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What Sabarimala Judgement Has Taught Us

By Ashit Kumar Srivastava

The Sabarimala judgment is not only a classic example of constitutional backlash, but it also reveals the amount of obedience the Supreme Court of India commands in India. Not only the Supreme Court has failed to foster respect for the judgment delivered by it from the citizens of India but at the same time, it has not been able to reconcile the unprecedented violence festered on the streets of Kerala in response to Sabarimala judgment.

This raises a viable question as to whether people of India are ready for a constitution which is so ideal in nature. Public uproar and untamable violence across different forums are just patent representation of the unsavory relation which is shared between the Supreme Court of India and People of India. Many people will accept this public outcry in name of valuable ‘dissent’, something which is an essential part of a healthy democracy. But even a cursory look will tell the difference between a healthy dissent and distortion of public property. Somewhere there is an institutional void, due to which the ‘due respect’ which the Supreme Court well and truly deserves is not being given to it. The people of India since the dawn of Indian constitution have been reluctant to follow the high ideals of Indian Constitution (whether it be the case of providing maintenance to Shayara Bano or opening of Hindu Temples to Dalits).   The institutional disrespect to the Supreme Court judgment is just a manifestation of this sheer incongruity between the written ideals and the living practicality.

The question which we need to really emphasize upon is as to what institutional void is causing this institutional mistrust. I personally feel the answer to it lies in a debate which took place over four decades ago in a 1971 debate between two of the megalithic philosophers of this era that is Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault at Netherland on ‘Human nature’. Wherein Foucault quite correctly emphasized on the institutional powers, he elaborately discerned that it is not only the institutions with sanctions which help in the functional running of an ordered society, because they can punish anyone who breaches their command, but rather it is also institutions without sanctions which also play a major role in fostering respect and humility for the Institutions with sanctions.

He doesn’t emphasise on institutions such as the Parliament, Supreme Court or the Police Stations but the emphasis on the role of educational system more specifically schools and colleges who for him do the role of fostering respect in the young minds for these institutions.  So is this the institutional void in India which is causing such distrust on the judicial system. Has the educational system in India failed to inculcate the necessary amount of respect for the dogmatic institutions of India or the majority of the people are deprived of this formal wisdom due to which they choose not to follow the institutional path?   

An educational system is as much part of the culture of a country as any other folklore and if the idea of institutional respect and healthy dissent are not inculcated in the masses; it inevitably opens the gate for anarchy and institutional disrespect. Especially a country like India, where still one-third of the population is suffering from illiteracy, this raises a question as to whether Indian education system is formalized enough to provide for institutional knowledge for a population exceeding just over a billion. With an expenditure of just below 3% of the GDP on the educational sector, it is not a far-fetched reality that most of the people are not able to taste the flavor of educational institutions. More narrowly, the knowledge of ‘Civil Polity’ is limited only to students mostly till class IXth or Xth. What are we doing wrong as a country for inculcating a culture of respect? Is the burden of respecting the Indian Institutions lying only on the shoulders of law students studying in various NLUs, State Universities and Central Universities who are well versed with the power of these institutions or is there a bigger educational void or rather culture flaw in our society.   

It is of utmost necessity that we create an ambiance of institutional respect, for it is under the watchful eyes of institutional security that we the people of India are able to exercise and cherish the valuable freedom. There is a huge difference between ‘dissenting’ from someone’s opinion and not respecting the authority of an institution. We the people of India are formal members of the Indian constitution, therefore, it is our mandatory duty to respect the institutions established by it.  Though we always have an option to show our displeasure over the decision taken by them that does not gives us the right to question its existence.

Ashit Kumar Srivastava is Assistant Professor of Law at National Law University-Odisha.


Image Source: Thewire

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