Formar Cheif Justice of High Court rule
Justice A P Shah
A cult of nationalism is on the ascent where anyone holding a view different from the government’s “acceptable view” is dubbed “anti-national”, former chief justice of Delhi High Court A P Shah said at Delhi.
Shah questioned the “nationalism” that forced one to “stand for the national anthem at a movie theatre” and being prescribed what people could and could not eat, what they could and could not see, and what they could and could not speak about. In an hour-long lecture, Shah spoke against forces that “instil a feeling within one of a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism”.
Delivering the M N Roy memorial lecture on ‘free speech, nationalism and sedition’, Shah almost equated the current discourse on “nationalism” with what eminent thinker and nationalist M N Roy said in 1942, “A parochial, selfish, narrow minded nationalism has caused so much misfortune and misery to the world. A mad and exaggerated form of this cult of nationalism is today running rampant.”
Shah said, “Unfortunately, our institutions of learning are under attack today and there is a concerted attempt to destroy any independent thought. Today, sadly, in this country I love, if anyone holds a view that is different from the government’s acceptable view, they are immediately dubbed as anti-national.”
He said this marker of “anti-national” was used to intimidate and browbeat voices of dissent and criticism, and more worryingly, could be used to slap criminal charges of sedition against them.
He also did not agree with the Supreme Court’s national anthem order and said, “It is important to remember that the right to free speech and expression also includes the right not to speak or express ourselves. However, under the guise of law, the court has now stepped in and restricted our fundamental rights.”
Institutions of Learning under Attack
He cautioned against the perils of muzzling dissent on university campuses where, unfortunately, sloganeering and flag-raising have become tests of nationalism. “We have a 21-year-old university student who is subject to severe online hate, abuse and threats only because she dared express her views,” he said.
Elaborating on his background, his maternal grandfather was president of the Hindu Mahasabha in the 1940s, Shah questioned RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s call for a national law against cow slaughter. “We must be wary of forcing a single ideology or way of living on the entire country, especially a country as diverse as India, where states such as Kerala, or the various states in the north-east, consider beef a staple part of their diet.”
Shah criticised the crackdown on slaughter houses in UP. “Crackdowns that are primarily targeted at Muslim butchers are not only leaving lakhs of people with fear, but without stable employment,” he said.
In attendance at the lecture were, Law Commission Chairman Justice B S Chauhan and former and sitting judges of the apex court, including the third senior-most judge of the SC Justice J Chelameswar, besides other eminent persons from the legal fraternity. Speaking later, Justice Chelameswar concurred with Shah’s views. On a lighter note, though, he said that bound by his constitutional obligation, he didn’t enjoy the same freedom of speech as Shah.
Courtesy : The Times of India