Judicial Sloth

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Date: Monday, 21 July 2003
Time: 10:24:22 PM


July 20, 2003 Judicial Sloth The Best Bakery farce at the Vadodara Court and a small personal incident last month have set me thinking what might the way to remove perhaps our biggest cause for poor Governance. I had been a witness to a car thief being arrested three years back, and received a summons last month from the 42nd Court of Justice S. N. Ranade in Mumbai to appear in Court to give evidence.

The wording of the second paragraph was as follows:

"You are hereby summoned to appear before this court on 12/6/03, at 11.00 a.m. sharp to produce such document of things or to testify what you know concerning the matter of the said complaint, and not depart the without leave of the Court, and you are hereby warned that if you shall without just execute, neglect, or refuse to appear on the said dated, warrant will be issued to comple you attendance."

Apart from the extremely poor spellings and construction, it is apparent that it is threatening and arrogant in tone. It makes no effort to request cooperation of a witness who is to assist the Court; nor does it indicate how many hours a witness will have to spend. I sent a letter to the Court and the Chief Justice of the Mumbai High Court saying that they were using language which insulted me; and I object to this as an Indian Citizen. The Court can of course summon witnesses, but it must be polite, and indicate an appointment time for the witness. Otherwise, it means an unreasonable denial of a citizen's right to pursue his vocation. The time that the Courts can demand of witnesses must be reasonable so that they can organise their activities accordingly.

Justice Ranade was kind enough to phone me and tell me that he agreed the language was insulting, but assured me it was a standard format specified by the Criminal Procedure Code. I then am more aghast, since it means there is an institutionalised format for insulting all Indian Citizens and impinging on their time and liberty. This small incident and the perversion of justice in the Best Bakery case set me thinking about the entire functioning of the judiciary.

With some thought I have come to the conclusion that the judiciary must be made to mend its ways if India is to enjoy the benefits of Freedom, and not continue to protect the powerful dishonest members of society. The judicial system more than any other class has failed the Nation. More than the political class, the bureaucracy, and the police, the largest blame for our slide towards a more unjust society must lie at the doorsteps of the judicial system. If it treats witnesses, who are to aid the judicial system with such arrogance and rudeness, - a minor aberration, - what are the other faults it carries in its womb? I allege that by delaying justice, the Courts have ensured the rise of the lawlessness. If someone is wronged, no matter how clearly by anyone dishonest, the courts will not give him justice; - nay they will harass the complainant and any witnesses who support him. If an honest police officer refuses to be bribed or coerced into diluting investigations against a criminal, at the end of the case he can be almost certain that the criminal will walk free without conviction; during the years that the case will take, a criminal will always find a pliant police officer, witnesses, prosecutor or judge, who will take a more ‘practical’ view. In such circumstances, the blame for the increasing corruption in the police force lies at the doorsteps of the judiciary. If a policeman or bureaucrat is convinced that any honest actions of theirs will we thwarted by the justice system, is it reasonable to expect them not to accept bribes and allow themselves to be made the laughing stock of the lawbreakers they try and check? The Constitution of India gave the citizens a framework for a sound liberal society governed by the rule of law. The judiciary is an instrument created to implement that grand vision. In the last fifty-five years, it has singularly failed to deliver this objective. At the time of Independence, justice was at least delivered in reasonable time. The judicial system by its sloth has made an India in which justice is missing. Today, it encourages the criminal and lawbreaker at the expense of the law-abiding citizens. Its actions have encouraged the growth of the Dawood Ebrahims, Chhota Rajan’s, Fazlur Rahman’s and Arun Gawli’s to become the powers of effective dispute redressal. If a clear daylight murder or rape has been committed the courts will never mange to punish the culprits- a mafia don will. If nearly 3000 Sikhs are butchered in Delhi the survivors will ultimately have to rescind their testimonies like Satnam Bai since the courts will not dispense justice. Even in a case where the highest Court in the land directed the CBI to conduct investigations against traitors of the Nation based on notations in a diary, declaring loftily ‘that howsoever high the accused may be, they were not above the law’, the same court after a few years threw the case out on the grounds that the aforesaid grounds were not adequate. Perhaps, the compulsions of the Supreme Court judges had changed! When the conviction rate in heinous crimes is barely 6%, it doesn’t require an exceptional risk-taking ability to get away with murder. The courts are culpable of actively abetting and encouraging criminals. In the recent Best Bakery case, the Court while releasing the accused, made the revelation that “ Courts actually are courts of evidence, not courts of justice”. The Judge was at least being honest in admitting the true role of the judiciary in India is not being a dispenser of justice. We have no Chief Justices,- only Chief Gatherers of Evidence When honest citizens cannot obtain justice within the existing legal-normative framework they distort the normative notions of justice and fair play which are at the roots of ethical value systems. Under such conditions, the dishonest and powerful get away with illegal actions and this starts becoming the role model and acceptable behaviour in society. I allege that this has happened to India, because the Courts may have been technically correct in their approach, but they have not been wise, or concerned with truth or the upholding of justice. Can we plead with a Court to instruct the police to register a FIR against the judicial system for insulting citizens; for abetting and encouraging crime by not giving speedy and wise justice? Let us stop accepting the plea about the lack of resources. We do not accept the excuse from police of lack of resources when crimes are committed. Why should we accept this lame excuse from the judiciary? People, who take on a job, must deliver or resign. They cannot with fair conscience take their salaries and not deliver. I guess the only place to rectify this may be the Courts. Is it possible to get the Courts to take cognizance of this matter? Or file an FIR against the judicial system, or commit contempt of Court to get them to at least address this issue?

Mera Bharat Mahaan… Nahi Hai, Per Yeh Dosh Mera Hai.

Shailesh Gandhi


B2, Gokul Apartment,
Podar Road, Santacruz (W),
Mumbai - 400 054