Presented on January 9, 1988 at the Second Annual Conference of the Punjab Sikh Lawyers Council held at District Courts, Sangrur, by its General Secretary, Mr. D.S. Gill.

Hon’ble Presidium and Members,

It gives me pleasure to welcome you to Second Annual Conference of the Punjab Sikh Lawyers Council. The past three years have been momentous in the life of the Sikhs and Punjab. The Council was formed at a crucial time. It has fully justified its existence. The Council is a force to reckon with.

The most serious challenge our community, our state and our profession faces is the near absence of democratic norms for which the ruling party must be held squarely responsible. Democracy is under grave strain. All major organs of State which sustain democracy such as an impartial and fearless Judiciary, an independent Press and a conscientious legislature, are on the retreat. Intelligentsia is far from being assertive.

Manipulations of Judiciary: An old story.

The ruling party and the ruling class, in order to maintain themselves in power, made Punjab a laboratory where all counterrevolutionary machinations were put to test. The constitution was undermined in sever always. The martial law was introduced under cover of providing aid to civil administration. Thousands of Sikhs were killed in latent violation of laws. Lawless laws were specially enacted and made applicable to Punjab. It is a pity that the Judiciary generally thought it expedient to live with these laws.

Only recently, a section of the public opinion in the country has started reacting to the situation. Antidemocratic trends have started overflowing and have registered their presence outside Punjab. Culmination of these developments is provided by the manner in which the ThakkarNatrajan Commission gave its report. Large sections of the press and the public opinion have come out with strong, denunciation of the Government for the distortion of the object of the Enquiry Commission Act and the Judiciary and for turning Judiciary into a handmaid of the ruling class.

This widespread criticism of the Government and the Judiciary is fully justified. However, it is mater of regret that the Press and public opinion have still to correctly understand the genesis and evolution of the Government’s policies and the Judiciary’s behavior. These antidemocratic instruments have been in full play in Punjab for several years.

The Nehru dynasty has been quite notorious in its misuse of the Judiciary in respect of Punjab, beginning with the States Reorganization Commission which recommended the reorganization of the states along linguistic lines except for Punjab. Again, when Punjab’s reorganization became inevitable, the then Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, made it a point to sabotage it by asking Justice Shah to report along the dotted lines, for, the Commission was given tailored terms of reference. The Commission was asked to give “due weight to the census report of 1961” while demarcating Punjab Haryana boundary. Nehru himself had described the 1961 census report as misleading. Yet Mrs., Gandhi unscrupulously made that census report a basis of the Commission’s work. The report of the Commission was a foregone conclusion. It could have been prepared by a census department’s clerk. Nevertheless a Judge of the Supreme Court allowed himself to invest respectability to politically motivated conclusions on Punjab. That, in fact, is the starting point of the current problems of Punjab and India. No one in India thought it fit then to condemn Mrs. Gandhi and Punjab policy.

It has since 1966 been a long story of the misuse of the Judiciary for Politics by New Delhi. Punjab has been victim of this policy. It does not need great elaboration as to how this policy was applied: the Constitution was flouted in making Haryana and Rajasthan partners in water that belongs wholly to Punjab; the Rajiv Longowal accord was framed to undermine and sabotage the Constitution: the Mathew Commission was given an assignment that could best have been left to a Congress functionary; Justice Venkataraman awarded 73,000 acres of land in lieu of Chandigarh to Haryana when he was specifically asked to find out “Hindi speaking villages” in Punjab and Mr. Justice Desai agreed to locate “Hindi speaking villages in Punjab” in just twelve hours!

The time to react against Congress (I) manipulations of democracy, Judiciary and the processes of law was when Punjab and Sikhs were victimized. I am afraid, it is too late now for the country’s public opinion and the media to talk of injustice handed down by the ThakkarNatrajan Commission, Be that as it may, I welcome the realization on the part of the Press of grave threat to democracy posed by the ruling clique. To be continued…

Article extracted from this publication >> March 18, 1988