bold judiciary augurs well
one sense a kind of boldness in the ranks of the judiciary lately?
A boldness that was sadly missing when occasions demanded it earlier,
as public sentiment and the silent majority perhaps viewed as
then warranted? A boldness to uphold the law and its retributary
aspect to make the powerful face the consequences of their ill
do owe our courts a lot. But for the boldness exhibited - be it
in the CNG matter which got us a better breathing air
the sealing spree where the government has been brought to its
knees hopefully to usher in some kind of rule of law in matters
of urban discipline - things would continue to be in the rut.
It does appear the entire governance per se is dependent today
and is leaning heavily on the guts of the judiciary.
matters of criminal cognisance though, one perceived, till lately,
our courts to be timid. In common man's perception not exhibiting
the kind of firmness or the extent of sentencing to enforce the
supremacy of law over the law-breaker. Somewhere down the line
it appears now the perpetrator has crossed the invisible 'Laxman
Rekha' the judiciary had drawn for itself, for it to be more assertive
and say enough is enough.
between, didn't we suffer as a nation the ignominy of watching
on TV scenes of someone accused of murder and notoriously known
to be a criminal involved in many more heinous crimes, take oath
in the nation's Parliament as an honourable Member! Rajesh Ranjan
alias Pappu Yadav - a person who wielded influence and flaunted
muscle power from within the jail where he was incarcerated, had
earlier warranted the Supreme Court to transfer him to Delhi's
Tihar jail, so that distance and better supervision here could
control and negate his propensity to rig the impending poll, even
from within Patna's Beur jail.
was disgusting and disgraceful to note then that the very same
Apex Court found its hands tied, to mechanically endorse and permit
this individual his right to go to Parliament and take oath as
a Member, five months after being eligible to do so, because he
had been duly elected by the voters of Madhepura - his constituency
in Bihar. To represent them and be part of the august body that
guides and determines the destinies of the people, and makes laws
for us all to respect and obey. I suppose this didn't involve
guts, just a helpless interpretation of the nation's laws. But
along gutsy lines perhaps of some consolation, the Court's recent
stand denying him bail, with a firm directive not to file such
requests any further.
I see it, the discernible gutsy trend started perhaps in Maharashtra
with the conviction of a minister and bureaucrats involved in
a matter of non-compliance of court orders that led to consequent
resignations and incarceration in jail - something unthinkable
before this really happened. And lately, the conviction in the
Shashi Nath Jha murder case of Shibu Soren, a minister in the
Union Cabinet of prime minister Man Mohan Singh's UPA government.
Closely followed by the conviction of the flamboyant BJP MP Navjyot
Singh Sidhu, more popular today as a TV star for cricket's 'turning
point' and heavily wooed for endorsements by corporates!
were decidedly different not too long ago. I remember a strange
scene some of us were witness to at a conference on the criminal
justice system organized by the Indian Law Society here in Delhi
in the mid-90s. A spirited young police officer from Punjab then
working in the CBI had made bold to express how most of the judiciary
in Punjab had capitulated and abdicated their judicial functions
during the era when Sikh terrorism in the state ran riot holding
state functionaries to ransom in every field, judiciary included.
The magistracy at whatever levels could find their voice again,
the officer postulated, only to castigate police officers who
had actually controlled terrorism once it was subdued by sheer
dint and courage of the then police management in the state.
officer was forced to withdraw his statement faced with the intimidatory
tenor of the dignitary chairing the session - a former chief justice
of the Punjab & Haryana High Court - who taking umbrage at
the officer's direct accusation challenged him with a "if
you withdraw your statement, I will chose to ignore that you ever
made it" kind of a threat. Even so, respect for the worthy
and generally for the judiciary desisted the lot of us attending
that session discussing Punjab terrorism from joining issue while
being quite clear that the officer had spoken the truth and merely
voiced the sentiment foremost on all our minds.
this was the state of the judiciary perceived so in public minds
as a scared lot in the face of real threats to personal life and
lives of own family is something rarely disputed. But there were
other instances too, not necessarily terrorism related, when judiciary
was found lacking - viewed as too timid to take on those powerful,
more particularly politicians in power. The might of the legal
fraternity is another that has always challenged and defied judicial
boldness. Early in my service career I remember a murder accused
lawyer who secured bail within 24 hours of arrest thanks to his
cronies barging into the magistrate's courtroom determined to
get him to sign on the dotted line.
there are instances when judiciary has exhibited reluctance to
take on the lawyers including the instance when members of the
bar on strike ransacked the courtrooms in Delhi High Court, abused
the justices and the police had to be called in to save the day
- strangely with no report on the incident to the New Delhi police
then or later, to take cognisance. And there is the case not too
long ago of the then UP chief minister Kalyan Singh, when even
the apex court after holding him guilty as charged ended up merely
sentencing him "till the rising of the court".
Things are changing today. For the better. It is indeed heartening
that the errant criminal politician is being brought to book;
even if it is a case of delayed justice! Is it the general environment
of public sentiment that is providing fillip to judicial boldness?
Perhaps it is!
Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sector-23, Gurgaon-122017.tel
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