A hidebound Jayalalithaa
It is unlikely that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa will change her supercilious and arrogant ways following the severe strictures passed against the State Government in the Kanchi Shankaracharya case. In a not-so-distant past when decent norms and values were still held high by people holding public offices, the petitioners would not have felt any need to knock at the doors of the apex court to seek to restrain a headstrong Chief Minister.
But in the rare case when such a course did become necessary, an indictment handed down by the highest court in the land would have inevitably led to the resignation of the concerned CM. Remember how the then Punjab Chief Minister the late Pratap Singh Kairon was made to step down following an adverse judicial ruling.
But nowadays our politicians are made of a different hide which can absorb all insults and reprimands without them feeling the need to react. In the present case too, it is unlikely that Jayalalithaa will construe the strong indictment of her government as a signal for her to express remorse. She will carry on unmindful of the indictment indeed she might try to press ahead with her vendetta against the Kanchi seer regardless.
Rulers wreaking vengeance on their enemies, real or imaginary, by misusing the police and other agencies of the State is commonplace in banana republics ruled by tin-pot dictators. But trying to hound out one's critics and political opponents in a thriving democratic set-up like ours through agencies of the State is to justly invite a strong rebuff from the judiciary, which, mercifully, still retains its independence and impartiality while the other limbs of the State seem to have corroded due to excessive misuse and abuse.
The Chief Justice R. C. Lahoti and Justice G. P. Mathur in their order on a plea on behalf of the seer for the transfer of the case outside Tamil Nadu found that the Tamil Nadu Government was showing `interest in securing the conviction of the seer and halting the religious activities of the Mutt."
Justice Mathur, speaking for the bench, indicted the State Government in the strongest of terms possible: "We have discussed above many facets of the case which do show that the State machinery is not only taking an undue interest but is going to any extent in securing the conviction of the accused by any means and to stifle even publication of any article or expression of dissent in media or Press, interview by journalists or persons who have held high positions in public life and are wholly unconnected with the criminal case."
Further, the court disapproved "serious attempts by the State machinery to implicate lawyers even remotely connected with the defence of the accused." Noting that the State Government "cannot tolerate any kind of dissent which is the most cherished right in a democracy", the court strongly disapproved the attempt to freeze the accounts of the Mutt and to create "a fear psychosis in the minds of the people associated with the Mutt."
The court transferred the case against the seer to Pondicherry, though it would have been ideal if it had been transferred to Andhra Pradesh, as requested by the seer, or even Karnataka. Since Pondicherry too is ruled by Jayalalithaa's party, she is in a strong position to continue her foul games against the seer.
It is remarkable that the slew of cases against Jayalalithaa, including a case of disproportionate assets, were transferred to Bangalore following a plea by the DMK in the apex court. After she had regained power in the State, the Tamil Nadu CM was accused of interfering in the prosecution in order to come out unscathed in the cases against her.
Significantly, the silence of the entire political class and of large sections of the media following the strongest possible indictment of the Tamil Nadu government underlines the debasement of the secularist-communal debate into a clear appeasement of the minority community. Even her bitter political enemies such as the DMK have stopped short of seeking her resignation for fear of annoying the Muslim vote-bank in the State.
The so-called liberals in the media would not take cudgels against Jayalalithaa because they do not want to be seen even by implication to be sympathetic towards the Hindu seer. Consider the hue and cry the same people would have made were the court strictures to be passed against a BJP-led State government which was harassing an Imam of a prominent mosque. Hypocrisy and pseudo-secularism are two sides of the same coin called appeasement or minorityism.
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