Contemptuous moves

Do Arundhati Roy and M L Khurana understand what they are doing by undermining yet another institution of our democracy?

Published: Sunday 30 September 2001

We are not sure who should get the best histrionics of the month award -- writer Arundhati Roy or Bharatiya Janata Party (bjp) leader Madan Lal Khurana. Roy responded with great drama to the Supreme Court's (sc's) notice in a contempt proceedings saying, "If you think it is contemptuous, proceed against me." Her 'take me, if you dare' tactic effectively played to the gallery and the media denounced the court for muzzling dissent and free speech and hailed the writer's struggle as "a long cycle in the novelist-guerrilla's encounters with the sc " (India Today , August 20, 2001).

What was her cause? In December 2000, Roy joined the Narmada Bachao Andolan's (nba) protest against the sc 's judgement on the Narmada dam outside the court. In February 2001, five lawyers filed a contempt petition against her and other agitating members. The court issued notices and in August dismissed the contempt petition of the lawyers, holding that it was grossly defective. But Roy had already had her fun -- using brilliant prose to heap scorn on the court.

Khurana, whom Indian Express editor Shekhar Gupta has called a ' bjp thug', has been equally virulent. His anger is against the court for ordering buses to move to compressed natural gas (cng) in Delhi. He wanted the government to promulgate an ordinance against the court order. He demanded the government should accept what the court has refused to do -- that existing diesel is clean. Then, issue an ordinance, which would effectively undermine the court initiative the court action. It was not important for him that the court was working to find solutions to Delhi's terrible air pollution problems and that the problem was not the court, but the implementation of the order.

Do Roy and Khurana, one a well-meaning social critic and the other a vote-licking politician, understand what they are doing by undermining yet another institution of our democracy? There is already considerable disrespect for parliament and the state assemblies today. The less said about the bureaucracy, the better. It is the likes of Khurana, who have made sure that parliament and governance have lost their credibility. Now they are out to destroy not only the city of Delhi, but also the credibility of the sc .

Social activists must remember that democracy cannot survive without its institutions. Even Roy, despite all her excellent rhetoric, must learn that. There has to be a bottomline even for those who want change.

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