Reverse gear

Attorney general Pawan Kumar Ojha, who is also a professor of law, has tended to shock even people without legal backgrounds with his statements on constitutional issues. On assuming office after February 1, he had initially sent positive signal by saying that the Supreme Court should hear cases concerning non-suspended rights during the emergency. But within days he made a U-turn, and since then, he has not looked back. Perhaps this may be his compulsion, but that hardly excuses his legally outrageous remarks, which are certain to compromise his legal reputation. For example, in a recent interview to this newspaper, he had claimed, while referring to the widely condemned media ordinance, that the government had the authority to promulgate it even on a sub judice case with the SC, to contradict judicial prcedents, and contrary to the court’s stay order.

The attorney general went further down this road on Monday, two days ahead of the 16th Constitution Day, when he defended the government in the SC concerning the constitutionality of the controversial media ordinance by arguing that the government could take liberties with the Constitution in abnormal circumstances. According to him, the government also had the authority to amend or repeal, through an ordinance, any law in the absence of the parliament. He argued, “The situation is beyond the government’s control. Thus the Supreme Court has to think while issuing any order regarding the implementation of the ordinance.”

Extraordinary circumstances call for a state of emergency where certain provisions of the Constitution could be suspended temporarily, as specified in the Constitution. Even in such a case, not even a government with a popular mandate, let alone the present one, can take any action that may conflict with the Constitution. Moreover, now the country is not under a state of emergency. That means attorney general Ojha, who holds a position equal in rank to that of a Supreme Court justice, is arguing against the rule of law and for the government to combine executive, legislative and judicial powers. Besides, Ojha contradicts the very government he is defending, as it has cited an improved security situation to justify its announcement of the civic and general elections. With the government and its legal brains sending wrong signals about democracy, human rights and the rule of law, it is no wonder that the political parties and the general people seriously doubt that the government intends to restore democracy.