Democracy comprises of four pillars viz; The Parliament, The Judiciary, The Bureaucracy, and The Media. Of these, the Parliament, which has the mandate of the people, is supposed to be supreme.
However lately this perception has taken a severe drubbing – when Supreme Court [SC] recently steamrolled the law called the National Judicial Appointment Committee [NJAC], enacted by the Parliament, with all political parties overwhelmingly supporting it, followed by President ratifying the same. NJAC entailed the provision to appoint SC Judges and Chief Justices of High courts by a select committee consisting of three SC judges, the Law Minister and two eminent persons nominated in consultation with the Prime Mister, Chief Justice of SC and the leader of opposition party. Rejecting the NJAC, the SC on its own ruled that there was no necessity to replace the existing system in place, called “Collegiums”. This existing system empowers the SC Judges to select new incumbents for vacant posts. Despite the fact that a system of existing Judges selecting new judges does not exist anywhere in the world, our SC opined that India, being a ‘unique’ country, it need not adhere to practices that exist in other parts of the world. This move by the SC has further emboldened the Judiciary as it knows that, if the issue resurfaces in the Parliament, the Congress party which earlier had given its unstinting support, will definitely not support it now, just to score points over the ruling party.
While the case related to NJAC was being debated in the SC, a well-known SC lawyer even suggested that the bench wear a veil (i.e. go in disguise) and go amongst the people in the street to find out what the common man thinks of the Indian Judiciary.
In the opinion of the common man, the Judiciary, while presenting itself as ‘supreme,’ does not seem to be the panacea to solve our country’s mounting problems. Instead, it has become the root of many of the evils existing in the country.
At this point, I’d like to discuss a few of the current cases, in order to expose how our Judiciary functions. All these cases are in the public domain – however I will describe them briefly for those of you who may not have kept abreast of these events/cases:
 The L. N. Mishra murder Case
L.N. Mishra was a railway minister during the Indira Gandhi regime. He was killed in a bomb blast in Bihar in the year 1975. A Charge sheet was filed in 1977 in the CBI court of Patna. The case was later, for some inexplicable reason, transferred to Delhi in 1979. After repeated adjournments and hearings, the final arguments in the case concluded in 2012, and judgment was delivered in 2014 – 39 years after the macabre incident. During the course of the trial, 20 different Judges heard the case, one of the accused died, and the other one, now 65 years old, has a serious ailment.
 Pilibhit Fake Encounter Case
In 1991, a group of Sikh pilgrims was returning home after visiting some holy places. The bus in which they were travelling was intercepted by Pilibhit cops who forced 11 Sikhs to step down from the bus. They were then taken to a secluded place, and killed, in cold blood – in three separate “encounters”. The judgement has been delivered in 2016 – after 25 years! – convicting the 47 of the 57 cops, the other 10 having already died.
 Fodder case [Chara Ghotala Case]
When Lalu Prasad was the Chief Minister of Bihar, from 1991-1996, a massive scandal called ‘chara ghotala’ – that involved the embezzlement of Rs.9.4 billion (and direct involvement of LP) came into the limelight. Other cases related to fraud, disproportionate assets and criminal conspiracy, in which LP was involved, were filed. In one of the cases related to misappropriation of funds, LP was kept in Judicial custody for few days, but managed to post bail. Another case, filed in 1998, alleged that wealth amounting to Rs.4.6 billion had been swindled by LP and his cohorts. Yet another case relates to his fraudulent withdrawal of Rs.370 million from the Govt. treasury. In March 2012, nearly 16 years after the CBI took over the case, a special CBI court framed charges against LP and some others. Of the 44 accused, six have since died, while two are still absconding. In Sept 2013, special CBI court convicted LP and he was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment – barring him from contesting an election for six years. He, once again, managed to get released on bail, and is a free man, playing the role of Kingmaker. He has since forced the Bihar Govt. to induct two of his semi illiterate sons into the Ministry, one of whom is next to only the Chief Minister in hierarchy. The case was deliberately delayed for years by political interference at the highest level, especially since LP’s support was crucial for the survival of the Govt. in power at that time. Isn’t it a shame that a convict is capable of influencing even the formation of the Ministry of a state?
 Salman Khan ‘hit and run case’
In the year 2002, a noted Bollywood star was arrested for rash and drunken driving, after his car ran over some homeless, pavement dwellers – killing one and severely wounding three others. After repeated adjournments and hearings, in May 2015 (13 years later!), he was found guilty by the Bombay Sessions court, and was sentenced to five years imprisonment. Salman, with the battery of lawyers at his command, managed to post bail, on the very same day that the judgment was delivered. In Dec. 2015, the Bombay High Court acquitted him of all the charges, due to lack of evidence. Now the case rests with the Supreme Court. The victims have been waiting for 14 years for justice. Interesting fact – this man has now been elevated as our goodwill ambassador to the Olympic Games!
 2 G Spectrum case
During the Congress coalition Govt., mobile telephone companies were issued licenses at ridiculously low prices, which they then used to create the 2G spectrum for cell phones. While investigating the case, the CAG concluded that in the allocation of licenses, the exchequer lost a massive sum of Rs.1.76 trillion. In 2012, Supreme Court ruled that the allocation of spectrum was “unconstitutional and arbitrary”, and cancelled all the 122 licenses that were issued in 2008. According to the court, Ministers involved in the allocation wanted to favor some companies at the cost of the public exchequer and “gifted away important national assets.” TIME magazine ranked the scam second on their “Top ten abuses of power” list behind only the “Water Gate Scandal”.
