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The Tapasya Gyanganga Lecture Series got off to a flying start at the Indira Group of Institutes, last week with a scintillating expose on judicial activism by  the Chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission, andretired  Supreme Court JudgeAsok Kumar Ganguly that shed light on the need for  and the extent of activism that was desirable.

The formal topic of discussion was: Is Judicial Activism the panacea for our ills today ?Justice Ganguly justified judicial interventions when the Constitutional rights of a citizen are proposed to be taken away without sufficient public cause involved – especially when the citizen involved is poor and lacks resources to reach the steps of the courts to seek justice. Quoting at length instances when courts had to intervene to set the mandate for protection of Citizens’ right on the agenda of public debate, he said more often than not, it is the poor who are required to suffer at the hands of the Establishment that conspires to deny them their rights, and to usurp the benefits due to this class.

The rich and middle classes are relatively insulated from atrocities by the Establishment because of their being more aware and financially able to knock on the doors of courts to seek justice. He recalled the case of the NOIDA slums where the land where the slum dwellers were living was acquired ostensibly for a public purpose, but was actually sold later to builders out to make a windfall.Acting on newspaper reports, the Court issued notices to the Government and annulled the transaction and restored the land to the landless.  The PILs and suo motu notices by the Courts have become the vehicles for an alert nation to keep an unjust Establishment in check.

While justifying judicial activism as a necessary part of jurisprudence today, he cautioned against attempts to put the Establishment in the dock indiscriminately leading to paralysis or charges of ’overreach’ against the judiciary.Justice Ganguly himself was the subject of the charge of “overreach’ from the Government in the 2G case investigation, monitored by the Supreme Court saying, “The Courts should not cross the Lakshman Rekha” which he countered with, “If Sita had not crossed the Lakshman Rekha, Ravan would never have been killed!“The innuendo was clear. The Establishment got the message and the rest is history.

The lecture invited passionate responses from the participating students and faculty during the interactive session when Justice Ganguly patiently answered queries ranging from corruption in the Judiciary, the need for transparency within the System to the sensitivity of Courts to criticism in the name of contempt, When asked if he had ever faced pressure, or threats from interested quarters while dealing with cases, he thundered, “I have never faced any pressure from anywhere. I believe in Swami Vivekananda’ saying that Courage is Life, Cowardice Is Death.I have lived by this principle and it has deterred those who may have entertained any notions of applying pressure”

Justice Ganguly was welcomed by Prof. P. G. Vijairaghavan, Convenor of Tapasya Gyanganga Lectures and Group Director Chetan Wakalkarmoderated the interactive session and proposed a vote of thanks.