On Friday (6 September 2019), to the shock of many conscientious citizens, two resignations rocked the headlines. Sasikanth Senthil, Deputy Commissioner of Mangalore, announced his resignation from the coveted IAS. On the same day evening, it was the turn of Madras High Court’s Chief Justice Tahil Ramani.
Both the resignations portray a very sorry picture of the state of our once thriving democracy.
Senthil a native of Tamil Nadu belongs to 2009 batch of IAS. He is a product of the then Regional Engineering College Trichy (now NIT) after which he cracked the IAS. A topper in Tamil Nadu, he secured 9th position overall in the exam. Officers who worked with him are highly in praise of him for his innovative methods in handling various crisis. During his posting as Assistant Commissioner Bellary, Senthil along with his team seized several lorries belonging to the Reddy brothers which were smuggling illegal iron ore. Even in his last posting as Deputy Commissioner of Mangalore, he took stern action against the sand mafia which was wreaking havoc to the eco system of the coastal region.
A report in Times of India says As the executive head of a district that has witnessed the devastating effects of illegal sand mining, Senthil and Dakshina Kannada police busted the sand mafia’s operations in the district river valleys, particularly along the coastal banks of Nethravathi, seizing lakhs of assets from the perpetrators and severely crippling their operations.
In May 2019, Senthil launched a portal (www.dksandbazaar.com) and an app to promote transparency in sand extraction while curbing illegal extraction. The administration made it mandatory for all sand extracted from CRZ to be sold only through portal – largely eliminating illegal transportation of sand to other states. The portal was such a success that it inspired neighbouring Udupi to emulate the initiative”.
Speaking to a few media outlets, Deccan Herald Senthil cited ideological issues for his resignation.
“There was no pressure either from the State government or from the local MLAs. There were ideological issues. I could not compromise with a few happenings in the country. Hence, I have tendered resignation. I had been living based on a few principles. A few of the developments in the country are working against my principles. I could not continue by compromising with it. To continue in the post, I had to go against my principles which I had been believing all these years”, said Senthil. In an interview to the Hindu, Senthil reiterated the reasons for his resignation.
“Many current developments have been disturbing me for quite some time. We enter service with an idealistic background to uphold the spirit of the Constitution. When that gets eroded, we cannot speak being within the system, and hence the decision.”
Sashikanth Senthil’s views echoes another IAS officer who resigned two weeks ago. Kannan Gopinathan, a 2012 batch IAS officer put in his papers against the policies of BJP government, more particularly in Kashmir. In an event at Chennai, Kannan Gopinathan said, “More than the scrapping of the state’s special status under Article 370 the lack of response to it is more upsetting. None was asking the government. Suddenly we all became part of the government and all of us felt obligated to be part of something historic. When institutions fail, individuals should stand up. There is no other way.”
Senthil was more candid in an interview given to the news portal The News Minute.
“One of the tenets of a fascist framework is to replace rational debate with hyper-nationalism. The moment you start a debate, the third argument invariably will be whether you are an anti-national. This brings in the question of your loyalty to the nation. If people are not shown that this is part of a larger framework, they will never understand why someone is debating. It is important for the media, free press and bureaucracy to debate this.
Our country is built upon values enshrined in our Constitution. It is a broad understanding that there might be differences in ideology but that cannot be beyond the spirit of the Constitution. We are supposed to implement policies within the framework of Constitutional values. When something is right according to the letter of the law but it does not stand the test of the spirit of our Constitution, then it is wrong”
Senior journalist RK.Radhakrishnan, commenting on the resignation of these two officers said, “Young people get into the service with a hope of working in a democratic and secular environment. It is understandable that when they find the atmosphere toxic they will find it difficult. But, the fact is that these young officers could have done a lot more to the society by remaining in the service.”.
Another shocking resignation is of the Madras High Court’s Chief Justice Tahil Ramani. Rumours were agog in the corridors of Madras High Court about the impending transfer of Justice Ramani to Meghalaya High Court. Most of the advocates were shocked to hear this and believed it could only be a rumour. However, the Supreme Court collegium, not only resolved to transfer her to Meghalaya HC, but also mentioned in the resolution that “Justice Ramani’s plea for reconsideration of the transfer has been considered and rejected”.
