The Supreme Court of India is the ultimate interpreter of the Constitution and the protector of fundamental rights.
However, concerns have been raised about the Court’s “consistent inconsistency” in its approach towards the enforcement of fundamental rights.
Assertion of Rights: The Supreme Court has been seen to vigorously assert rights in some instances.
Example: In the landmark case of K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (2017), the Court recognized the right to privacy as a fundamental right, showing its willingness to evolve with societal needs and norms.
Example: In Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India (2018), the Court decriminalized homosexuality, reaffirming the fundamental rights of the LGBTQ+ community.
Deferred Action: There have been instances where the Supreme Court has delayed or deferred action, leading to a perceived inconsistency.
Example: In the case of the Manipur communal frenzy, the Supreme Court took suo motu cognisance only after significant delay, thus allowing the situation to escalate.
Example: The Court has been criticized for its inaction on the alleged violation of fundamental rights in the context of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests and the Jammu and Kashmir lockdown.
Jurisprudence vs. Application: The Court has developed fine jurisprudence on fundamental rights but has sometimes been critiqued for not applying it equally.
Example: Despite the jurisprudence developed in cases like DK Basu v. State of West Bengal (1997) on custodial deaths, there are numerous allegations of fake encounters and police brutality where the Court’s intervention has been limited or absent.
The Supreme Court, as the protector of fundamental rights, carries a significant responsibility to ensure the consistent application of these rights.
The perception of inconsistent enforcement could undermine public faith in the judicial process and the rule of law.
Hence, it is essential for the Supreme Court to introspect and address these issues to ensure a balanced, consistent approach towards the enforcement of fundamental rights, fulfilling its role as the guardian of the Constitution.