The criminal law including the anti-terror legislation should not be misused for quelling dissent or harassment of citizens, Supreme Court judge Justice DY Chandrachud has said while underlining the role of the apex court in protecting fundamental rights in challenging times. Observing the SC plays the role of a “counter-majoritarian institution”, Justice Chandrachud said it is the duty of the top court to “protect the rights of socio-economic minorities”. “The Supreme Court has to act in furtherance of its role as sentinel on the qui vive (watchful guardian) and respond to the call of Constitutional conscience and it is this role that prompts it to address the challenges of the 21st century, ranging from the pandemic to the rise of intolerance, features which we find across the world,” he said, adding that some termed interventions as “judicial activism” or “judicial overreach”.
Justice Chandrachud made these comments while speaking on the “Role of the SC in protecting fundamental rights in challenging times” at a conference hosted by the American Bar Association with the Society of Indian Law Firms and Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. He referred to the SC orders on decongestion of jails during the Covid pandemic and said while it is important prisons are decongested as they are susceptible to becoming virus hotspots, but it is equally important to examine why they are congested in the first place.
Referring to his judgment in the Arnab Goswami case, he said: “The criminal law, including anti-terror legislation should not be misused for quelling dissent or for the harassment of citizens. As I noted in Arnab Goswami vs The State of Maharashtra & Ors, ‘our courts must ensure they continue to remain the first line of defence against the deprivation of the liberty of citizens. Deprivation of liberty even for a single day is one too many. We must always be mindful of the deeper systemic implications of our decisions.”