The Supreme Court collegium functioning like an opaque boys’ club gave no reason whatsoever for the abrupt transfer of Justice Ramani, who is due to retire in October next year. Representation has been sent by a section of advocates from Madras High Court to cancel the transfer order of Justice Ramani. The representation read, “To now transfer her to one of the smallest High Courts is nothing short of a punishment and a humiliation. It cannot be justified on the principle of administrative interests, which is an expression that can be used in every case. It is ironical that a person of her seniority is being assigned to the smallest High Court. Any transfer should meet with an element of fairness but it is noticed, of late, that there appear to be no norms in the matter of transfer of judges,”
Informed sources say, a Supreme Court judge, who is a frequent visitor to Chennai was behind the transfer of Justice Ramani. The source also added that the SC judge wanted a woman advocate from Madras High Court to be recommended for elevation which Justice Ramani promptly shot down on grounds of merits. Further, whenever the said SC judge made a private visit to Chennai, he had insisted on the Madras High Court CJ to pay respects which Justice Ramani failed to do so. Since all the visits are private, Justice Ramani, appears to have avoided paying a courtesy visit. This too has incensed the SC judge which resulted in the transfer of Justice Ramani to Meghalaya, which is considered as a punishment.
Meghalaya High Court is one of the smallest High Courts in the country with a total sanctioned strength of just three. The total pending cases in the entire High Court is just 767 as of July 2019. Whereas, the Madras High Court from which she is transferred now, has a sanctioned strength of 75 with a total pendency of more than 4 lakh cases.
Justice Ramani ran a tight ship as Chief Justice of the Madras High Court. This court had a practise of bench hopping by several advocates. Whenever an advocate seeks a change of bench or, a Judge recuses from hearing a matter, it would automatically go to another judge nominated for such purpose, according to the system that Justice Tahil Ramani put in place.
Some of the High Court judges, even after they are given a different portfolio, chose to retain certain matters as part-heard and continued to hear and pass orders. Chief Justice Ramani, abolished the “part-heard” practice. She avoided unnecessarily meeting advocates or even judges. She ensured that, whatever one wants to convey to the Chief Justice, it should be in writing.
In spite of her fine performance as Chief Justice, the opaque SC collegium chose to transfer her to Meghalaya.
Justice Ramani, has sent her resignation to the Chief Justice of India and the President of India, which she confirmed during a dinner of judges yesterday.
The resignation of IAS officer and a senior Chief Justice of Madras High Court clearly indicate that the rot in our democracy is deep. And it is going deeper by the day.
Kashmir, an Indian state (or rather UT), is tied up in concertina wires and the population is locked up without communication for more than 32 days. Without internet, landline or any means of communication, Kashmiris are fuming in anger. Protesting people are shot with pellet guns and the administration ensures that even the injuries and deaths are not reported.
The media, which is supposed to be the guardian of democracy has turned into an arm of Goebbels. Independent journalists are trolled and bullied and demoralized by the troll wing of the party with active encouragement from none other than PM Modi himself. The media actively encourages lynch mob mentality and fans hatred with aggression.
The judiciary which is supposed to uphold the fundamental rights and the Constitution, turns a Nelson’s eye to the flagrant violations. The judiciary even during the emergency, showed some spine which is totally absent now. Only after several High Courts in India, passed orders quashing the detentions of several political leaders and activists during emergency, government moved the Supreme Court to seek clarity, which, in one of the darkest judgments in Indian judicial history, upheld the views of the government and ruled against fundamental rights. The then CJI, Justice Ray, went to the extent of saying “In period of public danger of apprehension, the protective law which gives every man security and confidence in times of tranquillity has to give way to interest of the State”. Along with Justice Ray, three other Judges, echoed the government views, and put the entire judiciary into shame in the eyes of the world.
Now, Habeas Corpus, which is an instrument to ensure fundamental right has also been turned into a mockery of sorts by the Supreme Court. In a shocking remark, the Chief Justice of India Justice Ranjan Gogoi, during the hearing of a Habeas Corpus petition by Iltija Mufti, daughter of Mehbooba Mufti insensitively remarked “Why do you want to move around? It is very cold in Srinagar”. On all the Habeas Corpus petitions, the only concession allowed by the Bench led by CJI was, the petitioner can visit a particular person, surrounded by police. The order also came with a caveat that the visitor should only visit the person as ordered by the Court and not anywhere else. The remark of the CJI is nothing short of the famous remark of Marie Antionette “Let them eat cake”.
