Home > Social Causes > Justice: Awake, Arise and Stop Not

Justice: Awake, Arise and Stop Not

Drunk and driving, molestation, rape and murders and frauds. The number of these cases in courts is just one part of the story, lack of movement in such cases is the other side of the story. The judicial slumber on these without the urgency to clear them is appalling. The judiciary is not merely empowered to pass judgements but question the concerned parties and decide if an age-old law applies or use the principles of natural justice to be fair and at times go against the letter of the law and choose the spirit of the law to supersede.

The question that arises is whether the courts and the judiciary are really effective in handling the crimes before them. The Indian Supreme Court has done a stellar job of being the check on an over enthusiastic government but the Supreme Court is not the court that handles all the cases.

If one looks at the various types of cases then one is worried about the quality of the judiciary to be rational. Let us look at a few of the events that have been played out inside the court under the scrutiny of the media and the common people.

The Gujarat riots and its aftermath are still fairly fresh in many of our minds. The most visible case was the Best Bakery case. The flip-flop in the statements by Zaheera Sheikh caused the case to drag. It nearly derailed the case and finally a retrial helped get some measure of justice to those who died in the gory incident.

A mature judiciary would have probed and tried to understand what the witness was saying and how much of it was true. Trained soldiers have a problem seeing death and Zaheera Sheikh was 19 years old and claimed to have seen her family members burn to death. It should have been a case to study her psychological condition because it’s never easy to see a human slowly die due to burning. It’s said it takes 11 minutes for death to be final when one is burnt alive.

In the aftermath, Zaheera went to jail for perjury or lying under oath and her own community disowned her for her flip-flops. A well prepared and smart team of lawyers could have seen the accused out on bail on the first day and acquitted earlier had they connected these dots. The judiciary and the judge would have been able to identify how to find the holes in the statement and could have gotten to the truth faster but the case dragged for 4 years.

Judiciary has to upgrade itself. The upgrade is not merely with new laws but also in the knowledge of new sciences and discoveries to be able to effectively officiate in cases. A well learned and smart judge with the latest knowledge in sciences and new age discoveries could question the people involved and effectively come to a conclusion faster.

The case of Rohit Shekar is another prime example. To prove that N. D. Tiwari is his father it took Rohit Shekar 4 years. A DNA test to prove the paternity takes about 14 days to a few months at the maximum if one wants the most detailed DNA test.

If a judge had ordered and enforced a DNA test on N. D. Tiwari on the first day, the matter could have been solved in less than 3 months. Justice though not denied in either of the above 2 cases was certainly delayed and that time could have been used to address other cases. The judiciary can certainly help matters by being more rational, proactive and forward thinking.

If one looks at case in the Guwahati high court between ICFAI, Hyderabad and the CFA Institute from US over the ownership of the Chartered Financial Analyst title, its absurdity at its best. The CFA Institute USA, formerly called Association for Investment Management and Research or AIMR has been offering this degree since more than 50 years and even the industry clearly prefers the title conferred by the CFA Institute USA. Every year the CFA Institute has to conduct their exams here in India, they need court permission.

I truly wonder how the courts can merely sit on such a simple decision. Even though the parties were partners at one time, the original title was brought into India by the American body. The spirit of the law naturally favours the American institute but yet due to Indian considerations, the case drags on.

The Indian judiciary is the conscience keeper of India’s democracy. The Supreme Court has been commendable in the way it has handled a lot of issues. The same zeal is missing in the lower courts that have rarely thought outside the box and have stuck to the letter of the law and past precedents from higher courts. The practice of holding on to past precedents from higher courts and ancient laws are illogical when the situations, sciences and the societies have evolved.

As an example, Rohit Shekhar cannot claim to be N. D. Tiwari’s ‘legitimate’ son according Section 112 of the Indian Evidence Act. This act is 140 years old.

Many may argue a DNA test not 100% accurate. We blindly import many things American but when it truly matters, we do not want to force our judicial system to adopt an American judicial habit for the greater good.

The judiciary in India is one of the institutions that still have some legitimacy left but the absurd, blind and irrational behaviour by the judiciary in the recent times where the emphasis is on the letter of the law and not on the spirit of the law is eroding its respect and legitimacy. The fast changing pace of societal norms have left the ancient laws grappling with the new challenges. The challenges are different and the laws are inadequate to solve many such issues. The judiciary has to be innovative at such times and stop looking at precedents and laws of the past because the new issues require an out of the box thinking.

The judiciary cannot wait until there is a new law or a change in an existing law to be able to decide the course of action. Each delay in simple decisions is simply eroding the trust of the citizens of the country in the judiciary to be the guide of India into the future.

Lest the judiciary forgets, it’s still working for the citizens of the country and has to adapt to the needs of the citizens. It cannot ask the citizenry to adapt to archaic rules that have no valid basis today.

It is also time that the goddess of justice in India changes her look to match with her sister who stands on top of the Old Bailey court in England; with her vision not blocked by a blindfold and the sword raised and ready to protect.

The saying below the Old Bailey court reads, “Protect the innocent and defend the children of the poor.” How well has the Indian judiciary performed this task is a question that we have to constantly keep asking. With the increasing cases of violence on women and some with documented video proof, the cases still pending in courts are a dark reminder that we need to demand that the judiciary work for the greater good.

One can equate the government and the judiciary as parents. Parents use punishment as well as praise to raise kids. It’s similar for the government and the judiciary and the citizens of a country. If either one or both are consistently irrational and rigid, they cease to be relevant. The fate of such a country ends at the doorstep of internal strife and chaos.

As children grow, parents too have to change the medium and method of interaction with their children. The judiciary and government have no choice but to change, for now the children or citizens are growing and are changing the world faster than ever.

Categories: Social Causes Tags: , ,
  1. August 10, 2012 at 7:09 am

    Interesting debate…and what a fabulous ending with Judiciary being parent and us being children.

  2. August 28, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    Actually our system is not well designed and over burdened. This is interesting to read your take of parent-child. Wish our system can understand it too:)

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