Former Supreme Court judge AK Ganguly has called on the country’s legal fraternity to participate in a “second freedom struggle” to protect constitutional and judicial principles, raising questions about the timing and motive of the radical statement.
Ganguly, who retired in February, is the chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission. His comments were made in Indore on August 25, at the inaugural session of a two-day conference of lawyers for social justice organised by the Indore Institute of Law and social activist Medha Patkar’s National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM). Patkar is a key supporter of the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare.
Speaking at the event, Ganguly asked the lawyers, activists, law students and farmers who had come from 14 states, to participate in the second freedom struggle “by engaging with the mainstream of social movements in order to ensure that all the constitutional doctrines and judicial principles are protected and carried forward”. Ganguly told the gathering, which also included former Madhya Pradesh High Court judge P D Mulye, that the constitution of India was essentially a “human rights document” and only it could “liberate this country, feed the hungry millions and clothe the masses”.
Known as an outspoken judge, Ganguly was part of the bench that quashed the controversial 122 licences for 2G spectrum issued by then telecom minister A Raja. The landmark ruling came days before Ganguly retired and he spent the early days of his retirement defending it.
He wrote rejoinders in newspapers to critical analysis of the 2G judgment, including by former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee, and appeared on TV news channels too. His actions were criticised by experts as it was seen as going against the long-standing tradition of judges not talking about or clarifying their judgments.
Ganguly was also part of a bench that took the view that the majority decision of a five-member constitution bench upholding the suspension of fundamental rights during Emergency was “erroneous”.
As a sitting judge, Ganguly had said at a conference that though the death sentence is provided for in law, it is “barbaric, anti-life, undemocratic and irresponsible”. He had also said the ‘rarest of rare’ doctrine that deals with death penalty cases “is a grey area as it depended on the interpretation of individual judges”.