Why is SC distracted with non-vital issues?

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Edit

The Supreme Court also recently persuaded itself to hear a plea to have Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination investigated afresh.

Supreme Court of India (Photo: PTI)

It would have been another matter if the Supreme Court had seized the opportunity that recently presented itself to pronounce on the subject of the death penalty, that has been abolished in many leading countries, and is a matter of impassioned debate worldwide, involving not just theologians, humanists, liberals and pro-life people, but also ordinary citizens worldwide.

No matter what view the Supreme Court took on the issue, it may have been an important contribution for the record. Alas, the court frittered the chance and in the process allowed a non-priority matter to hog judicial time in a nation where the backlog of cases has become unconscionably high.

A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Mishra heard a petition Thursday urging an end to the practice of death by hanging, replacing it with a more “dignified”, “peaceful”, and “less painful” means of terminating the life of a convict awarded the death sentence.

The petitioner, a lawyer, suggested shooting (it wasn’t clear whether he meant by firing squad or a quiet shot to the head from point-blank range) or by a poison injection (as in the United States). Members of the bench voiced their views on these two suggestions, that clearly did not satisfy them. Nevertheless, they asked the government to bring legislation to substitute death by hanging with a more humane method, taking advantage of the march of science and technology.

Evidently, their lordships thought the matter important enough to be allowed to consume the court’s time. The Supreme Court also recently persuaded itself to hear a plea to have Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination investigated afresh. We don’t know if the petitioner offered cogent grounds for the cause he is pursuing, and a viable alternative hypothesis of the kind that Nathuram Godse, a member of a fanatical Hindu right-wing body, was wrongly hanged for the murder.

It’s hard to say what to expect next — maybe the causes of the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny, which many consider was the first war of independence, or nearer our own time, the factors that had possibly led to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, or the trial of Bhagat Singh.

Our legislatures and our executive provide us ample entertainment from time to time as they discharge their constitutional function. It appears it is now time for the dispensers of justice to play catch-up. In Rajasthan, it may be recalled, a high court judge, on the eve of his retirement recently, had shaken us with mirth when he pronounced in open court that the peahen gives birth without the due process of reproduction. The Supreme Court will naturally go into weightier matters — such as the method of carrying out of the death sentence and the Mahatma Gandhi murder.