Have you noticed that when anyone is caught (especially someone with a certain amount of power or wealth or both), a common phrase used is, “The Law will take its own course.” And, unfortunately, we all know what that means in the current Indian context, i.e. it will be slow, will take years and sometimes decades before the Judiciary awakens from its deep slumber. In many cases, by the time the final judgement is delivered, the victim, accuser and/or convict may have already passed away! And, even more unfortunate is that this seems to happen more often than we’d like to admit.
- Our Judiciary attributes this inordinate delay in the deliverance of the judgement and piling up of innumerable cases in various courts, to an inadequate number of Judges, seemingly oblivious of the fact that the number of working days for the judiciary, exclusive of vacations, public holidays and weekends, do not exceed 200 days in a year. The number of free days Judges enjoy is more than a Kindergartener!
- Another reason for slow justice seems to be over enthusiasm and activism. Possibly to show one-upmanship; or be self congratulatory, the Judiciary now routinely dabbles in issues which do not fall within its domain. I have to ask here did we need the judiciary to set the height of the dahi-handi to not exceed 20 feet? Did they really need to involve themselves shifting IPL matches outside Mumbai despite the drought affected area being in Marathawada? Banning ‘jalikuti’, the entry of women in places of worhsip in the name of ending gender discrimination? Directing Maharashtra Government to issue licences to dance bars in a matter of two days etc.? This is what contributes to more delays in the important and critical cases.
- Another example is the hot button Cauvery water sharing issue where the Karnataka Government has repeatedly and openly defied court orders to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu with no consequences. Why do we have a judiciary if we don’t have to follow verdicts we do not like? Would not the judiciary and our country be better served if these politicians were taken to task?
- If the Judiciary is not independent of politics, and free to adjudicate on matters of crucial importance, if political institutions are now allowed to obey or disobey court orders according to their convenience, if the judiciary wastes its precious and valuable resources on interference in unimportant issues, especially since they never work more than 200 days a year, – where does that leave our nation? Is it any wonder, that the important legal issues, that need a very cognizant, aware and enlightened judiciary, don’t even stand a chance at garnering its attention?
Please understand, I’m not arguing the merit or demerit of the individual issues here, but rather questioning the need the courts of the land to be involved in them. Let us suppose for a minute that these cases are truly imperative, then why is there a marked lack of zeal on crucial gender issues such as the abrogation of the practice of ‘triple talaq’ and polygamy? Why is the issue of a Uniform Civil Code, laws that apply to every single citizen of India not being brought up, discussed, argued and legislated? In fact, when triple talaq came up for judicial verdict, our judiciary, rather spinelessly, shifted the issue to the Government. In asking for a governmental opinion, the establishment shrewdly passed on the ‘blame’ for the judgement on to the government, as opposed to itself. Is our Judiciary not expected to be non-political? Should they be more worried about the tide of public opinion, than the law of the land, and the constitution of our country?
Here’s another confusing issue: our judiciary seems to have conceptualized that “bail is a rule and jail is an exception”. It is is bewildering to me, the common man, that when a person is convicted and given severe punishment, how come he is free on bail for an indiscriminate length of time, bringing into question the very validity of the verdict? However, this issue of ‘bail but no jail’ does not become a major issue with Indian psyche, because we are so accustomed to the fact that politicians are entitled to be corrupt, to amass huge wealth, commit crimes for which they will not be prosecuted due to the huge power they give themselves. And, we keep believing that we have no choice. We keep electing the same scoundrels, looking past their misdemeanours, believing that they are our only saviours. Public sympathy and often judiciary empathy results in the proliferation of more and more such elements, who firmly believe that even when caught, they will be released on bail. In the worst case scenario, a short ‘journey’ to jail will not deter them, as they are allowed to continue their nefarious activities while in jail too.
Here are some examples of slow or no justice, that confound the common man:
In the month of November of 2012, BJP politician Subramanian Swami filed a petition in Delhi court alleging that Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and their party loyalists have committed fraud by usurping land worth few hundred crores. They perpetrated this by transferring public land to a private limited company called ‘Young India Limited’. Almost two years later, in June 2014, the court issued summons to the accused. After studying all the relevant documents, it observed that YIL was created as a sham. A year later, in 2015, the Gandhis and others were given bail, and from the time the case was filed, it has been transferred from one court to another with no tangible result expected in the forseeable future.
Jayalalitha, who is the current Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, was charged for corruption and disproportionate assets during her 1991-1995 reign. In September 2014, she was found guilty and sentenced to four years imprisonment. She approached the Supreme Court and was granted bail. She (a criminal sentenced by a court of law) has now won a recently held election and has been reinstated as Chief Minister! And, she continues to remain out on bail.
Lalu Prasad, Chief Minister of Bihar during the mid Nineteen Nineties, was charged in the well known ‘fodder scam’ case involving crores of public money in addition to various other serious charges. In September 2013, he was disqualified as MP and sentenced to six years imprisonment. He, too, managed to get bail and has remained a free man ever since, and quite enjoys playing the role of king maker!
The 2G scam, which is one of the biggest corruption case in our history, has been in the public domain for more than eight years now. No one has been convicted yet. The scam involved the embezzlement of a few hundred crores of public money, and was a result of connivance of very influential politicians like A Raja, and Kanimozi with unscrupulous elements. They have been charged with criminal conspiracy, cheating, criminal breach of trust, and corruption. Both Raja and Kanimozi were in jail for a few months, managing to get bail and have been actively involved in politics while out on bail for more than 2 years now!
Kalmadi was the chief organiser of 2010 Common Wealth Games Organising Committee. He used his official position to illegally award contracts to some dubious firms causing the exchequer losses of over Rs.90 crores. He along with his cronies are accused of conspiracy, forgery, and misconduct. He, too, was released on bail in June 2012 after remaining in jail for a mere ten months. In his bail application he cited one of the Supreme court’s judgement that “bail is a rule and jail is an exception”.
These are just a few examples, based on prominent cases. There are so many cases wherein the accused have been on bail for months and often even years! Is it any wonder that public perception of our legal system, our judiciary is appallingly low? It is normal for the common man overlook an injustice, to allow a victim to suffer, to absorb the losses from corruption and bribery than approach the courts for redressal.
It has been said that justice delayed is justice denied – and that is routine here in India. In order to regain public confidence, it is time that the judiciary does some sincere introspection and begins to focus on expeditious disposal of cases involving persons enjoying political patronage.
Simply numerous adjournments, stays and bail are not what is expected from the judiciary by us, the common citizens. We want quick results of cases, we want our judiciary working on cases that solve our problems, that result in an eradication of corruption at our level, which make our lives better and easier to live. We have to demand this – consistently and constantly from our politicians, our legislature, our executive, our judiciary. They have jobs because we pay for them. Let them begin working for us.