Friday, September 18, 2009

Mayawati's Statues and the Supreme Court

I was intrigued to read this news item today in The Hindu about the Supreme Court's intervention into Mayawati's statue building project. Here is what Justice B.N.Agrawal said:

“Suppose today the legislature decides that 80 per cent of the budgetary allocation should be spent on such works of memorials and statues, is it not justiciable,” Justice Agrawal asked. “The Cabinet and the legislature have to act within the framework of the Constitution.”

Actually, it is not justiciable. The legislature is at full liberty to decide to spend 100% of budgetary allocation on memorials and statues. There is absolutely nothing in the constitution to prevent it. We are supposed to be a progressive country but what is progress is for society and its leaders to decide. Also, democratic societies are not required to progress owing to any law. They are perfectly entitled to rot.

Mayawati is free to launch an aggressive monument building enterprise and convince people of Uttar Pradesh that it is in their best interest. The people, likewise, are equally free to throw her out in the next election if her explanation does not convince them. Either way, the Supreme Court has no say in the matter and its intervention is entirely unwarranted.


Xinhua Ram said...

Maybe we need a constitutional authority to check Judicial overreach, which has been turning farcical over the years.

Pilid said...


It is difficult to create such an authority; so I would say we need better judges who understand the limited role of the judiciary in a constitutional democracy. In the US, the senate panel holding hearings always asks this question to every nominee during the hearings. In India, there is unfortunately no check of any kind.

I, Me, Myself ! said...

If Mayawati goes about her statue building spree, the damage to the system is already done, even if the people throw her out after 5 years. The new government will not dare to demolish these statues, and therefore they are here to stay.

In the 5 year period between the elections, it is very important that checks and balances are put in place to prevent farces like this only. Judiciary is the only system in the country so far that can at times control these maniac decisions by the Mayawatis.

That said, Justice Agarwal's comment that legislature's resolution is justicable is surprising. If his intention is that the basic framework of the constitution needs to be adhered to, the definition of the basic framework doesn't fit into this particular case. If his intention is that the Judiciary does not mind getting proactive if it feels that legislature is overdoing its mandate, that is a very dangerous area to enter into!

Your suggestion of having a process to choose better judges is very pertinent too. Those who advocate changes in the system, are just averse to a change in their system! The irony cannot be more striking.

- Sudhir