Skip to main content

Kuldip Nayar's last message: Fight hasn't ended, there are issues "more serious" than Emergency

By Sanjay Parikh*
On June 26, 2018, human rights organizations had assembled at the Gandhi Peace Foundation, Delhi, to remember the dark days of Emergency. This was an annual affair and Kuldip Nayar was a regular speaker in these meetings. This time, too, he came and spoke. But his speech was different; it came from his heart and was quite moving.
He ended by saying that the fight has not ended – there are issues much more serious than the Emergency and they have to be fought fearlessly with deep conviction, by listening to the voice of one’s own inner-self. Never give up on truth, was his message to the audience. I told him: ‘Today, you were different – very powerful!” He smilingly replied: ‘Today, you were more receptive!”
It was a long journey for him – 95 years, divided into pre- and post-Partition. His memories were full of the sad days of the Partition. He knew the price people have paid and, therefore, stood for the values India should have after independence. He wrote throughout his life relentlessly – as editor, writer, a columnist on every possible issue which he thought were relevant for the people and the nation.
His heart bled for the poor. He came out openly in support of all those people’s movements where he found tyranny and repression of human rights and civil liberties by the state. He was a staunch defender of the freedom of press and expression and, therefore, wrote fearlessly against the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1975. He was detained in the Tihar jail under the MISA. His wife, Bharti Nayar, filed a Habeas Corpus petition in the Delhi High Court to quash his illegal detention.
The petition came up before Justice S Rangarajan, a brave and bold judge during the Emergency. After the judgment was reserved, the Government decided to release Kuldip Nayar and revoke his detention before the judgment was pronounced.  Coomi Kapoor in her write-up (August 23, 2018, in the Indian Express) on Kuldip Nayar, recalls this story.
However, Justice Rangarajan not only delivered the judgment (BhartiNayar vs Union of India, dated September 15, 1975) but added a ‘post-script’ to it as to why he was delivering the judgment. He said that Habeas Corpus writ being a public law remedy after the judgment was reserved, ”courtesy to the court demanded that we were apprised about the intended action before it was actually taken.”
Indira Gandhi was quite upset with these remarks and the courage shown by the judge and, therefore, transferred him to Gauhati. After Justice Rangarajan retired, I joined law practice with him in 1982. He was quite proud of his judgment in Kuldip Nayar's case, which was praised, among others, by Lord Denning.
I read the judgment and was quite curious to know why he wrote the postscript. He replied that the day when he was going to pronounce the judgment, he felt some unease inside. He added: “I got up around at 3 am in the morning and typed myself the post-script on a manual typewriter. Thereafter, I felt relieved of the burden on my conscience.”
I did not know Kuldip Nayar at that time. Justice Rajinder Sachar introduced me to him after he had retired and joined the Supreme Court Bar. Since 1990, it was almost regular to see him in one meeting or the other with Justice Sachar or without him. In one of the conversations recently, I told him what Justice Rangarajan said about the 'post-script’. His response was: “Even during Emergency, there were judges who were guided by their conscience rather than the ambitions.”
I remember that he was very much upset when the domicile requirement under the Representation of Peoples Act,1961 was removed by an amendment with effect from August 28, 2003 for election as MP in the Rajya Sabha. It meant that one could be chosen as an MP from any place to represent that constituency in the Rajya Sabha, though he had no connection with the place.
He was of the view that this amendment would destroy the sacrosanct function of the legislature because the Rajya Sabha is a place where every bill has to be debated properly keeping in view federalism, interests of all the States and their peculiar problems. This amendment was challenged in the Supreme Court, and it was heard by a Constitution Bench.
Rajindar Sachar argued and I assisted him in the case. The Constitution Bench upheld the amendment (August 2006). Kuldip Nayar was very disturbed. He wrote as to how the judgment was wrong. Thereafter, whenever we met, he kept on reminding me that he would like to challenge the judgment before a larger bench of the Supreme Court. The last reminder was, when he spoke, as mentioned above, on the anniversary of the Emergency.
If there were meetings in Delhi on any human rights issue concerning people in general, everyone would expect Kuldipji (Kuldip Nayar) and Sacharji (Justice Rajinder Sachar) to come, as if they could command (out of regard and affection) their presence. Both of them would never disappoint, and it would be an exception not to find them there. We lost both in a short span. It appears as if a generation has gone: the generation, which represented a selfless breed of human beings on whom we could always depend for guidance.
As a young student, we were asked to memorize renowned authors and their works. I remember one such author was Kuldip Nayar and the book was ‘Between the Lines’. I did not understand it then – the meaning of the invisible gap between the lines. Now I see the gap and look at the great man who was incessantly searching between those visible lines, the invisible truth that spread ‘beyond the lines’ – over the wide canvass of his writings as an independent journalist- which truly he was till his last breath!
---
*Advocate, Supreme Court, and national vice-president of People’s Union for Civil Liberties

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

RSS' 25,000 Shishu Mandirs 'follow' factory school model of Christian missionaries

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
The executive committee of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) recently decided to drop the KISS University in Odisha as the co-host of the World Anthropology Congress-2023. The decision is driven by the argument that KISS University is a factory school.

India must recognise: 4,085 km Himalayan borders are with Tibet, not China

By Tenzin Tsundue, Sandeep Pandey*
There has as been a cancerous wound around India’s Himalayan neck ever since India's humiliating defeat during the Chinese invasion of India in 1962. The recent Galwan Valley massacre has only added salt to the wound. It has come to this because, when China invaded the neighbouring country Tibet in 1950, India was in high romance with the newly-established communist regime under Mao Zedong after a bloody revolution.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur*
Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Time to give Covid burial, not suspend, World Bank's 'flawed' Doing Business ranking

By Maju Varghese*
On August 27, the World Bank came out with a statement suspending the Doing Business Report. The statement said that a number of irregularities have been reported regarding changes to the data in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports, published in October 2017 and 2019. The changes in the data were inconsistent with the Doing Business methodology.

Delhi riots: Cops summoning, grilling, intimidating young to give 'false' evidence

Counterview Desk
More than 440 concerned citizens have supported the statement issued by well-known bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander ‘We will not be silenced’ which said that the communal riots in Delhi in February 2020 have not been caused by any conspiracy, as alleged by the Delhi Police, but by “hate speech and provocative statements made by a number of political leaders of the ruling party.”

WHO chief ignores India, cites Pak as one of 7 top examples in fight against Covid-19

By Our Representative
In a move that would cause consternation in India’s top policy makers in the Modi government, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, has singled out Pakistan among seven countries that have set “examples” in investing in a healthier and safer future in order to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tata Mundra: NGOs worry as US court rules World Bank can't be sued for 'damages'

By Kate Fried, Mir Jalal*
On August 24 evening, a federal court ruled that the World Bank Group cannot be sued for any damage caused by its lending, despite last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the same case that these institutions can be sued for their “commercial activity” in the United States.

Black sheep in industry 'tarnishing' banks' image, why should pensioners suffer?

By Moin Qazi* Public banks have played a historically stellar role in financial inclusion and the development of the underserved sector. These banks have been the backbone of the government’s socio-economic agenda. State-owned banks in developing countries have to shoulder the main burden of the government’s development policies -- from rural lending to infrastructure development.