History is often written by rewriting history. The week that passed was historic in the sense it belonged to the Judiciary. Three game-changing judgments were delivered in the course of three consecutive days.
Triple talaq was banned on August 23. The right to privacy was deemed a fundamental right on August 24. A powerful guru with political muscle and armed followers was jailed for rape on August 25.
It was a hat-trick for Lady Justice. Her original model was the Egyptian god Anubis who stands holding a set of scales on which, a heart is measured against the Feather of Truth. All three judgments championed one principle—Truth with a Heart. In doing so, the law delivered justice by upholding its basic dharma as the sworn champion of the common man.
On August 23, CJI J S Khehar and Justices Kurian Joseph, R F Nariman, U U Lalit and Abdul Nazeer banned triple talaq as un-Islamic and ‘arbitrary’. Though CJI Khehar did not go along, he reminded the government of its obligation saying, “the Constitution requires the state to provide for a Uniform Civil Code to remedy and assuage the maladies expressed in the submissions advanced by the attorney general”.
Jurisprudence without humanity thrives only in a system without heart—the reason why countries whose identity is defined by religion are ruled by narrow dogmatic minds. In Bangladesh, fanatics forced the authorities to demolish the statue of Lady Justice outside its top court on the premise that it is ‘un-Islamic’. In this bigoted neighborhood, the Indian judiciary has ensured that she shines bright in all her severe glory. Jurisprudence cannot be a cultural hostage in democracy.
Personal law cannot be used as a schizophrenic excuse to be just a partial stakeholder in society while enjoying other convenient rights. Convenience derives legitimacy through interpretation. On August 24, the Supreme Court decided that the interpretation of individual liberty cannot have different formulae. A nine-judge bench ruled “Right to Privacy as an integral part of Right to Life and Personal Liberty guaranteed in Article 21 of the Constitution”.
Individual liberty is the cornerstone of democracy, which protects individual tastes in dress, food and sexual orientation dictated by biology over preference. With its three judgments, the judiciary showed its commitment to the Constitution, which deems all Indians equal.
Equality doesn’t prefer the powerful or else a democracy has no validity. On August 25, the courts once again refused to pander to religious politics. It sent the mighty Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to jail for rape. It took courage for two women to take on a powerful godman just as it took Ishrat Jahan to challenge mullah power, which has now ordered her neighbours and relatives to shun her. The judiciary has done its job. Now it’s up to India to do hers by standing up for them.
Hence, the significance of this judicial week goes beyond the letter of the law. It sends out a powerful message that ordinary men and women cannot be prisoners of prejudice—old or new. Lady Justice is alive and well in India. On Judgment Week, it’s been Judgment Day all along.