Acknowledge the ongoing debate over intolerance may have “political dimensions”, new Chief Justice of India T S Thakur on Sunday said people of any community need not fear persecution or feel threatened because “the judiciary is capable of protecting the rights of all classes and communities”.
“So long as there is rule of law and constitutional rights are guaranteed to everyone, there is nothing to be worried about. This (issue of intolerance) may have political dimensions but as far as the judiciary is concerned, we don’t have any doubts or reluctance that we will protect and uphold rule of law and rights of all citizens,” the CJI said in one of the strongest and clearest articulations from the judiciary on an issue that just witnessed a heated debate in Parliament last week.
“A tolerant society must be nurtured for our growth as the country,” he added, during an interaction with the media two days after he took charge as the 43rd Chief Justice of India.
Touching a political hot button, Justice Thakur said, “I am heading the institution which upholds the rule of law and I can say that rights of every citizen will be protected. Kai saare siyasi pahlu hain isme (there are many political issues involved), but we have a rule of law. And then our existence itself is based on the theory of tolerance. I don’t think anybody should have fear of being thrown out or persecuted as long as judiciary is there.”
Justice Thakur refrained from commenting on the political aspects of the intolerance debate. “Siyasi log iska kaise upyog karten hain aur kaise fayada uthayenge, main kuchch nahin kehna chahunga (I do not want to say anything on how politicians use this and try to take advantage of it), but we are committed to uphold the rule of law and protect the rights of all citizens.”
Asked about recent incidents when writers and persons from particular communities were targeted, the CJI said India is a big country and some questions can be raised over its social fabric from certain quarters.
“But we shouldn’t feel scared or upset about it till the time there is an independent judiciary and the rule of law. 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 for each other’s religions. That should be promoted and we can progress only then,” he said.
Justice Thakur added, “Let us not forget this county has been home for almost all the religions in the world. People persecuted in other parts of the world have settled in our country and contributed so much. Consider Parsis and the contribution of people from their community. Persons like Fali S Nariman and Nani Palkhivala have given so much to the system.”
On why the Supreme Court has not taken suo motu cognisance of recent murders of some writers, the CJI said, “Orders of the Supreme Court or the high court cannot stop crime. Crime has been part of human life. Till the time there are humans, there will be clashes and confrontations.”
He also referred to a Muslim scholar who had translated the Bhagavad Gita and referred to a couplet from his Urdu translation of the holy book, to drive home the point of Lord Krishna saying that all religions took different paths but led to one Almighty. “So Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and Sikhism, all lead to the same God,” said the CJI.
BJP secretary Siddharth Nath Singh said the party welcomed Justice Thakur’s comments. “They throw a lot of light on the politically motivated intolerance debate. The pillars of Indian democracy, like courts, media, legislature, are independent and vibrant and therefore there is no question that intolerance can be part of Indian democracy. The debate on intolerance has been a politically motivated one keeping the Bihar elections in mind. We hear no more of that debate now.”
BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain added, “Whatever the CJI has said is right. There is no intolerance in the country.”