The bench of Punjab and Haryana High Court, which last week made references to the Prime Minister and Chief Minister during the hearing of a Public Interest Litigation on the law and order situation in the state, said on Tuesday that it was quoted out of context by the media while reporting the observations. During the resumed hearing of the case, Acting Chief Justice S S Saron addressed Additional Solicitor General of India Satya Pal Jain in open court and said his statement was taken out of context and “it was not intentional” when he said that Prime Minister and Chief Minister are not of any party, but of the nation.
“National integration and law and order are above everything. We are one nation, not a party nation. Politicians need to understand that the nation is one. It is the Prime Minister of India, not BJP. It is the Chief Minister of the state, not BJP. You (Satya Pal Jain) are Additional Solicitor General of India, not of any party,” Justice Saron had said at a special hearing on August 26 on the violence in Panchkula in the wake of the conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. The Indian Express, among others, had reported these remarks made by the court.
The remarks by the Acting Chief Justice today evoked sharp reaction from senior advocate Anupam Gupta who was present in court. He is an amicus curiae in the Jat agitation case before a Division bench of Justice Saron and Justice Avneesh Jhingan. Gupta said: “This is a sign of weakness. PM is not above law. My Lords are entitled to their opinion. Is PM Modi’s persona larger than the Court?” said Gupta. “Media is not the culprit here. Journalists were beaten. They were reporting from the ground.”
Amid arguments and counter-arguments between Jain and Gupta, Justice Saron said the court’s intention is to stay away from anything which is political. “We are afraid of no one. Don’t misquote our observations. Quote what we write in the orders…rest is the general discussion. They (media) have to do it with responsibility,” he said.
Justice Surya Kant said the media had not behaved responsibly by quoting the observation of the bench and nobody has right to misquote the observations in a different context. “We are talking about media who have acted irresponsibly and not everyone,” he said.
Applauding the judges’ remarks, eminent jurist Fali Nariman had written in The Indian Express: “This has been a Great Week – not only because of the shots-in-the-arm-to-the-country’s-citizenry by two sets of earth-shaking judgments by our Supreme Court, but because of the harsh words spoken by the Judges of the Punjab and Haryana High Court (furious after seeing the carnage around them): that India’s Prime Minister is of the entire country, not just of the political party in power, that the Chief Minister is not of the BJP but of the entire State of Haryana. Lord Keynes once famously said that words sometimes have to be harsh – ‘because they are an assault on the thoughts of the un-thinking.’!”
The bench includes Acting Chief Justice S S Saron who is set to retire on September 3; Justice Surya Kant and Justice Avneesh Jhingan. Justice Saron was appointed Acting Chief Justice during the absence of the Chief Justice Shiavax Jal Vazifdar who was on leave from August 21 to August 29.