When Ram Vilas Paswan threatened impeachment against Justice Katju.

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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Interest republicae suprema lex

By Justice Markandey Katju

This is the story of how soon after being appointed a Judge of the Allahabad High Court in November 1991 I was staring at the prospect of being thrown out of office.

I am an atheist, but I worship the people of India, who are my God, and I believe that the only way of uplifting them from their present sorry plight is science. So science is sacred for me.

But the pursuit of science was diluted in India by politicians, for political reasons of getting caste-based vote banks, by the policy of caste-based reservations in admissions to scientific institutions ( like engineering and medical colleges ) and jobs in the scientific field. Hence soon after I became a Judge of the Allahabad High Court in November 1991 I got an opportunity to end this.

This opportunity came in a case before me titled Naresh Chand vs Deputy Inspector of Schools, relating to a post of lecturer in chemistry in a college, which had been reserved for scheduled castes. I decided the case holding the reservation unconstitutional. My detailed reasoning can be seen in the link, and hence I am not repeating it.

However, I may quote some passages :

”Today our country is passing through one of its worst patches in its 5000 year old known history. In my opinion it is only science which can save us from total annihilation.

When our country was on the scientific path it prospered. With the aid of science we had built mighty civilisations thousands of years ago when most people in Europe ( except in Greece and Rome ) were living in forests. We had made outstanding scientific discoveries e.g. decimal system in mathematics, plastic surgery in medicine, etc.

However, we subsequently took to the unscientific path of superstitions and empty rituals, which has led us to disaster. The way out therefore is to go back again to the scientific path shown by our ancestors, the path of Aryabhatta and Brahmagupta, Sushrut and Charak, Ramanujan and Raman.

When we examine the validity of the reservation policy we must keep the above considerations in mind. While the backward and scheduled castes should certainly be helped, the interest of the nation cannot be overlooked. As is said ‘interest republicae suprema lex’ ( the interest of the republic is the supreme law ). A line has to be drawn somewhere to the policy of caste based reservation, and I draw the line at science. Science has no caste or religion. In my opinion therefore there can be no valid caste based reservations in the field of science and technology.

The argument in support of the reservation policy is that it aims at equality. However, this desire to make unequals equal cannot go the extent of subverting the national interest, and hence it cannot be extended to the field of science and technology. Today we are standing at a crossroad of our nation’s long history. We must now either adopt the scientific path or perish. It is a matter of life or death for us.

Those who have read science know that it permits no compromise. It is a relentless pursuit of objective truth, and must maintain very high standards. To dilute science by the policy of reservation is permitting impermissible compromises in a field which is of paramount importance to our nation’s destiny. It is distressing to note that while Western nations are day by day advancing in science and technology, thus widening the gap between their level of advancement and ours, some of our people are insisting on caste based reservations in the scientific field, which can only keep us backward. One can understand political compulsions, but then everything has a limit, and the limit is crossed when caste or religion based reservations are made in the field of science and technology.

It is only by massive application of science and technology that our country, including backward and scheduled castes can escape from poverty and other social evils”.

Soon after I gave the judgment a storm arose all over the country. While there was tremendous support of the judgment from many people, a section, particularly of politicians, demanded my impeachment by Parliament.

The Dalit leader, Ram Bilas Paswan, who was a Union Minister, announced that the Dalit members of the Indian Parliament, would shortly introduce a bill in Parliament for my impeachment for my casteist mentality.

A very senior Judge of the Allahabad High Court ( I was then the juniormost ) told me that I had destroyed my career. I started receiving abusive anonymous telephone calls, even threatening to kill me, consequent to which I stopped going out for morning walks for some time.

An organisation of scheduled and backward castes called the Social Justice Movement announced that they would place a lock on the gates of the Allahabad High Court.

I started getting nightmares that I had only recently entered the judiciary, but was going to be thrown out soon from the back door. My whole family was in distress.

Fortunately the storm subsided after some time, and my fears proved unfounded. However, my judgment was not approved by the Supreme Court, because of which such reservations continue.

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