Home English The Anti-Caste Legacy Left by Justice P.B. SAWANT – Obituary by Dr Manisha Bangar
English - Opinions - February 19, 2021

The Anti-Caste Legacy Left by Justice P.B. SAWANT – Obituary by Dr Manisha Bangar

“He [Justice Sawant] was an exemplar of how one human being ought to behave towards another. In his long career, his court decisions not only aimed at ensuring political and social justice for the victims but economic justice as well. His energy towards social causes was unflagging, and he remained active and tireless to the very end. His strict sense of justice and conduct of public affairs was inspirational and an example to all of us” – Justice Kolse Patil

On February 15th former Supreme court judge P.B. Sawant passed away after a brief period of illness following a cardiac arrest at the age of 90 at his Pune residence. He has left behind the long legacy of Anti caste movements 

In the year 1973, he was appointed as the Judge of Bombay High Court and later 1n 1989 he because justice in Supreme Court. In his career as Judge and Justice, P. B. Sawant stood for social justice and economic justice. 

He became more active after his retirement in 1995. Since then he became actively engaged with All India Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMCEF). He proactively attended national conventions of BAMCEF, the last one he attended was is in 2020. Other than BAMCEF he was among the chief organiser of controversial Elgar Parishad, held in December 2017 which was attended by more than 250 progressive social outfits.

He, after the Gujarat riot, in 2002 investigated the massacre along with the retired Bombay High Court Judge Hosbet Suresh on an Indian People’s Tribunal headed by Justice V.R Krishna Iyer. 

The report submitted by the tribunal included the testimony of late BJP’s minister Haren Pandya who admitted about the meeting conveyed by then Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi on the evening of ‘Godhra Train Burning’, in which officers were instructed not to obstruct the “Hindu Rage”.  

In 2003, he chaired a commission formed to investigate corruption charges against four Ministers in then Congress- NCP Alliance government in Maharashtra.

The idea of social justice was embedded in his heart and throughout his life he upheld it. He stood in solidarity with a whole generation of political activists in Maharashtra. Unlike many retired public figures he chose to fight and engage with people. He was a role model for post-retirement activism for social justice. The Annihilation of caste was at the heart of all his engagements. 

I remember Justice P.B. Sawant not only because he belongs to the Bahujan community, its rare thing these days to see a justice elevated to the highest of the level yet remain true towards the profession and dispensing judgements without the biases. 

Social and Political Analyst, Dr Manisha Bangar recalled her memories of meeting Justice P.B Sawant personally. She said, “Being on the side of subalterns and the weak he questioned the Indian judiciary system while being part of it. He was the person of integrity and honesty”. 

He several times came to the BAMCEF platform and we heard him. The earliest thing I remembered about him is having read his book on judicial activism which opened my own eyes towards the reality of the judges belongs to a certain class and upper caste, they are restricted by their own biases and prejudice and not dispensing justice to those who need it instead of serving their caste interest. 

Manisha Bangar also recalls an incident when she wanted to record his interview for a documentary on BAMCEF. She says in one of the interview, Justice Sawant identified and said “this is a class struggle, its Brahmin upper caste Vs the Bahujans, it is not between rich and poor”. 

He encouraged the Bahujans to continue their fight against Aryans, the traditional enemies. He exalted that the Aryans have continued to deprive Bahujans of their rights and creating conspiracies devoid of basic human dignities. 

 He went beyond his role as justice and spoke like a true revolutionary 

The Two of his Must Read Book

A Grammar of Democracy

In his book “A Grammar of Democracy”, he explains the various dimensions of the Indian democratic system. He wrote, “The class struggle in India is not based on rich and poor, the struggle here is historically a question of social, cultural, political and economic inequality”

He wrote that any democracy can only be complete in true sense when the questions and their issues are taken into consideration.

When elections are held in India, voting turnouts are usually 65 percent. The situation is such a party with 30 percent or less than forms the party. And then the government ignores sections which have not voted for them. 

Justice P.B. Sawant spoke of collective representation. He wrote, “Every vote counts whether it is in favour or opposition”.  

Judicial Independence: Myth and Reality

In this book, Justice P.B Sawant affirms that judges in India carry with them their notions, biases and prejudices and this has a heavy bearing on the judgements they deliver. He advocated for the representative judiciary and he wrote “A representative Judiciary is must for the democracy”. 

Because the biases act so heavily on the judgments judges deliver the judicial activism been bought up in the 90s-2000s is nothing but judges acting much beyond their purview or domain and giving judgements which are not even petitioned for. Due to this activism air has been created such that the judges were seen as demy gods which are not true. They are humans and very product of the society they belong to. Judged from upper caste and class represented their class and the interest and while giving judgement they were Anti- Bahujan class and driven by own caste interest. 

In the recent BAMCEF convention, he said, “No less than 85% of our population is living below the poverty line. They are deprived of their basic human rights. How do we expect them to participate in the governance of this country? The democracy we have is not the regime of ‘of, for and by the people’. Do we have democracy in this country?”

“The answer is in the negative,” he added.

Here is the list of widely held works by Justice P. B Sawant

  • Socialism under the Indian Constitution by P. B Sawant (Book) 2nd editions published in 1994 in English and held by 27 WorldCat member libraries worldwide
  • Transcript of lectures, 1990-93, by a judge of the Supreme Court of India
  • Human rights in retreat by P. B Sawant( Book ) 2nd editions published in 2005 in English and held by 26 WorldCat member libraries worldwide
  • Mass media in contemporary society by P. B Sawant( Book ) 2nd editions published in 1998 in English and held by 25 WorldCat member libraries worldwide
  • A grammar of democracy by P. B Sawant( Book ) 1st edition published in 2013 in English and held by 8 WorldCat member libraries worldwide
  • Judicial independence: myth and reality by P. B Sawant( Book )3rd editions published between 1988 and 2005 in English and held by 6 WorldCat member libraries worldwide
  • Advertising law and ethics by P. B Sawant( Book )1st edition published in 2002 in English and held by 3 WorldCat member libraries worldwide
  • Justice, human rights and press by P. B Sawant( Book )1st edition published in 1998 in English and held by 2 WorldCat member libraries worldwide
  • Transcript of lectures, 1992-97, by a judge of the Supreme Court of India
  • Report by Maharashtra (India)( Book )1st edition published in 2005 in English and held by 2 WorldCat member libraries worldwide
  • Manita urimaikaḷ pin̲ taḷḷappaṭukin̲r̲an̲a by P. B Sawant( Book )1st edition published in 2006 in Tamil and held by 1 WorldCat member library worldwide
  • Collection of lectures on human rights Keynote address by P. B Sawant( )1st edition published in 1990 in English and held by 1 WorldCat member library worldwide

Dr Manisha Bangar is a Social and Political analyst. She writes on the issues of Caste, Indian Politics and Bahujan Rights.

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