"Suppression Of Intellect Is Suppression Of Conscience Of Nation": Justice DY Chandrachud
Referring to dissent as a "safety valve" of democracy, Supreme Court judge Justice DY Chandrachud on Saturday said that "blanket labeling" of dissent as anti-national is an attack on the "heart" of the country's commitment to secure constitutional values and promote deliberative democracy.
Delivering a lecture in Ahmedabad, he said that use of state machinery to curb dissent instills fear, which violates the rule of law.
"Protecting dissent is but a reminder that while a democratically elected government offers us a legitimate tool for development and social coordination, they can never claim a monopoly over the values andi dentities that define our plural society," he added.
Justice Chandrachud's remarks came at a time when people across the country have been protesting over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
"The destruction of spaces for questioning and dissent destroys the basis of all growth--political, economic, cultural and social. In this sense, dissent is a safety valve of democracy," the top court judge said.
In January, Justice Chandrachud was part of a bench that had sought response of the Uttar Pradesh government on a plea demanding withdrawal of notices sent to protesters by the district administration for compensation for the losses caused to public properties by protesters.
"The attack on dissent strikes at the heart of a dialogue-based democratic society and hence, a state is required to ensure that it deploys its machinery to protect the freedom of speech and expression within the bounds of law, and dismantle any attempt to instill fear or curb free speech," he said.
Justice Chandrachud said that the "true test" of a democracy is its ability to ensure the creation and protection of spaces where every individual can voice their opinion without the fear of retribution.
"Inherent in the liberal promise of the Constitution is a commitment to a plurality of opinion. A legitimate government committed to deliberate dialogue does not seek to restrict political contestation but welcomes it," he further added.
Emphasising on the importance of mutual respect, he said, "Taking democracy seriously requires us to respond respectfully to the intelligence of others and to participate vigorously, but as an equal in determining how we should live together."
The "great threat to pluralism" is the suppression of differences and silencing of popular and unpopular voices offering alternative or opposing views., Justice Chandrachud said, adding, "Suppression of intellect is the suppression of the conscience or the nation."
"The country was built on incorporating its vast diversity and not eliminating it", the apex court judge said.