From the Viewsroom

Courting controversy

Paran Balakrishnan | Updated on June 01, 2020 Published on June 01, 2020

The Solicitor General has spoken without taste or decorum in SC

Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta’s statements to the Supreme Court of India have caused eyebrows to be raised more than once in recent weeks. On March 30, Mehta assured the court migrants who’d been trudging homeward to their villages had magically left the highways and byways and been taken into camps.

“The Home Secretary is saying as of 11am this morning, nobody is on the road,” Mehta told the judges, insisting the migrants had been shifted “to the nearest available shelter.” If that was indeed true at that moment, the migrants were soon back on the roads and, indeed, still are.

This past week, Mehta dug up an old story circulating on WhatsApp about the late photographer Kevin Carter who snapped an iconic 1993 photo of a starving Sudanese child with a vulture behind. Carter, who said he chased the vulture away after taking the picture, was called a vulture himself for his Pulitzer Prize-winning shot. (The photographer, who had a long history of depression, later committed suicide).

Mehta seized upon the “vulture” metaphor and labelled government’s critics “prophets of doom,” adding they “only spread negativity, negativity and negativity” and were sceptical about everything. As a final shot, he threw in the charge that these “armchair intellectuals” and so-called “public spirited” individuals were, “not showing any courtesy to the nation.” He even charged some High Courts, which have pushed the Centre to do more for migrants, were “running a parallel government”. And when Congress leader and Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal stood up to argue, Mehta replied a humanitarian crisis could not be used to pursue a “political agenda”.

Every lawyer has the right to defend his client robustly in court. But Mehta has been punching below the belt too frequently. That he was voicing the government’s point of view became clear when Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad charged that the opposition parties were trying to “seek to control the polity of the country through the corridors of the court.”

But Prasad is a politician. By contrast, the Solicitor General is an officer of the court, and, as such, owes it a duty to conduct himself within certain recognised parameters.

Published on June 01, 2020
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