Amongst the most outstanding justices from the Supreme Court docket who had been concerned in the politics of social justice earlier than their elevation to the bench, two names come to thoughts. Justice P B Sawant is one of them. The opposite is Justice V R Krishna Iyer. Justice Sawant was lively in the land and peasants’ motion even when he was a pupil of regulation. This unwavering readability and dedication to deepening democracy at the grassroots was a ardour for this jurist and likewise led him to be recognised for verdicts of depth and calibre. Be it the Mandal verdict or the famed S R Bommai judgment — these satirically may very well be counted amongst the least cited verdicts of the highest courtroom in the land — each displayed an understanding of Indian state and society that was actual and rooted.
Arguably, this clear imaginative and prescient and orientation might have truly hindered his appointment, in the first occasion, to the Supreme Court docket in the mid-Nineteen Eighties, regardless of a dozen years at the Bombay Excessive Court docket as a decide. After retirement in 1995, he centered on dissecting the corrosive actuality of caste in Indian society, state and governance constructions and politics.
Justice Sawant was a long-time affiliate of Pune-based Baba Adhav, recognized for organising Hamal panchayats and for the Ek Gaon Ek Kuan (one village, one nicely) motion and the president of the Mahatma Phule Samata Pratishthan. He would attend a number of conventions of BAMCEF over the years. As chairperson of the Press Council of India, his erudition and understanding of energy, autonomy, independence and media had been mirrored in the experiences he ready. These restricted the publication of exit polls until the final vote was solid and cautioned towards the company possession of the media. All these issues and extra are evident in his 2013 e book, The Grammar of Democracy. He instructed me that “so long as we don’t guarantee each particular person’s proper to contest an election, we can not say that we have now a very consultant democracy”. The e book urges that spotlight is paid to proportionate illustration, smaller electoral constituencies for higher accountability and a re-haul of the election equipment.
He had a uncommon and distinctive understanding of the idea of secularism. A nine-member bench had delivered the verdict in S R Bommai. The half of the verdict Justice Sawant authored for himself and Justice Kuldip Singh presents a vital perception into India’s constitutional federal construction and Indian secularism. In Para 148, they write: “One factor which prominently emerges from the above dialogue on secularism underneath our Structure is that no matter the angle of the State in the direction of the religions, non secular sects and denominations, faith can’t be combined with any secular exercise of the State. In actual fact, the encroachment of faith into secular actions is strictly prohibited. That is evident from the provisions of the Structure to which we have now made reference above. The State’s tolerance of faith or religions doesn’t make it both a non secular or a theocratic State. When the State permits residents to practise and profess their religions, it doesn’t both explicitly or implicitly enable them to introduce faith into non-religious and secular actions of the State… That is additionally clear from sub-section (3) of Part 123 of the Illustration of the Folks Act, 1951 which prohibits an enchantment by a candidate or his agent or by every other particular person with the consent of the candidate or his election agent to vote or chorus from voting for any particular person on the floor of his faith, race, caste, neighborhood or language or the use of or enchantment to spiritual symbols. Subsection (3-A) of the identical part prohibits the promotion or try to advertise emotions of enmity and hatred between completely different courses of the residents of India on the grounds of faith, race, caste, neighborhood or language by a candidate or his agent or every other particular person with the consent of the candidate or his election agent for the furtherance of the prospects of the election of that candidate or for prejudicially affecting the election of any candidate. A breach of the provisions of the mentioned sub-sections (3) and (3-A) are deemed to be corrupt practices inside the that means of the mentioned part.”
I’ve usually questioned why this significant verdict from India’s constitutional courtroom is just not cited or relied upon extra usually. Not content material with this judicial pronouncement delivered on March 11, 1994, Justice Sawant personally authored Secularism and the Structure, a concluding chapter to the Involved Residents Tribunal Report, Crimes towards Humanity, Gujarat 2002. This 4,500-word essay written 19 years in the past traces the roots of Indian variety, pluralism and secularism to centuries’-old battles between the shramans who fought for equality and towards discrimination by the Brahmans. To those that say that justice, equality and non-discrimination are “international” ideas, Justice Sawant would say: “Know, study and skim our personal historical past.”
At about 9.30 am on February 15, this man of light and quiet manner, filled with formidable political and ethical braveness, left us. For his spouse, sons, daughters, daughter-in-law, sons-in-law and grandchildren, the loss is deeply private. For these of us in the social justice motion, the gaping void is tough to fill. For women and men of stature and place who unflinchingly communicate fact to energy are usually not simply uncommon however not possible to search out. Adieu and salute, Sir.
This text first appeared in the print version on February 17, 2021 underneath the title ‘In a courtroom of his personal’. The creator is secretary, Residents for Justice and Peace and co-editor, Sabrangindia.in