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Opposing govt not anti-national activity: SC judge

Opposing govt not anti-national activity: SC judge
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Any attempt to quell dissent would have a chilling effect on the democracy as 'governments are not always right'

New Delhi: Any attempt to quell dissent would have a chilling effect on the democracy as "governments are not always right" and those opposing it couldn't be labelled anti-national, said Justice Deepak Gupta of the Supreme Court, here on Monday.

Speaking at a lecture on democracy and dissent, hosted by the Supreme Court Bar Association, Justice Gupta said the majoritarianism was anti-thesis to democracy. "There have been recent incidents where people were called anti-national because they dissented from the government," he said.

"If some party gets 51 percent vote, does that mean the other 49 percent shouldn't speak for 5 years? Every citizen has a role to play in a democracy. Governments are not always right," Justice Gupta said.

Stating that just because someone takes a contrarian view it doesn't mean disrespect to the country, he said, "Whenever there is a clash of ideas, there will be dissent. Right to question is an inherent part of democracy."

Justice Gupta said the Opposition had the right to protest as long as peaceful means were used. He also cited excerpts from a lecture by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud that said, "The blatant labelling of dissent as anti-national stops deliberative democracy."

He said democracy was considered successful when it protected the citizens' rights. "Dissent has an important role, it should be encouraged. It leads to finding better ways to run the country," he remarked.

Justice Gupta also said he disapproved Bar associations passing resolutions refusing to represent certain persons accused of certain charges (especially, where the police had booked someone for anti-national activities). "It's against the legal ethics," he said.

On the dissent of judges on a Bench while passing judgement, Justice Gupta said there were some judgments where he would disagree as it was his opinion as an individual. "But when I am sitting in a Division Bench, I am bound by the judgment given by it," he said.

Recalling Justice H.R. Khanna's dissent in the ADM Jabalpur case, he termed it the "most important dissent" in the country. Justice Khanna told his sister he knew he would end up losing his job due to the judgement, the judge said and added, he was next in line to become the Chief Justice.

Stating that the judiciary should be fearless and independent, Justice Gupta said the right to dissent, also included the right to criticise and the judiciary too was not above criticism.

He also spoke about Justice D.Y. Chandrachud's dissent in the Aadhar case and Justice Indu Malhotra's dissent in the Sabarimala temple case, and termed them as two recent and very important dissents.

Justice Gupta, however, refrained from making a comment as the matter is under judicial scrutiny.

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