EDITORIAL | Sabarimala: Shah inciting people

EDITORIAL | Sabarimala: Shah inciting people

Amit Shah. PTI file photo.

Two statements made by BJP president Amit Shah in Kerala on Sunday have posed an open challenge to the rule of law, democracy and the Constitution. Shah was addressing leaders and workers of the party, which has launched a campaign in the state against the Supreme Court ruling that allowed the entry of young women into the Sabarimala temple. He said that the party’s agitation would be strengthened in the coming days, and the BJP workers would not hesitate to bring down the LDF government if it did not stop ‘suppressing’ Ayyappa devotees. He also criticised the Supreme Court judgement on the ground that it went against the faith of the people and the customs followed by them. The BJP president said courts should not issue orders that cannot be implemented. 

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The BJP is in no position to bring down the government in Kerala through a legislative vote of any kind because it has only one member in the 140-member state assembly. The Pinarayi Vijayan government in Kerala has more than two years of its tenure left, and so Shah could not have meant that the government would be ousted through popular vote. He was warning of immediate action. Governments are not usually brought down by agitations unless the central government uses the agitation as a pretext to dismiss the state government under Article 356 of the Constitution. The Centre dismissed the first communist government in Kerala in 1959 in such circumstances. Shah’s statement makes sense only as a threat to use Article 356, though the party’s leaders in the state have given other explanations. But it will be dealing a serious blow to the Constitution and federal principles if it intensifies the agitation and dismisses the state government claiming that the constitutional machinery has broken down. The apprehension is reasonable because the NDA has wrongly dismissed state governments in the past. 

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Shah’s position that courts should not issue unimplementable orders questions the power and authority of the judiciary and might amount to contempt of court. It questions the rule of law and could even be considered a warning to the courts. Shah has cited some judgements which have not been implemented, like those on jallikattu or the use of loudspeakers in mosques, apparently to make the point that the verdict on Sabarimala should not be implemented. If some judgements are not implemented, a responsible leader should demand their implementation, not use them as an excuse to not implement another one. With his statement, Shah was trying to dictate to the courts and inviting people to violate the law. The Supreme Court must take note, and so must the people, of this incitement and of Shah’s political motives.