With more cases of public servants making derogatory statements against women in public being notified, the Supreme Court of India will most probably formulate guidelines to regulate the behaviour of elected officials, said Supreme Court advocate Renjith Marar.
The bench led by Supreme Court Chief Justice Deepak Misra has allowed George Vattamkulam, the petitioner, to approach the constitution bench formed to decide on elected officials’ lewd statements in public.
The constitution bench was formed in the wake of UP Minister Azam Khan’s statement on Bulandshahr gang rape incident which shook the country in July last year. A 35-year-old woman and her daughter were brutally gang raped for more than three hours in front of the male members of their family by a group of highway robbers. The Minister had remarked that the incident was part of a ‘political conspiracy’ by the opposition parties. The constitution bench sought if the freedom of speech enshrined in the constitution could be controlled by Article 21 of the Indian constitution (protection of life and personal liberty) apart from article 19 (2) of the constitution (imposes reasonable restrictions on freedom of speech).
Marar, who appeared before the Supreme Court Bench for George Vattamkulam on Friday said that the repeated incidents of disrespectful remarks being made by the public officials tarnish the image of governance. He further said the Supreme Court’s concerns in this regard may end up in the Apex Court framing guidelines to refrain elected officials from making lewd comments in public.
The UP incident had aroused several questions regarding restrictions on freedom of speech, constitutional compassion as well as constitutional sensitivity. The constitution bench after hearing the arguments in the petition filed by Koushal Kishore, a BJP MP from UP, had upheld that such statements made by a Minister could even affect the course of investigation. George Vattamkulam’s petition against Kerala Minister M. M. Mani’s derogatory statement against ‘Pembilai Orumai’ activists was dismissed by the High Court of Kerala earlier. Following this, the petitioner approached the Supreme Court.
Minister Mani, in a public speech in April this year, had said that the women activists who led a historical stir against the plantation owners demanding wage hike two years ago, were engaged in immoral activities during the course of strike. This had evoked public debate and the Minister was asked to make apologies in public for this remark. ‘Pembilai Orumai’ is a collective of women who are working in the various tea plantations at Munnar Kannan Devan Hills.
“The High Court however did not find anything condemnable in the Minister’s action. But such shameful remarks shall not be made. Elected personnel should themselves refrain from such acts. If not, they should be controlled by the law. I guess the Supreme Court is moving towards framing a guideline which will restrict the people in power to make lewd comments in public. The Supreme Court will decide on Azam Khan’s case in October or November. At that time, George’s petition would also be considered,” said Marar.
Another elected official who has been under public scrutiny for lewd comments is P. C. George MLA. The MLA, several times had made insulting statements against the victim actress in the popular abduction case. “There should be an end to such incidents. People are assaulted. But the law of the country should ensure that the victims are given justice and are not being attacked again and again by remarks made by elected officials whom we trust,” said Marar.
Renjith Marar’s photo has been taken from his Facebook profile.