The worst casualty of all these authoritarian and majoritarian actions is the right to dissent.
The Indian republic is passing through bizarre times. Bizarre, because the republic has come to such a pass that democratic rights and practices are under serious threat. And the threat is felt more by those citizens who seek to exercise their right to dissent, the essence of democracy. Anyone who opposes a government act, anyone who talks of universalism or anyone who denounces ubernationalism is now being painted a traitor. Those who seek to critique the powers-that-be are pounced upon by the executive and put behind bars. Independent media reporting events truthfully has long become a rare activity. The worst casualty of all these authoritarian and majoritarian actions is the right to dissent.
It’s in this context that we should cheer the refreshing, if rare voices coming out of the benches. Justice Deepak Gupta of the Supreme Court has categorically stated that “just because you hold a contrary view does not mean you are going against the country. It may be towards the government, but not towards the country”. If some party gets 51 per cent votes, it doesn’t mean that the other 49 per cent should accept whatever is done by the majority without protest, Justice Gupta said, delivering a lecture on “democracy and dissent” organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association last week. On Wednesday, a division bench of Justice S. Muraleedhar and Anup Bhambhani of the Delhi high court made it plain to the Delhi police that the court will not allow “another 1984... especially under the watch of the court and under the police”.
While welcoming the courageous stand of some of the members of the bench, democracy lovers must remember that they are now reduced to celebrating something which must be taken for granted. This is sad. We need our institutions to champion the spirit of democracy and dissent, always and everytime. Such judges must be the rule, not the exception.