Ill-conceived move

Ill-conceived move

The Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to challenge in the Supreme Court the revocation of the National Security Act which it slapped on Varun Gandhi after his hate speech and the courting of arrest in Pilibhit last month is wrong and ill-conceived. The state advisory board rightly found that there was no reason or circumstance to haul the BJP candidate under the NSA which is a draconian law meant to be used against terrorists and others who are a threat to national security. By no stretch of imagination could Varun’s remarks or actions, despicable and condemnable as they were, be considered as deserving of action under this law. The state government’s disproportionate response to Varun’s offence helped only to make a hero of him and allow his party to take political advantage of it. This can be seen from the impetus that he got from it, prompting him to make laudatory references to some excesses of the emergency, like the forced family planning programme. This would certainly have been embarrassing to the BJP, whose leaders suffered during the emergency. But the point is that misuse of law does not help and only lowers the credibility of the enforcement system.
 The advisory board’s decision showed that the rule of law is important and that all the checks against misuse of power are not lost even in states where power is exercised in arbitrary ways. The ordinary laws existing in the country were adequate to deal with the offence committed by Varun Gandhi and the board’s decision underlined this. By approaching the Supreme Court against the decision, the UP government has compounded its original mistake and given a clear signal that political and other considerations are the main basis for its actions.  
 The worrying point is that the attention that the case of Varun Gandhi received on account of his lineage and position as the candidate of a national party may not be available for many others who become victims of arbitrary or vindictive exercise of power. It is well-known that the majority of those against whom the draconian laws on the statute book have been wielded are people belonging to the minority community or politically or otherwise inconvenient persons. If the state government can be so stubborn in the case of Varun Gandhi, it is not difficult to see how it would act in cases involving ordinary people. Experience shows that many of them do not benefit from a correct appreciation of the facts and the position of the law, as Varun Gandhi was privileged to.

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