Unheard of things are happening these days. Never before had a Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha asked a member to explain why he wrote an article in a newspaper. In a shocking, unprecedented instance, Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar has in his capacity as Chairman of the Upper House asked John Brittas of the CPM to explain the circumstances in which he wrote an article in an English newspaper. In the article, he is alleged to have criticised Home Minister Amit Shah of being biased towards Kerala. A BJP member from the state had written a complaint to the Chairman against Brittas. He was asked to explain. Accordingly, the Rajya Sabha MP met the Vice-Chairman and explained to him the circumstances in which he wrote the impugned article. Though not confirmed, he has been asked to give the explanation in writing.
This raises the question under what authority the Chairman intervened in the matter. If Brittas, who was chosen as one of the best parliamentarians, had written something scandalous or cast aspersions on the Home Minister, the latter has the necessary power to initiate action against him under the law of libel. He can also demand monetary compensation. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was recently punished for defamation by liberally defining what constituted defamation. Immediately after he was given two years’ imprisonment, the Lok Sabha secretariat did not take any time to declare him an ex-MP. In this case, the Chairman has taken a proactive stance, which does not redound to the credit of the institution he presides over. Tit for tat is of the essence in politics. It was not long ago that Prime Minister Narendra Modi compared Kerala to Somalia only to get a rebuke from the people cutting across all political divides.
Freedom of speech is one of the inalienable rights of the citizen. Democracy will lose its sheen, if the people are deprived of this right. That no less a person than a Member of Parliament has been asked to explain why he wrote an article would send the wrong signal to the people. As it is, the space for criticism and dissent has been shrinking, with the government using coercive tactics against critics and dissenters. If today John Brittas has to explain why he wrote an article, what guarantee is there that such powers would not be invoked against journalists and others too?
Divorce is a growing reality
Marriages are said to be made in heaven but consummated on earth. Although it is one of the oldest institutions of mankind, it has been undergoing challenges that may eventually destabilise it, as in some western countries. The Supreme Court has given the verdict that where a court has concluded that a marriage has irrecoverably failed, there is no need to wait for any cooling off period. Until a few decades ago, marriage was easy but divorce was difficult. And if one party decided to contest the divorce application of the other, the divorce proceedings could take more than even a decade. Things have changed so much that if both parties move the court mutually, divorce is possible within six months. Under Monday’s verdict, there is no need for the court to wait for even six months if it feels that there is no way the couple can remain united.
It will be a misery for both if they are forced to remain man and wife when they find that their marriage has totally failed and it cannot be revived. In such circumstances, it is better to let them be freed from the yoke of marriage. The five-member Bench led by Justice SK Kaul also decided against the Supreme Court letting the parties to directly approach the court claiming that there is an “irretrievable breakdown of marriage”. In doing so, the court reiterated that under Article 142 of the Constitution, the apex court has the power to dissolve a matrimonial alliance. However, the court does not want to be inundated with exponentially increasing divorce cases. Nonetheless, the verdict is intended to ease the process of divorce, which is at present so cumbersome and time-consuming that it serves little social or legal purpose.