'A Dissenter Is Not An Anti-National': Justice Deepak Gupta
Supreme Court judge Justice Deepak Gupta on Monday, February 24, said that a dissenter is not an anti-national, neither is having a view contrary to that of the government.
"Criticism of the executive, the judiciary, the bureaucracy or the armed forces cannot be termed 'anti-national'. In case we attempt to stifle criticism of the institutions, we shall become a police state instead of a democracy....To question, to challenge, to verify, to ask for accountability from the government is the right of every citizen...", The Hindu quoted Gupta as saying.
Justice Gupta's speech, which he gave at a lecture organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association on 'Democracy and Dissent, received a standing ovation.
Talking about the rise in sedition cases in the country against students, activists and lawyers and branding those who voice their dissent as anti-nationals, Gupta said that disagreeing with the government's policies was not equal to acting against the nation.
"There have been many recent incidents where people dissenting have been slapped with terms like anti-national... Majoritarianism is an antithesis to democracy... ", he said.
He said that if a political party gets 51% mandate in the polls, it does not mean that the rest of the 49% of the country will not speak up for the next five years.
"When those in power claim that they represent the will of all the people that is more often than not a totally baseless claim. They may be the elected government voted on the first-past-the-post system by a large number of voters, but it cannot be said that they represent the entire will of the people", Justice Gupta said.
He referred to the superior courts as "protectors of the rights of the people and have a duty to ensure that the powers that be do not suppress dissent".
"Dissent is a human right. A society will not evolve unless its rules are questioned. Dissent must be encouraged. It is only through discussion that we can strive to run the country better. The government has no right to stifle a protest unless it turns violent. Dissent, after all, was the essence of Civil Disobedience movement of Mahatma Gandhi... We are only a free country when there is freedom of speech", Justice Gupta added.