Reflections on Respect
|Trust, belief, credibility and trustworthiness are under threat. We must value them the more for their being in trouble. |
Respect is either there or not there. You cannot have gradations of it, like Respect Vibhushan, Respect Bhushan, Respect Shri. Respect is Respect.
Respect does not come from reasoning. Respect comes instinctively from the thought. “Here is one I respect.”
Recipients of public respect have been broadly of three kinds: First, those whose status or authority commands respect, as for example kings, judges, popes, bishops, mathadhipatis, generals, ‘captains' of industry. Second, those who get entitled to respect by ...view middle of the document...
C. Rajagopalachari never contested or won an election in independent India, but public respect for him was strong, whether he was in office or out of it (which was most of the time). The same was true of his exact contemporary, ‘Periyar' E.V. Ramaswamy, whose ‘office' was none other than affectionate esteem. Stalwarts of our freedom struggle such as Nehru, Patel, Rajendra Prasad and Azad, and towering personalities like Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Babasaheb Ambedkar apart, post-Independence Chief Ministers such as Gopinath Bordoloi of Assam, Nabakrushna Chaudhuri of Orissa, T. Prakasam, K. Kamaraj, E.M.S. Namboodiripad, Gobind Ballabh Pant, C.N. Annadurai, and Jyoti Basu are among those whose incumbencies in elective office had little to do with the intrinsic respect they commanded across political divides and across the country. It is immaterial that Jayaprakash Narayan did not hold elective office. He held a respect which the spontaneous title — Loknayak — symbolised.
The commanding of respect by those in high station who are not elected but selected by processes of appointment and elevation to such office, especially those offices which are entered upon with oaths sworn or affirmed, is not an unmixed affair either. Take the judiciary in this context. The public has no direct role in its composition or in its periodical re-composition. And yet, distant though it is from the judiciary's genesis or cyclical morphosis, the public has reserved a healthy respect for it.
The respect enjoyed by an institution like the legislature or the judiciary suffers if the incumbents of those bodies and those working in and with them do not treat those very bodies with respect. Respect begets respect. This would mean that even as the obstructing of the business of the House by legislators shakes public confidence in them as responsible legislators, the boycott of courts by lawyers hurts the institution's reputation. Not any less so, does the rare individual trespass by a sitting judge. The trespass does not have to be gross. Even a red-light signal being cut by a red-light bearing car in which a judge is travelling can shake the public's respect in the erring dignitary's instructions to his chauffeur, and in the dignitary's work-ethic and life-ethic.
Nothing in creation is flawless, except perhaps forgiveness by the person entitled to forgive. (Forgiveness is different, we should note, from pardon). But the judiciary's mandate is not to distribute forgiveness, it is about determining culpability and where required, convicting and sentencing the culpable.
Nothing in creation is infallible, not even forgiveness. In the dispensing of justice in accordance with a differentiated code of defining and evaluating liability, this institution too can err.
Nothing in creation is constant or uniform, either. So the judiciary and constitutional bodies and commissions are a terraced palate, where fallibility is a fact as is dis-uniformity.
There can therefore be...