Sometimes, you don’t exactly know whether the things happening around you are correct are wrong. The trigger for this article is one such news which a few days ago – Supreme Court bans liquor outlets within 500m from national highways and state highways. Today, there is another – Madras High Court orders asked Tamil Nadu government to extend farm loan waiver to all farmers.
Is there any denial in the fact that these decisions are for the good of the country. No one with a sane mind will say no.
There are some issues with both the judgments.
Take liquor ban. The purpose of it is safe roads and nothing else. If you choke off the supply of liquor on roads, accidents will be less. On national and state highways, outside city limits, generally, there will be nothing available on the roads except a random shop or hotel. It makes perfect sense to order these shops not to sell liquor. Come to cities. There are a few questions.
1. How much of city traffic leaves the town? And if it city only traffic, there is sufficient police presence to discourage drink and drive.
2. The major roads of a city are national or state highways in any city. NH44 in Hyderabad or NH32 in Chennai. May be, every other road in a major city is a state highway. If a person can’t buy liquor on ‘this’ road, he will go into a by lane and buy a bottle. By doing that, you are not making roads safe, you are selectively closing some bars or liquor shops while leaving some else open – this unintentionally has become hurting someone so that the other can get more business.
The first point makes liquor ban in cities redundant and the second one makes it selective targeting. But, even then, by reducing the number of liquor shops, the courts have made our roads safer.
Now, coming to farm loan waivers. The loan waiver is for those who cannot survive the drought, not for big farmers who can take a beating but can still survive. If they can’t pay the loans this year, they can pay the next. Well, by extending the loan waiver to all sorts of farmers, the court has removed the basic premise for farm waiver and in return, it has handicapped the government from implementing a long term solution by adding an additional expense of 1980 crores. A simple analogy is, by spending 2500 crores on dredging tanks, Telangana government estimated that this will provide water for 8.8 lakh acres of land, making 17000 villages drought proof. But, in spite of all this, it has given breathing space for almost 3 lakh farmers.
But, that’s not the point. The real bone of contention is this. Both these decisions, and many such, are policy matters – meaning they are in the ambit of legislature, not judiciary. Surely, judiciary’s role is to uphold law, not make laws? It can only interpret and apply the law. Though the decisions are absolutely good, why is it that we are allowing judiciary to make laws for the country? Is it because there is no entity to which people can appeal for creation of a new law or a new policy decision? Does that mean we need one? I don’t know whether it is a part of judiciary or a part of legislature or a fourth wing altogether whose responsibility is to take policy decisions and if it decides, it should be converted into a Parliamentary law somehow. Have a look of a few such judgements –
1. Ramakrishnaism – should Religion Affairs Department decide this or should Courts decide whether Ramakrishnaism is a sub sect of Hinduism or a new religion?
2. BCCI issue – should Sports Ministry decide on the composition on board of BCCI governing council or should it be Courts?
3. Liquor Ban issue – should excise department decide where to sell liquor or should it be Courts?
4. NJAC issue – should Law Ministry decide who should appoint judges or should it be Courts?
5. Udta Punjab case – if Censor board proposes some cuts to a movie, can courts overturn that? Will the appellate tribunal be IB ministry or Courts?
6. Can Courts order the country to play national anthem before every movie? Or should it be IB/Law/Home Ministry?
Or, as I noted above, are we giving the chance to the courts simply because we don’t have a relevant appellate entity which is supposed to handle such requests and which should act in tandem with the judiciary to demarcate their domains?
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