There’s no such thing in the Constitution of India as “too much noise”, Justice Gautam Patel said, as he highlighted the importance of dissent and disagreement in a democracy.
“Dissent and disagreement can be traced to our history and historical traditions,” the Bombay High Court judge, citing Historian Dr. Romila Thapar, said at a virtual discussion organised by The Leaflet on Constitution day. “But let me return to these attempts that are being made by the governments in power, the most recent of these attempts to muzzle dissent is also perhaps the most innovative and it comes from a surprising quarter.”
Justice Patel referred to a recent statement made by a serving bureaucrat related to new frontiers of war, and its critic.
“Both pointed out that their mandates and their oaths were to safeguard the values of the Constitution. Both decried this attempt to turn the full brunt of the police on the very people the police are meant to serve and protect,” he said without naming the persons concerned.
To be sure, The Print on Friday reported a statement by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval that said civil society is the new frontier of war, the fourth-generation warfare, and it’s the responsibility of police to protect people from being subverted, divided and manipulated. The news website also carried an article by Doval’s former batchmate criticising the NSA’s statement.
‘Idea Of India’
“If we are to look for the idea of India in one article of the Constitution, then it will be Article 1 which says ‘India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States’,” Justice Patel said.
He emphasised on the concept of time-limited governance. “We have never had that earlier in the history but adopted it in our Constitution.”
Besides, the adoption of adult sufferage is the marker of a radical change in the Indian Constitution, said Justice Patel. India chose to go the path of universal adult sufferage right after the adoption of the Constitution. “Through this, the fate of the country was given in the hands of the people.”
A Note Of Caution
One thing that the Constitution does not contemplate is “the comfort of the conformity or the tranquility of the familiar”, Justice Patel said. “The seed planted in our Constitution has taken hold and attempts to uproot it have not succeeded.”
Still, governments everywhere globally continue in their attempts to maintain control and to transition from a government to ruler. “That is something we should guard against.”
Former Supreme Court judge Justice Madan Lokur, Senior Advocate Darius Khambatta also spoke at the event.