Saturday, October 2, 2010

Law and sacrifice

Law and sacrifice - Indian Express Editorial

The Lucknow bench’s verdict on Ayodhya is far from simple. And that is unsurprising: the judiciary was asked to respond to an entire block of issues, by one judge’s count as many as 30. And the exact implications of the judgment, the precedent it sets, and its relationship to settled law will be discussed and dissected for some time — which is as it should be. The most important thing, however, is that it be discussed calmly; and parties to the case give every evidence of being willing to do that, even as they weigh the merits of an immediate appeal to the Supreme Court.
That is, in fact, an indicator of the judgment’s broad thrust. None of the petitioners is completely happy, and each thinks an appeal might be called for. In effect, this is a reminder that maximalist positions of any sort will be either untenable or unimplementable. Whatever the way forward now, it will of necessity involve compromise and agreement. That is, in the three-judge bench’s opinion, the legal outcome; and that is also, by all appearance, the likely political requirement.
It is important, too, to take a step back and realise what was being asked of the courts and the people of India here. Our judicial institutions were being asked to address what has been one of the most divisive political issues that independent India has faced; and so many of India’s people, forward-looking and aspirational, have expected that a peaceful, legal mechanism will provide satisfactory closure to the problem. In this verdict, and in what appears for now to be a measured response to it, we see that hope in action. But what is true by implication is that, if the court’s verdict on this issue is to have political heft, other Ayodhya-related cases can’t be considered minor or forgettable. Nobody can stand behind the judicial process on this case — and in the matter of the Babri demolition case, for example, duck out of legal consequences. The question of culpability for that act is completely unrelated to the legal question of ownership of the Babri site. And those cases need to be pursued visibly and energetically. They, too, reflect the hope of the vast majority of Indians that our institutions are mature enough to deal with vexed questions without permitting the use of violence. Faith in the law requires stringent action against those who take the law into their own hands.

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