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Huge human cost

The role of High Court judges, and indeed officials across the board needs to scrutinised and responsibility fixed if only to prevent other scientists being subjected to similar ordeals.

Editorial | New Delhi |

No amount of money, not even Rs 50 lakh, will adequately compensate for the human suffering which former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan has suffered since being falsely implicated in an espionage case in 1994. Realising that, the Supreme Court has appointed a committee headed by a former judge to probe the shameful affair. It would serve only a limited purpose if that probe was confined to a few Kerala police officers.

The role of High Court judges, and indeed officials across the board needs to scrutinised and responsibility fixed if only to prevent other scientists being subjected to similar ordeals. Was Narayanan the victim of in-house rivallry, were dirty political influences at work? Or is it so easy for the authorities to “crucify” someone by accusing him of anti-national activity ~ which tends to shield dubious action against all criticism or examination?

These are questions that have implications beyond the ex-ISRO scientist, and have bearing on the basic human rights that the Supreme Court is striving hard to protect through a series of recent verdicts. Their Lordships have set high standards, there should be no reason to apprehend any dilution of that commitment when the “baton” is passed on a few weeks hence.

READ | Happy with SC verdict, says former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan

What makes the inquiry just ordered so critically important is that a majority of victims do not have the financial means and moral stamina to fight long legal battles ~ the theory that judicial redress is always available is far-fetched, unreal, and militates against true democracy. No citizen must be forced to move a court to preserve his dignity: it’s a fundamental right the state must guarantee.

The case in focus pertains to events generally forgotten, and under a different political dispensation. Yet the authoritarian streak continues to run strong. Evidence of that is to be found in the comparative ease with which people are booked for sedition, for making allegedly derogatory statements against ministers etc. A reflection is seen in the reluctance to follow the directive of the apex court to enact specific legislation to curb moblynching: particularly since the goons project themselves as “defenders of the faith”. It would not be over-stretching the point to ask if that trend extends to the son of a Delhi police officer thrashing a young woman in her office, having a friend videorecord the violence ~ not every such indent goes “viral” and pressures the union home minister to direct the police commissioner to descend from his ivory tower. The “muscular” policy of government also takes a toll ~ it is a moot question if the officer now in trouble for a dubious relationship with a young Kashmiri woman would have been so daring had he not been awarded a commendation certificate by the army chief in the “human shield” fiasco. A common thread links them all, the battle for freedom is unending.