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'Supreme Court isn't responsible for law and order'

By Vicky Nanjappa
September 28, 2010 18:07 IST

The Ayodhya verdict will be out on Thursday at 3.30 pm, with the Supreme Court giving the go-ahead on Tuesday. Legal experts feel that although this case is extraordinary in nature and the Supreme Court could have interfered under Article 142 of the Constitution, it is the delay factor in this particular case which prompted it not to entertain the petition seeking a deferment of the verdict.

Justice N Santosh Hegde says law and order is a valid reason that can be cited before the Supreme Court of India, but the litigants must realise that courts do not have the infrastructure to maintain law and order and it is entirely the duty of the state and Union governments to do so.

There have been instances in the past when the Supreme Court has refused to entertain a plea when law and order problems were cited. In both the Cauvery water case and the Mandal case, the Supreme Court was very clear about the role of the government. In the Cauvery water case, when Karnataka suggested that releasing water to Tamil Nadu would create a law and order problem, the court told the chief minister to either rule or quit. The situation was similar in the Mandal case, with the Supreme Court telling the government to do its job in maintaining law and order and letting the Supreme Court do its job in passing an order.

Justice Hegde says in the Ayodhya case, there is every chance of a law and order problem arising, but an order cannot be kept in cold storage forever. "The Supreme Court, while passing Tuesday's order, was clear that the petitioner had had a long time to seek such a settlement. The bench headed by the Chief Justice asked the petitioner why he had taken so long to wake up and added that this (deferment plea) should have been made a long time ago. The Supreme Court does take into account the delay factor and also says the onus on maintaining law and order is entirely upon the governments and if they are unable to do so then they have failed," Hegde said.

Justice Hegde also pointed out that in pleas seeking deferment of reserved orders, the Supreme Court normally does not interfere in the verdicts of other courts unless it is an extraordinary situation in the larger public interest.

Vicky Nanjappa