Justice Deepak Gupta of the Supreme Court said on February 24 that all citizens of India have the right to dissent and they cannot be deemed anti-nationals just for holding views different from that of the ruling majority party.
He was delivering a lecture, titled 'Democracy and Dissent', by the Supreme Court Bar Association in Delhi. The first of a series of such lectures saw SCBA President Dushyant Dave, Attorney General KK Venugopal, and senior counsel CU Singh in attendance.
Stressing the importance of dissent in a democracy, Gupta said: “Criticism of any institution – whether the army or the legislature, executive, or judiciary – must be protected…. If we stifle criticism of these institutions, we will no longer remain a democracy.”
Highlighting that the government and the country are two different entities, Gupta said: “You can criticise the government without criticising the country…. No government has the right to quell peaceful protests, even if their cause may not always be justified.”
Seconding Gupta, Justice Gupta, who will be retiring on May 6, said: "To question the government or seek accountability is the right of every citizen of India and these should never be taken away. In the absence of these rights, we will become an unquestioning moribund society that will stop developing further."
The SC judge said even the judiciary is not immune to criticism and dissent, and that this institute must also, from time to time, introspect its own actions. He added, it is imperative to have an independent judiciary to ensure the proper functioning of a democracy. “The judges must be independent of political power and media influence, and must not fear to pen a dissent.”With agency inputs