Every Indian, not Muslims alone, needs an independent judiciary

Faizan Mustafa, legal scholar, disclosed in a recent article (‘Bench above religion’, IE, July 5) that in 1997, he refused to undertake a project on the role of Muslim judges as it was against the ingrained ethos and non-partisan character of the Indian judiciary. The article appears to be a response to the mounting criticism in India and abroad that the Indian judiciary, especially its higher echelons, has succumbed to majoritarian pressures. Mustafa states that “Judges have been not only fair but also sensitive to Muslim causes”. This is a problematic statement.

Are Muslim causes not Indian causes? To take a few contemporary examples: The Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid demolition case, the indefinite incarceration of youth/intellectuals/journalists under terror laws, protests against the CAA and subsequent repression of activists and protests against the abrogation of Article 370 — are these solely “Muslim” issues? They are much maligned as being so but, in fact, they are a test of the Indian polity’s constitutional commitment towards social-political-religious equality, secularism, federalism, the rule of law and independent judiciary. Mustafa referred to the 2019 Supreme Court judgment in the Babri mosque case and quoted Justice D Y Chandrachud’s speech on June 20 at King’s College, London, as proof of the non-partisan character of the Indian judiciary. The SC bench in the case, which included Justice Chandrachud, according to Mustafa, “termed the installation of idols in 1949 and the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 as egregious wrongs… [and said] the Babri Masjid was not constructed after the demolition of a Ram temple and pointed out that the Archaeological Survey of India report had not found any evidence of such a demolition. It had also observed that the Places of Worship Act, 1991, protects and secures the fundamental values of the Constitution”.