Skip to main content
Sabrang
Sabrang
Freedom Rule of Law

No holy cow when it comes to dissent, SC judge Deepak Gupta speaks out again

“Criticism of any institution is to be protected — the executive, legislature, judiciary, and even the armed forces. There is no holy cow when it comes to dissent” Justice Gupta said adding that majoritarianism can also not be accepted

Sabrangindia 25 Feb 2020

SC judge Deepak Gupta

The government has no right to stifle or quell protest as long as the protests are peaceful, Supreme Court judge Justice Deepak Gupta said on Monday (February 24).Delivering a lecture on “Democracy and Dissent” organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association, Justice Gupta said, “Criticism of any institution is to be protected — the executive, legislature, judiciary, and even the armed forces. There is no holy cow when it comes to dissent.”

“No doubt, these views must be expressed in a peaceful manner, but citizens have a right to get together and protest when they feel that actions taken by the government are not proper. Their cause may not always be right, but at the same time the government may also not be right,” Justice Gupta said.

“Societies will remain stagnant if there is no challenge to accepted norms,” the judge added.

After becoming a judge of the top court in February 2017, Justice Gupta has presided over many important environment cases, including the case seeking to curb air pollution in the national capital. He is also part of the bench hearing the case seeking proper implementation of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. He is due to retire on May 6 this year.

“I was given a number of topics, but I chose to speak on this topic ‘democracy and dissent’ because of what is happening in the country. Dissent must not only be tolerated but also encouraged,” the judge said.

“Disagreement, dissent and dialogue alone can run a democracy. The government and country are two different things. You can be critical of the government without being being critical of the country,” he added.

The judge also said that while the rule of the majority is inherent to a democracy, majoritarian rule cannot be accepted.

“Especially in a first past the post system, those in power do not represent the majority of the voting electorate, let alone majority of the citizens. The government is not only for whatever percentage of population that voted for them, but a government of all citizens,” Justice Gupta said.

Speaking on the significance of dissent in the judicial system, the judge said that there can be no democracy without a fearless and independent judiciary.

“The judges must be independent of political power and media influence, and must not fear to pen a dissent,” Justice Gupta said.

However, he was quick to point out that personal opinions of judges must not be taken for dissenting with the law laid down by the court. “Not every case should be referred to larger bench at the drop of a hat,” he said.

“Even if I feel that a five-judge bench ruling has not laid down the law correctly, I am bound to follow it when I sit in a two or three-judge bench. My disagreement is personal and we should uphold the precedent for certainty of law,” the judge said.

Justice Gupta also called out resolutions passed by certain Bar Associations, refusing to represent individuals deemed to have committed “anti-national activities”. A lawyer’s refusal to represent an individual is “totally unacceptable” and “obstruction of the judicial process”, he added.

No holy cow when it comes to dissent, SC judge Deepak Gupta speaks out again

“Criticism of any institution is to be protected — the executive, legislature, judiciary, and even the armed forces. There is no holy cow when it comes to dissent” Justice Gupta said adding that majoritarianism can also not be accepted

SC judge Deepak Gupta

The government has no right to stifle or quell protest as long as the protests are peaceful, Supreme Court judge Justice Deepak Gupta said on Monday (February 24).Delivering a lecture on “Democracy and Dissent” organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association, Justice Gupta said, “Criticism of any institution is to be protected — the executive, legislature, judiciary, and even the armed forces. There is no holy cow when it comes to dissent.”

“No doubt, these views must be expressed in a peaceful manner, but citizens have a right to get together and protest when they feel that actions taken by the government are not proper. Their cause may not always be right, but at the same time the government may also not be right,” Justice Gupta said.

“Societies will remain stagnant if there is no challenge to accepted norms,” the judge added.

After becoming a judge of the top court in February 2017, Justice Gupta has presided over many important environment cases, including the case seeking to curb air pollution in the national capital. He is also part of the bench hearing the case seeking proper implementation of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. He is due to retire on May 6 this year.

