Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, who retired as Supreme Court judge on Friday, said that the wrongs done during the Emergency to trample the fundamental rights of the citizens were in his mind when the issue of safeguarding person’s liberty cropped up in relation to the SC/ST Act hearing.
The judge, who defended his March 20 judgement in which guidelines were laid down for the arrest under the stringent Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, said “if courts cannot protect fundamental right of innocents, courts better wind up”.
Justice Goel hogged the limelight with the judgement expressing concern over rampant misuse of the Act and held that there would be no automatic arrest under the law and a primary enquiry must be conducted by the police before taking any action.
The judgement created a ripple effect and opposition parties accused the government of being not serious in defending the provisions of the law aimed to protect the marginalised section of society.
The Centre came out with a review petition but Justice Goel, who headed the bench, refused to budge and said those who were agitating had either not read the judgement or being mislead by vested interests.
“On imposition of Emergency there were suspension of fundamental rights, this led to assumption of great arbitrary power by police and the administrators. Unchecked, one can say. But my experience was that the courts were very justice oriented, even in that atmosphere. And if you show that it was because of Emergency this innocent person is arrested or this action is taken, straightaway the court would grant him bail,” Justice Goel, who was speaking at a farewell function organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), said.
He added that these things were in his mind while writing the judgement.
“Can any innocent person be arrested? The thought I had in my mind while writing the judgement was that if an innocent is getting framed, what the courts are for? If courts cannot protect fundamental right of due process, courts better wind up,” he said.
Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that Justice Goel has the passion for ideas.
At the occasion, Attorney General K K Venugopal and SCBA president Vikas Singh were also present.
Born on July 7, 1953 in Hisar in Haryana, Goel did his graduation and LLB from Panjab University.
He was enrolled as an advocate with the Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana on July 16, 1974 and practised before the High Court of Punjab and Haryana for about five years and before the Supreme Court of India and Delhi High Court for about 22 years.
The judge was designated as senior advocate by the Supreme Court on February 11, 1999 and was elevated as Judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on July 2, 2001.
He was the Chief Justice (Acting) of the Punjab and Haryana High Court from May 2, 2011 till he joined as the Senior most Judge of the Gauhati High Court on September 12, 2011. Sworn in as Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court on December 20, 2011.
Justice Goel was sworn in as Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court on October 12, 2013 and later elevated as Judge of the Supreme Court where he assumed charge on July 7, 2014.