The 218-page affidavit filed by the Central government before the Supreme Court on Sunday evening is myopic, dangerous, and just the answer a demagogue would make to the country’s apex court. It is tantamount to saying, “I can do no wrong”. The Centre’s affidavit is dangerous because it even threatens the court by stating that “Any overzealous, though well-meaning, judicial intervention may lead to unforeseen and unintended consequences in absence of any expert advice.”
The apex court wants to know the facts first, decisions will be taken later. The executive has not done that. The court has appointed an amicus curiae to help it get the expert advice that may be needed to find out if the Centre is taking the right steps. After all, hundreds of thousands of people have died because all along the government believed that the “wisdom of the executive should be trusted”. If the wisdom of the executive were to be trusted, there would not be a blanket veil of silence surrounding the deaths in Uttar Pradesh. If there were wisdom, the state would not have arrested people who cried out for help or complained of oxygen or vaccine shortages.
And the consequences of this wisdom can be seen even beyond this pandemic. Since 2013, the Supreme Court has wanted the government to table a list of child care institutions (CCIs) with details on their compliance with regulations. Uttar Pradesh failed to do so. The ‘wisdom of the executive’ has refused to collect details from Uttar Pradesh to date. Had this wisdom been respected in the past, the victims in Unnao, Hathras and Muzaffarpur would not have got justice. It was the Supreme Court which ordered the cases to be transferred to courts where the executive could not interfere with the judicial process.
It is the ‘wisdom of the executive’ which allowed vigilantes on the streets, till the Supreme Court ordered the government to rein them in. And does the ‘wisdom of the executive’ remember what has happened to Pehlu Khan? It was the same ‘wisdom of the executive’ that got scores of Tablighis arrested on a variety of charges, only to have various courts release them for utter lack of evidence.
The same executive that allowed a vilification campaign against everyone who opposed its policies and often slapping them with the most draconian of laws. Each time, individual liberty and dignity was protected by the courts, not the executive. Finally, it was the same wisdom that extended the tenure of a judge who gave the skin-to-skin verdict, which was not only unwise, but went against common sense.
The executive has blood on its hands. It has – through criminal abdication of common sense, not executive wisdom – caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands.
It needs to get its decisions reviewed by the courts. Not doing so would make the government itself behave like the vigilantes it promoted.