Sitting Down for the National Anthem, Standing Ovation for the Indian Judiciary

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Sitting Down for the National Anthem, Standing Ovation for the Indian Judiciary

Illustration: Akshita Monga

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he first couple of weeks of 2018 have been pretty exciting, especially if you’ve been keeping an eye on the workings of the Indian judiciary. It’s almost as if the poor thing decided to hell with everybody; we’re going to be bigger and more spectacular than the Golden Globes AND Game of Thrones combined. In the last few days, the Indian courts have been showing us who’s the boss, by passing positive judgments in less time than it takes Salman Khan to rip his shirt off.

The Supreme Court started things off by announcing that it would reconsider its 2013 decision to criminalise homosexuality, stating that societal morals had evolved from the Victorian era that the law was drafted in. Then, defending the rights of people who just want to sit down and eat their popcorn, the SC declared that playing of the National Anthem was not mandatory in cinema halls before the screening of movies. Way to go, Supreme Court! We’re giving you an ovation, and of course, it’s a standing one.

The judiciary is following up on some fine form from last year, when it declared the Islamic practice of triple talaq unconstitutional, an all-round popular decision. Then it came back for seconds by allowing us the Right to Privacy, even though that one uncle is staring out of his window into my house as I write this. Meanwhile, a special CBI court put a rapist-Godman behind bars for 20 years more than it took him to make his last movie. In the run-up to the same case, the Punjab and Haryana high court pulled up the Haryana government for not keeping a check on Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s minions who ruined the whole city of Panchkula with their whole brainwash situation.

The courts, in a short period, went from being the Johnny Lever of institutions – in the sense that no one really cared what it did – to being the Ryan Reynolds of institutions – considering everyone wanted to kiss the buildings on the mouth.

Meanwhile, Tusshar Kapoor and co will have to find someone else to make the butt of its jokes (quite literally).

The last superhero movie from Bollywood starred Jackie Shroff’s progeny as a Flying Jatt. Here’s a thought for the next one. How about a movie where the courts come together and take on the central and state governments with their amazing superpower – making a lot of sense? The government thought it was being awfully clever when it tied up with Mojo Jojo to come up with an Aadhar card/world-domination scheme, but the Supreme Court was one step ahead. The Right to Privacy ruling effectively ended a gridlock, making room for a special bench to decide whether getting an Aadhar card is voluntary or not, leaving some cows in quite a sticky situation.

This will be the least of the cows’ worries though, once they find out that the ruling has some bearing on Maharashtra’s beef ban. Meanwhile, Tusshar Kapoor and co will have to find someone else to make the butt of its jokes (quite literally), considering the court has also now indicated that when there is a fundamental right to privacy, there cannot be a section against homosexuality. While it may not be set in stone yet, this judgment makes so much sense that the government is going to have to try real hard to not make any progress there. And its latest announcement about reconsidering the 2013 decision only underscores that fact further.

A special CBI court was equally excited to join the Justice League. The court wasn’t afraid to go a little Conor McGregor on the Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh verdict, saying the Dera chief had acted like a wild beast that deserves no leniency. The Supreme Court, which at this point was in perfect tandem with the CBI court, saw this as a great opportunity to ask the Gujarat high court what the hell happened to the other alleged rapist-Godman who hasn’t been tried yet: Asaram Bapu. Bad time to be a spiritual leader who can’t keep it in his pants, I guess.

Another impressive ruling from the Supreme Court last year allowed a woman from Mumbai to abort a 26-week-old foetus since it had developed complications, and the Kerala highcourt rejected bail to “superstar Dileep” once again, in a case involving the abduction and assault of a Malyalam actress. Honestly, I don’t think there’s been a better time to get into a serious legal battle with a sworn enemy.

But hey, before you go that far, or consider stealing my amazing superhero idea and selling it to Ram Gopal Varma on the sly, I suggest you wait just a couple of more days. The Gujarat HC is now up to bat, and its ruling in the defamation case brought by Jay Shah against The Wire is going to be the subject of everyone’s attention.

Until then, I’m going to sleep happy, secure in the knowledge that at least one pillar of democracy is doing its job. And is doing it well.

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