Friday, October 31, 2014

Arun Shourie on Liberty versus Security

Arun Shourie on Liberty versus Security

The choice between individual liberty and national security has always been tricky one. However, as per the noted author, journalist and former minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, Arun Shourie individual liberty and national security have to be balanced.

In his book “We must have no price” he says

“Which of the two will have to be given primacy at a particular time depends on the situation in which the country is placed at that juncture. The Constitution has, therefore, balanced each right and liberty with the grounds on which it may be subjected to reasonable restrictions.”

Mr. Shourie suggests that what should get prominence over the other depends on the circumstances prevalent at a particular time.

“Today, the country is being subjected to a war – engineered, instigated, equipped, directed, financed by powers and groups that are out to dismember India: the Supreme Court has, therefore, been absolutely right in approving legislation that is necessary for enabling the security forces and the investigating agencies to prosecute that war, even though that legislation may result in curtailing some liberties of some individuals. The courts are, of course, absolutely right in affirming that it is their duty to see that power is not misused.”

As per Mr. Shourie we must distinguish between the liberty of (1) the one who is out to break India or to overturn our constitutional system by violence, and those who help him; (2) the liberty of a member of the security forces who has to face the bullets of the first lot; and (3) the liberty of the ordinary citizen. Having made these distinctions, we should respect the liberty and rights of the first lot, that is those who take a gun in their hand and those who aid them only to the extent to which they respect the liberty and rights of their victims.

He suggests that we must equally expose political parties that jeopardize vital legislation for the sake of votes of one section or another. Mr. Shourie says that the balance cannot be maintained unless the lawyers too rise above legalism, unless they rise above the self-serving notion, “We have to defend whoever comes to us for help.” The fact is that they don’t. But I am on a different point: they shouldn’t.

As per Mr. Shourie even greater responsibility rests with those who are in public life and discourse. As we have seen, by and large, the courts have taken cognizance of the threat that the country faces. Even as they safeguarded liberties, they have put their seal on laws that were required to fight the menace. That is far more than can be said of politicians and many in the media. The fabricated miasmas they have used to undo legislation show how they will cast away the requisites of national security for votes in the one case, and to be intellectually fashionable in the other. Neither the security forces not the courts can save the country when those in control of legislatures and public discourse act in this way.

Mr. Shourie rightly says that unless we effect changes of this kind, we will have to wait upon terrorists to settle our debates!


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