”
“Some frailty and animal instincts are there in human minds, but there should be spirit of tolerance in an inclusive society and mutual respect and faith in each other’s religions. That should be promoted and we can progress only then,” Thakur said.