Politician, BJP spokesperson, lawyer and engineer, Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay has made his presence felt in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court after his involvement in multiple public interest litigations.
In this interview with Bar & Bench’s Nalini Sharma, Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay talks about his political career, demonetization and his “passion to file PILs”.
Nalini Sharma: How did law happen?
Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay: I did my engineering and worked in many companies including Hero Honda, and Maruti before I decided to do my law. I quit my job when the Anna Movement started. I was a Senior Engineer in Maruti Suzuki then.
I decided to do law from Ghaziabad and then practice in the Supreme Court. I was very interested in criminal and constitutional cases, and worked with Mr. Prashant Bhushan and Mr. Ram Jethmalani in the beginning before I started taking up independent cases.
Nalini Sharma: You’re involved in several PILs before the Supreme Court of India. Where did this begin?
Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay: My first PIL was in the Uniform Civil Code matter in 2015. Although the PIL was dismissed, I think it was a landmark as to how the wheels of Uniform Civil Code came into motion. During the dismissal, Chief Justice TS Thakur recognized many things. He acknowledged the violation of the fundamental rights and gave me the liberty to file an application before the government.
Even right now, I’m an intervener in the Uniform Civil Code and the triple talaq matter. The Supreme Court has permitted me to appear and argue as a petitioner in person in both matters.
Nalini Sharma: What are your comments on the recent Allahabad High Court’s observations on triple talaq?
Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay: I think it is a very right decision. India is a secular country and there is no place for personal laws in a secular country like ours. I think the UCC should in fact be drafted by women only!
In my personal opinion, the Uniform Civil Code along with the best practices of all the communities together if drafted by women will be a great step forward for our nation. The government should constitute a Draft Committee chaired by women and consisting of women.
Nalini Sharma: Which other PILs are you involved in?
Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay: Well there is the All India Judicial Services case. The court has asked me to file representation to the government which I have submitted and the government is considering it. A few days back our Prime Minister during the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the Delhi High Court had expressed his support for the All India Judicial Services.
The problem with the collegiums system is that equal opportunities are not provided to all the prospective candidates. The system does not instil any confidence in the public. There is always a chance of nepotism. When a son of a doctor becomes a doctor or when the son of an IAS officer becomes an IAS officer, no body questions it or talks about it. But when the son of a judge becomes a judge, everybody says its due to politics and nepotism. We need to get rid of this. And we can only do that if Article 312 comes into play.
Another important PIL that I have filed is about the Citizen’s Charter. I think right to service is an integral part of Article 21, Right to Life. This is why it is the duty of the government to provide a Citizen’s Charter Act to ensure time bound delivery of goods and services and redressal of citizen’s grievances.
I have also filed a PIL for the appointment of Lokpal. Another PIL I have filed is for the effectuation of the Directive Principles of State Policy. We celebrate Baba Saheb’s birthday every year but the fact is that after more than 68 years, our Constitution is still not implemented one hundred percent.
Fundamental rights, fundamental duties and DPSPs are all supplementary and complimentary to each other. Without implementing the DPSPs, we cannot achieve the golden goals set out in the Preamble.
There is also a PIL for electoral reforms. After hearing the matter for over two years, the matter has finally been listed before a five judge bench and is pending right now. I think if the court has framed serious charges in which a person can be convicted for five years or more, that person should be debarred from contesting for elections and his case should be transferred to a fast-track court. If he is convicted, he should be debarred for life from contesting and forming any political party.
Nalini Sharma: Recently, the Supreme Court posed important questions in the demonetization petitions.
Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay: There are twenty-four PILs before the Supreme Court regarding demonetization. One of them is mine. Most of them are filed by the Advocates and District Cooperative Banks. I think these PILs are filed more for personal interest than public interest.
As to whether demonetization violates Article 19 and 26 is a question that needs to be answered. I think the government should restrict the cash transactions above Rs. 5,000 and the government should recall, not replace, the currencies above Rs. 100.
In the United States of America, maximum value of the currency is $100. In Europe, it’s 50 euros. All the developed countries don’t have any currency over 100. Recalling the currency over Rs. 100 will help greatly in curbing corruption.
Nalini Sharma: Do you only deal with PILs revolving around political and national issues?
Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay: Not at all. I have also filed a PIL for the promotion of Yoga in our country. We need a National Yoga Policy. The right to health is an integral part of Right to Life under Article 21 and health cannot be secured without providing yoga training to all our children.
The Supreme Court had disposed off my PIL directing the Central Government to frame a National Yoga Policy within 90 days and including it in the curriculum of the students.
Nalini Sharma: How did you get involved in so many PILs?
Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay: (laughs) I think I have a passion to file PILs. My PILs are all filed as Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay and not a BJP Spokesperson. I am not a politician, even though I was one of the founding members of Aam Aadmi Party. I was the first founding member who resigned.
In fact I was a part of the screening committee of the Lok Sabha tickets. There was a three-member committee consisting of Sanjay Singh, Yogendra Yadav and I. Then politics played its role and I ended up quitting, just like what happened with Prashant Bhushan.
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