In a forceful and outspoken interview, Justice Madan B. Lokur, one of the most illustrious former justices of the Supreme Court, has said he is “terribly disappointed” the Supreme Court has not taken cognizance of the calls for genocide. Justice Lokur said the Supreme Court should have acted immediately and that it has both a legal and moral duty to do so. Justice Lokur pointed out that under Article 3 of the Genocide Convention, of which India is a signatory, a call for genocide is deemed to be the same as genocide itself. This means, under the Convention, the crime of genocide has been committed in India and the Supreme Court’s silence and lack of action become all the more inexplicable and disturbing.
In a 17-minute interview with Karan Thapar for The Wire, Justice Lokur said even if the chief justice did not want to act suo moto, which he could have and should have, he certainly should have acted after receiving a letter from 76 lawyers, including a former law minister, asking for the Supreme Court to step in. Asked what the Supreme Court’s taking cognizance would amount to, Justice Lokur said, first, the court must immediately ask the government, both at the state and the Union government, what it’s doing and give them no more than 24 hours to reply. After that, the court should demand a fresh and full investigation done within a tight timeframe. Third, the court must insist that those who made the call for genocide are immediately arrested and, as Justice Lokur put it, “put behind bars”.
Justice Lokur said the Supreme Court has both a legal and moral duty to act when calls for genocide are made. He said the court is described as “the sentinel on the qui vive” and this means that it stands as a guardian against any violation of fundamental rights. The call for genocide is quite clearly a violation of fundamental rights.
He said it was inexplicable why the court has not acted even four days after reconvening following its new year break. Indeed, he said, the Supreme Court should have acted immediately on receipt of the letter from 76 lawyers if not earlier on a suo moto basis.
Justice Lokur agreed with a point made by Rekha Sharma, a former judge of the Delhi high court, in an article in the Indian Express, that each judge of the Supreme Court has the power as well as the obligation to act in this matter and they do not have to wait for the chief justice to initiate action. He also agreed this means that not one of the 30 judges of the Supreme Court has thought fit to take cognizance of calls for genocide and act. He agreed this is a very disturbing situation.
Finally, when Justice Lokur was asked what would be the situation and what would be the message sent to the country if the Supreme Court fails to step in and take up this matter, he said it would be “a horrifying scenario”. He added we would be in those circumstances “heading for trouble”.
The above is a paraphrased precis of Justice Madan Lokur’s interview with Karan Thapar for The Wire. Although recounted from memory it is not inaccurate. However, please see the full interview for a better and more complete understanding of Justice Lokur’s arguments and viewpoint.