While adjourning for two weeks, a writ petition challenging the imposition of restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir, following the abrogation of Article 370, an SC bench, on August 12, 2019, merely accepted the pleas of the Attorney General on behalf of Centre to the effect that, “we have to ensure that law and order situation in Jammu and Kashmir is maintained and that it will take a few days to return to normalcy.” It further observed, “the situation is such that nobody knows what exactly is happening there. Some time should be given for bringing normalcy”.
The Supreme Court, the custodian of the constitution, has clearly abrogated its responsibility by trusting the very government, which has imposed the blackout and curtailed fundamental rights. Senior lawyers in Supreme Court in private, say, that there is no point in approaching Supreme Court against the government in any matter whatsoever.
In such dark times, the bold resignations of IAS officers and Judge of High Court show light at the end of tunnel and offer a ray of hope. Men who defy the tide and make bold decisions alone make history.
A Delhi based journalist, who doesn’t want to be named, on the resignations of IAS officers and CJ of Madras HC, said, “There is no doubt that something is amiss in this country since 2014. BJP which came to power selling dreams of development seems to have done everything other than what they promised. The ‘Gujarat Model of Governance’ is being implemented all across the country. Gujarat Model of governance is an age old model of dividing people, communities, instil fear, propagate hate, take control of institutions, suppress facts, muzzle voices of dissent and weaken the opposition.
Almost all agencies including IT, CBI, NIA, ED and others whose sole responsibility is to uphold the rule of law have become a bunch of mercenaries unleashed against the opposition parties or those who don’t fall in line.
Those who hold constitutional posts as Governors, whose job is to uphold the constitution have morphed into power brokers, turning a blind eye to horse trading by BJP and enabling them to bring down governments in non-BJP ruled states. From Arunachal to Karnataka to Tamil Nadu the story is the same. The high office of the Governor has been reduced to that of power broker.
Modi & Shah combine wants to control every institution including the Judiciary. This is quite evident and at the same point a huge matter of concern.
The media that is supposed to hold power to account has become the lapdog of the ruling dispensation and has been blatantly helping BJP in advancing their agenda.
Any Indian citizen who is concerned about what is happening in this country and how our democracy being derailed can’t be a mute spectator. IAS officers too are not an exception.
Two young and active IAS officers quitting from service citing ‘democracy in danger’ shows that there is something terribly going wrong on in this country. I see these resignations as the purest form of national interest and upholding the right to dissent.
Similarly, there has been a lot of criticism against judiciary too and some of the recent developments within the judiciary have only shattered hopes of those who still believe in the rule of law.
Two judges raising concerns over collegium’s decision and judges being forced to resign due to the arbitrary decisions clearly conveys that something is rotten in this country. It’s high time that individuals decide if they want to be a part of group that wants to kill democracy or protect it.”
When Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was appearing mighty during emergency, and the entire judiciary cowed down before her meekly, one man stood up. Justice HR.Khanna, defied the majority view in the ADM Jhabalpur case and upheld the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution. Justice Khanna wrote, “What is at stake is the rule of law. If it could be the boast of a great English judge that the air of England is too pure for a slave to breathe, cannot we also say that this sacred land shall not suffer an eclipse of the rule of law and that the Constitution and Indian laws do not permit life and liberty to be at the mercy of absolute power of the executive, a power against which there can be no redress in courts of law?”
Indira Gandhi punished him by denying him the Chief Justice post and elevated Justice HN.Beg. Justice Khanna resigned immediately in protest.
The New York Times, glorified Justice Khanna in its editorial on 30 April 1976. It wrote, “If India ever finds its way back to the freedom and democracy that were proud hallmarks of its first eighteen years as an independent nation, someone will surely erect a monument to Justice H. R. Khanna of the Supreme Court., It was Mr. Justice Khanna who spoke out fearlessly and eloquently for freedom this week dissenting from the Court’s decision upholding the right of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s Government to imprison political opponents at will and without court hearings.”
History remembered only Justice HR.Khanna and the likes of Rays and Begs are marked in the dark pages of history.
George Orwell said, “In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
The Judge and the IAS officers, by choosing to speak the truth have done a revolutionary act, for which they will always be kindly remembered by this nation.