Last week, while passing a slew of directions for the protection of the rights of children, especially those caught on the wrong side of law, a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta of the Supreme Court said that the judiciary was left with no option other than so-called judicial activism – for which the judiciary has come under attack in recent times – if the government failed to discharge its duty and if the problems of the poor and voiceless remained uddressed. “Should the judiciary take corrective steps and be accused of judicial activism or overreach – or should the cynics and sceptics have their day resulting in the grievances of the voiceless and disadvantaged remaining unheard and the fundamental and human rights uddressed?” the court asked. Of course the judiciary must take all possible corrective actions in such situations, so would say every sensible citizen. But a vast majority of politicians would like to disagree. For, for them, it is the elected architecture of politics – the Executive and the Legislature – that is competent and concerned enough to salvage such aggrieved lot and the judiciary would rather do well to remained engaged with legalities and of course the sheer number of pending cases. Political track record, nonetheless, points to the contrary. The voiceless and disadvantaged community has never figured in the political scheme of things. In India, there is a generally a rich flourish of a sham called democracy, and politics is chiefly about the rhetoric of tall but empty promises, gimmickry, and ubiquitous vote banks. Therefore, a pro-active and sensible judiciary is the need of the hour. And when it comes to those whose voices are never heard or just stifled, that need becomes more direful.
The concern of the apex court is: “What can a citizen do if the state pays no attention to his or her fundamental or human or statutory right, nor takes serious interest in fulfilling its constitutiol or statutory obligations? What if that citizen is a voiceless child (emphasis added) or someone whose voice cannot be heard over the din of governce – for example, physically or mentally challenged persons, senior citizens, and other disadvantaged sections of society such as scheduled castes, tribals and several others?.. It is easy to forget that children also deserve dignified treatment and merely because they have no voice in the affairs of (the) state, it does not mean that they are inconsequential members of society, who can be compelled to live in conditions that are uncomfortable and who have little or no access to justice.” This is a profoundly refreshing observation, reflecting on the sense of democracy that the highest court of the land operates with – to the aid of the voiceless. When it comes to the most helpless of that voiceless community – children, mostly street children and domestic servants exploited to the hilt by their brutal masters, including by way of sexual abuse – any loose talk of ‘judicial activism’ must be countered, condemned, and rejected hook, line and sinker. We welcome the Supreme Court’s proactive indulgence when the political class has failed the voiceless, helpless and hapless despite the elected system of governce in place – this wonderful democracy, otherwise.