Uniformity in personal liberty

Kashmir Times. Dated: 11/13/2020 11:41:59 PM

Two yardsticks cannot be applied on bail applications

The Supreme Court in deciding the bail application of TV anchor Arnab Goswami has rightly laid down that it was a matter of personal liberty and a technicality (of not proceeding with an ordinary bail application) cannot be a ground to deny someone personal liberty. The arrest of Goswami, who has earned notoriety for alleged fake TRPs and for promoting hatred and fake news, appeared to have been a case of political vendetta by Maharashtra government. Even if there is substantive evidence to link him to the suicide of architect Avnay Naik and his mother, the laws have evidently been bent to arrest him without a formal re-opening of the shut case and the filing of a chargesheet. Observing that the Bombay High Court “was in error” in rejecting his bail application, Justice DY Chandrachud not only averred that bails ought to generally be granted as a matter of rule, he in fact took on a pro-active stand by averring that "If we don't interfere in this case today, we will walk on the path of destruction. ……If we as a Constitutional Court do not lay down law and protect liberty, then who will?” The apex court is spot on because the onus of protecting the individual liberties of the countries citizens lies on it. However, the applicability of this thumb rule for personal liberty needs to be applied more uniformly. A well known principle of law is that generally that bail ought to be granted as a matter of rule. However, this principle has not been uniformly applied. The Indian legal justice system for years is riddled with inequalities and there is no dearth of cases, many of them well documented, of how people have had to struggle to access courts and even when they have managed such access their liberty is not protected.
Such an non-uniform handling of bail pleas has become far more pronounced in recent years with mostly those dissenting from the BJP government not accorded liberty but those affiliated and associated with BJP-RSS or their ideology are easily let off even when some of them have been accused of heinous crimes. This bias was brazenly on display in the Delhi riots case where peaceful anti-CAA protestors were denied bails but those in its favour but accused of rioting and hate-speeches were easily given bail. Shameful is also the prolonged incarceration of many activists like Sudha Bhardawaj and Varvara Rao despite their frail health. On the day that Arnab Goswami walked out free, the Mumbai High Court denied Rao relief even though he is bed-ridden and 80 years old with dementia and serious multiple ailments. Last month, another octagenarian activist working for tribal rights, Stan Swamy, who suffers from Parkinsons, was arrested and his plea for basic aids to get on with his daily routine including a sipper for drinking water has been kept on hold. Does liberty stop at the threshold of the critics of the government of the day? The courts of the country are seen as protectors of personal liberty and are seen as non-partisan institutions. They cannot be seen as employing two different yardsticks on litigations of similar nature or on bail pleas. The law and its spirit must be applied uniformly for the dispensation of justice not for persecution of some who are seen to be on the wrong side of the rulers and the powerful lobbies.



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