Though this bizarre case has been in the public domain for almost eight years now, not even a single conviction has taken place so far, and the way our judiciary functions, it is unlikely to happen in near future!
 Coal allocation case [or ‘Coalgate’ scam]
This, too, is a major political scandal that took place during Congress coalition Govt. Between 2004 and 2009, coal mines were allocated to private parties, not by competitive bidding, but simply on an ad-hoc basis. As a result of these allotments the exchequer lost Rs.1.86 trillion (according to the CAG). Some of the beneficiaries happen to be high profile MPs belonging to the Congress party, and its coalition partners. This case is now being heard in the Supreme court, but when the perpetrators would be convicted is anybody’s guess.
 Commonwealth Games scam
In the year 2010, the Commonwealth Games were held in New Delhi. Everything to do with these Games was mired in controversy – including the alleged massive corruption by the games officials. In 2011, the CBI filed the first charge sheet against the chief organizer Mr. Kalmadi, for criminal conspiracy and cheating. According to the charge sheet, he was the main-accused in awarding of contracts resulting in the loss of few hundred million rupees to the country! Charges were also filed against other officials – but, today, 6 years later, all of them, including Mr. Kalmadi, are roaming free and with impunity.
 Issues related to ‘Bail’ and ‘Adjournments’
In the recent past, Jawaharlal Nehru University students, celebrated ‘martyrdom’ day of Afzal Guru. Afzal Guru was a convicted terrorist who was tried in the various courts for his involvement in the attack on the Parliament, and had been sentenced to death for his crimes. During this highly condemnable incident, students (of this highly respected Indian university) resorted to slogan shouting like ‘Bharat ki barbadi tak, jung raheji, jung rahegi’ [Our war will continue until India is destroyed] , and ‘Bharat ke tukde hoge, Insha Allah ,Insha Allah, [Allah willing, India will be cut in to several pieces]. A few of the student leaders were apprehended and presented in the court. Surprisingly though, instead of facing charges of sedition, these troublemakers were released on bail within few days! Maybe, because they were represented by a few top lawyers! The question that arises in my mind is – what is the fault of the other thousands of ‘under trials’ who are languishing in jails for years together? They do not have the recourse to engage the top-notch lawyers – so they suffer? Such incidents send the wrong signals that there is a different set of rules for the rich and poor. The common man is bewildered – not knowing why each and every case needs to be adjourned umpteen number of times, before judgment is delivered. I’m reminded of a Bollywood film dialogue – where the defendant says all the court does is issue ‘tarikh’[dates], ‘tarikh’ and ‘tarikh’. Sad but true!
 Judicial Activism
In recent time, after discarding NJAC, the Judiciary is showing its one-up-man-ship, and has become more pro active, challenging the government’s well intended proposals as well, and taking on social issues. There is an unwritten practice in some of the Hindu temples, wherein female members are not allowed in the sanctum. Recently some female activists, who have nothing to do with the religion, but want visibility on TV, forcibly tried to enter the sanctum. The initiative was strongly opposed by the local population. When the issue went to the court, despite the custom having been in force for centuries, the court directed the State Govt. to give full protection to the activists to enter the inner sanctum of the temple. Now, I have no problem with the judgment or its implementation. However, I am saddened that the same zeal, enthusiasm and activism is lacking, when the question arises of women not being allowed into the famous ‘Haji Ali’ mosque located in Mumbai.
Where activism needs to be enforced
To regain the confidence of the common man, it is high time our Judiciary concentrate on the following issues:
 It should take ‘suo moto’ action to abolish ‘triple talaq’ system prevailing among Indian Muslims. The practice has been abrogated even in most of the Muslim countries.
 Instead of throwing the ball in the court of government, the Judiciary, on its own, should insist on having a ‘Uniform civil code’ – that is implemented in letter and spirit. We cannot, as a country, have different civil laws for different religions. It just does not make any sense!
 In various parts of the country, there are frequent agitations demanding reservations in jobs. As a consequence of these protests, public property, worth billions, is damaged and looted. In most cases, the persons spear heading these movements are known. Why doesn’t the judiciary target these hoodlums and give them the strictest punishment, so as to nip future destruction of public property in the bud?
 Uphold Laws of Defamation: Though the law of ‘defamation’ does exist in our country, it seems doubtful whether anyone has ever been convicted for making unsubstantiated charges against their opponent. This has emboldened people to use the filthiest abuses with impunity to tarnish the image of an adversary. Even when a defamation case is filed, as usual, it undergoes adjournments, delayed hearings, appeals, with no end in sight. If such cases are brought to justice within the shortest possible time, persons will be careful before making wild allegations without having even an iota of evidence.
In conclusion, I’d like to say that while the common man finds lot of pitfalls with the Judiciary, it is distressing to note that the Indian Media (which ought to play an important role in safeguarding democracy), doesn’t report or give due importance to such serious issues, thus impeding the country’s growth. It simply focuses on debating and dissecting trivialities – issues that have nothing to do with the problems facing the country. It is equally diabolical that our ‘liberals’, ‘leftists’, ‘intellectuals’ and ‘elitists’ do not find a serious flaw in the partly dysfunctional Judiciary. Probably, they fear that by raking up the subject, they would invite the Judiciary’s wrath, and be hauled up for “Contempt of Court”
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