“I was given a number of topics, but I chose to speak on this topic ‘democracy and dissent’ because of what is happening in the country. Dissent must not only be tolerated but also encouraged,” the judge said.

“Disagreement, dissent and dialogue alone can run a democracy. The government and country are two different things. You can be critical of the government without being being critical of the country,” he added.

The judge also said that while the rule of the majority is inherent to a democracy, majoritarian rule cannot be accepted.

“Especially in a first past the post system, those in power do not represent the majority of the voting electorate, let alone majority of the citizens. The government is not only for whatever percentage of population that voted for them, but a government of all citizens,” Justice Gupta said.

Speaking on the significance of dissent in the judicial system, the judge said that there can be no democracy without a fearless and independent judiciary.

“The judges must be independent of political power and media influence, and must not fear to pen a dissent,” Justice Gupta said.

However, he was quick to point out that personal opinions of judges must not be taken for dissenting with the law laid down by the court. “Not every case should be referred to larger bench at the drop of a hat,” he said.

“Even if I feel that a five-judge bench ruling has not laid down the law correctly, I am bound to follow it when I sit in a two or three-judge bench. My disagreement is personal and we should uphold the precedent for certainty of law,” the judge said.

Justice Gupta also called out resolutions passed by certain Bar Associations, refusing to represent individuals deemed to have committed “anti-national activities”. A lawyer’s refusal to represent an individual is “totally unacceptable” and “obstruction of the judicial process”, he added.

Related Articles

Freedom

Save country & constitution from the current govt: PB Sawant

In a call to all progressive lawyers, Justice PB Sawant says that the powers that be are inimical to the Indian Constitution that is a culturally and socially transformative document

Freedom

Save country & constitution from the current govt: PB Sawant

In a call to all progressive lawyers, Justice PB Sawant says that the powers that be are inimical to the Indian Constitution that is a culturally and socially transformative document


Theme

Delhi HC

Hate Speech and Delhi Pogrom 2020

A spate of provocative speeches, that amount to hate speech in law and should be prosecuted allowed blood letting to spill on the streets of north east Delhi in February-March 2020
hashimpura

Hashimpura Massacre

The Lemmings of Hashimpura
summer

Summer Culture

Our first summer culture bouquet features fiction from Syria and Iraq and poetry and art from Palestine.
khoj

Teaching Without Prejudice

Report of the CABE Committee on 'Regulatory Mechanisms for Textbooks and Parallel Textbooks Taught in Schools Outside the Government System

Campaigns

Thursday

25

Jun

Bhubaneswar

Monday

13

Jan

Nationwide

Videos

Politics

Coal Privatisation : Is Modi sarkar putting India's Adivasis and environment on the line?

On 18th June 2020, PM Narendra Modi launched the auction of 41 coal blocks across India for commercial mining, under the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. But massive protests from several quarters, including the 3-day all India coal workers’ trade unions strike, is a major reminder of what’s at stake for the millions of Adivasi lives; and our environment at large.

Politics

Coal Privatisation : Is Modi sarkar putting India's Adivasis and environment on the line?

On 18th June 2020, PM Narendra Modi launched the auction of 41 coal blocks across India for commercial mining, under the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. But massive protests from several quarters, including the 3-day all India coal workers’ trade unions strike, is a major reminder of what’s at stake for the millions of Adivasi lives; and our environment at large.

Analysis

Delhi HC

Hate Speech and Delhi Pogrom 2020

A spate of provocative speeches, that amount to hate speech in law and should be prosecuted allowed blood letting to spill on the streets of north east Delhi in February-March 2020
hashimpura

Hashimpura Massacre

The Lemmings of Hashimpura
summer

Summer Culture

Our first summer culture bouquet features fiction from Syria and Iraq and poetry and art from Palestine.
khoj

Teaching Without Prejudice

Report of the CABE Committee on 'Regulatory Mechanisms for Textbooks and Parallel Textbooks Taught in Schools Outside the Government System

Archives