Halsbury’s Law’s December issue is on many facets of Human rights. Contributors and interviewees include Justices Srikrishna,(historical and contemporary overview) J.S.Verma, and Sujata Manohar. In this issue, Chaitanya Kalbag cross-examines Justice J.S.Verma and Virendra Dayal. Excerpt from his interview with Justice Verma:
“Halsbury’s Law Monthly: Was that a case of taking too doctrinaire a view in ADM Jabalpur?
Justice Verma: Both of them (Justices Chandrachud and Bhagwati) were outstanding judges, highly intellectual. Something which was so wrong, which they said in their judgments, I am not inclined to believe that they didn’t know that what they were saying was wrong. I think that was something which was knowingly done because of the prevailing fear psychosis. I know what kind of a fear was generated for us. I would not like to dilate on that because I have lived through it.”.
“HLM: Law and order is a State subject in India. Do you think that has been a reason for a lot of the problems we have because when there is a breakdown of law and order at the State level, that also forces aberrations like the army being sent in to perform peacekeeping duty, where it should not be, and so on and so forth? Do you feel that there should have been a better thought given to this by the Constitution?
Justice Verma: Let us see things as they are. True, law and order is a State subject, but there is Article 355 in the Constitution, which precedes Article 356 in the Constitution. It is the duty of the Union Government, the Centre, to see that the Constitutional provisions are observed by every State Government and if there is a failure of the working of the Constitution in any State, that’s a ground for imposing President’s Rule, and we have had more President’s Rules than could be justified. Once again referring to Gujarat because we tried to do so much there…we gave notice to the Union Government, asking why they were not acting under Article 355 to tell the Gujarat Government to perform its function…The Union Government kept replying that were studying it, as if it required too much of study. If those whose duty it was to study, needed so much time, then I think they were not fit to hold those offices. But anyway, they kept on studying and did not respond till I left the NHRC, but in the meantime the Rajya Sabha took up this issue and passed a resolution, which no one opposed…obviously who could oppose such an obviously reasonable thing. So a resolution was passed, but it stayed there.
Our Constitution is quasi-federal with a unitary bias, so I don’t think the Centre can throw up its hands and say they can’t do anything. Law and Order being a State subject, the Centre cannot keep on interfering repeatedly and needlessly, and cannot be given the authority to run down its political rivals, but that does mean that it can’t do anything except sit sucking or twiddling its thumbs. So the political will should be there and the eyes should not just be on retaining power or the vote bank.”