Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal: No hope left in Apex Court

“In India, we have mai-baap culture, people fall at the feet of the powerful. But the time has come for the people to come out and demand protection of their rights,” said Kapil Sibal.

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Kapil Sibal, Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament and senior advocate has expressed his displeasure with some of the Supreme Court’s recent decisions, saying he has “no hope left” in the institution.

Sibal was speaking at a People’s Tribunal organised on Saturday in Delhi by the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR), the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), and the National Alliance of People’s Movements on the “Judicial Rollback of Civil Liberties” (NAPM).

Sibal criticised the Supreme Court for dismissing a petition brought by Zakia Jafri, the widow of former Congressperson Ehsan Jafri, challenging the Special Investigation Team’s (SIT) decision to exonerate the prime minister of India and several others in the 2002 Gujarat riots, upholding provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act that give the Enforcement Directorate broad authority, and dismissing a 2009 petition that sought an independent investigation into allegations of corruption.

All of these decisions were handed down by a bench led by Justice AM Khanwilkar, who has since retired. Sibal represented Zakia Jafri and petitioners who were challenging the provisions of the PMLA Act.

“If you think you will get relief from Supreme Court, you are hugely mistaken. And I am saying this after completing 50 years of practising in the Supreme Court,” Sibal said.

Even if the Supreme Court issues a landmark decision, it rarely changes the ground reality, he adds.

“This year I will complete 50 years of practising in the Supreme Court and after 50 years I feel I have no hopes from the institution. You talk about progressive judgements delivered by the Supreme Court but there is a huge difference in what happens at the ground level. Supreme Court gave judgement on privacy and ED officers come to your home… Where is your privacy?” said Sibal.

He also stated that “sensitive cases” are assigned to only a few judges and that the legal community usually knows what the outcome of the judgement will be ahead of time.

“I do not want to talk like this about a Court where I have practised for 50 years but the time has come. If we don’t speak it, who will? The reality is such that any sensitive matter which we know has a problem is placed before certain judges and we know the outcome.”

Sibal also questioned the independence of the judiciary saying, “where judges are instituted through a process of compromise, a court where there is no system to determine which case will be presided over by which bench, where the Chief Justice of India decides which matter will be dealt with by which bench and when that court can never be independent.”

The senior advocate said the situation will not change if people don’t change their mindset.

He also mentioned the Dharma Sansad case, which is currently before the Supreme Court, saying that the court had heard the case and sought responses from the governments. The accused were not arrested, and if they were, they were released on bail within 1-2 days, and they resumed Dharma Sansad meetings after a two-week break, he said.

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