It was that great writer, Kingsley Amis, who said: "If you can't annoy somebody there is little point in writing." Which is precisely the raison d'etre for someone like me writing blogs. Life is pretty pointless if you don't have a Bentley in your garage, or a suicide vest in your suitcase, or Kangana Runout on your arm, or a degree in Entire Political Science, or a pilot car in front of you- nobody knows you exist, and they wouldn't give a shit even if they knew. So you get your own back by writing blogs and annoying these same twerps, see?
Only a blogger- the Samuel Pepys of today- can do that. Unlike a columnist or journalist or "public commentator" or established writer, a blogger does not have to bother about fearful editors with one ear tuned to the PMO, or keep one eye cocked on the Booker's long list, or keep both open for a possible nomination to the Rajya Sabha. He is a free bird, a pigeon which can splatter his dubious wisdom on any statue. The statue this week happens to be that of Themis, the goddess of justice in Greek mythology and now universally accepted as the symbol of Justice. Because the more I look the more I find that her scales have become tilted, the sword has become double edged and the blindfold has taken on a saffron hue and developed a few peep holes. Invoking justice in India today is like playing Russian roulette- a game of chance, an uncertain outcome, and a better chance of being arrested if you are innocent than if you are guilty.
Anyone who has taken the trouble to get to know me (not many, I must admit) knows that I prefer single malt to single women- the former ages better and doesn't have a bite. So it was with extreme reluctance that I recently had to refuse the gift of a bottle of Glenmorangie by a friend returning from watching the change of guard in 10, Downing Street, which has now replaced the change of guards in Buckingham Palace as the prime tourist attraction in London. You see, he had smuggled in a few bottles without paying duty, which was technically a crime. So the offered gift was a proceed of crime, for which the ED could arrest me, seize the bottle, and freeze my bank accounts. Ask Jaqueline Fernandez; she's on her way to the clinker by now, along with the cat costing forty lakhs gifted her by the con-man Suresh. It remains to be seen which of the two has the proverbial nine lives.
But seriously, this law ( The Prevention Of Money Laundering Act) states that if you accept anything which is allegedly the proceeds of a crime, you are complicit , even if you have no knowledge of any violation of the law. For example, if you buy a flat from someone who has built/bought it with money suspected to be tainted, then your flat can be seized, even though your own bonafides are clear. Ditto with your money if you sell your flat to such person. And since it will take about ten years for you to get bail (unless you are an Arnab Goswami or Nupur Sharma) and another ten for the case to be decided, you'll never see either again. So now you know why the ED is now the most dreaded agency in the country, and why the BJP can form governments even when it loses in elections. The PMLA is the gift that gives on giving- to the powers that B(JP). The highest courts have upheld this law. The law may be an ass, but it can surely deliver one hell of a kick.
Then again, you would expect that a decision by a High Court or even the Supreme Court would be respected by the courts at least, unless it is set aside by a reasoned judgment, right? Wrong- this is Russian roulette, remember? Three recent instances indicate how fickle and inconsistent our courts are becoming.
In the case of remission of the Bilkis Bano convicts the Bombay High Court ruled that since the trial was conducted in Maharashtra, it was the Maharashtra government that should decide their remission pleas. An eminently logical decision, but it was set aside by the Supreme Court, which, to add insult to the injuries already suffered by this poor woman, also added for good measure that the more lenient rules of 1992 ( and not the 2015 rules which debarred rapists and murderers from getting remission) would apply. This ensured their release, and has muddied the waters for future cases too.
Take the case of the BCCI, which has practically become a branch office of the BJP. The Justice Lodha Committee in 2016 had recommended, inter alia, limiting the tenures of its office bearers to six years ( including in the state Associations) with a cooling off period in between, to introduce accountability and to avoid its capture by unholy interests. This was, naturally(!), challenged by BCCI but twice, in 2016 and 2018, the Supreme Court upheld these recommendations. And then, suddenly, the same court reversed these two decisions last month for no sensible reason, ensuring the BJP takeover of perhaps the richest sporting body in the world. One ex- Chief Justice and two benches of the apex court over-ruled in a nano second, without a by your leave.
The most recent instance of judicial shock and awe was provided by the extraordinary convening of an SC bench on a holiday to consider the NIA's appeal against another order of the Bombay High Court ( a serial culprit in such matters!) acquitting Prof. Sai Baba of the UAPA charges against him. The bench stayed the High Court order after just one hearing, and sent Sai Baba back to jail even before he could trundle his wheel chair out of its gates. Most independent legal scholars and jurists have opined that such an order is unprecedented. Why were the Hon'ble judges in such a tearing hurry? Could they not have heard the appeal of the NIA in its normal turn, and then decided? Can a man's rights be taken away in such a cavalier manner, without going into the merits of a case, without giving the defendant an opportunity to present his side of the case? Was Sai Baba, a man on a wheelchair with 90% permanent disability, such a threat to the Indian state that he deserved an ex-parte condemnation between the serving of soup and the main dish on a holiday?
Similar bewildering judgments have become the order of the day of late, including the fact that one bench of the Delhi High court released Natasha Narwal and four others accused under UAPA in the Delhi riots case on bail, whereas another bench dismissed the bail application of a similarly accused Omar Khalid, languishing in jail for the last two years. Then again, in the Ram Mandir case the Supreme Court had, for a second time, upheld the constitutional validity of the Places Of Worship Act 1991, declaring it as a basic part of our legal structure. But it now appears to have done a shocking volte face: it has now admitted a number of petitions challenging the Act, stating that the Act does not forbid an inquiry to determine the character of the religious place. This is intriguing, to say the least, for the whole purpose of the Act was to freeze the religious character and status of the place as it stood in 1947: any inquiry now, 75 years later, can render the Act infructuous and unsettle the status in hundreds of cases. There has to be some sanctity and permanence attached to court orders, some finality and closure in law, and reopening settled legal rulings casually or opportunistically can only result in chaos and the perversion of justice. A citizenry has a right to expect justice based on general principles of law, not on the whims and interpretations of individual judges. Past judgements are supposed to provide valuable precedents, and to guide future judgments, but today they appear to count for nothing, with each judge ploughing his own furrow. This introduces a regrettable uncertainty in the administration of justice, leaving the litigant and his lawyer equally confused. It's easier these days to calculate your odds in a casino than in an Indian court of law.
Even Russian roulette is more predictable than our justice system. In the former one at least knows that out of the six chambers in the revolver, only one has a bullet. In our legal system one can't even bet on the number of bullets, or on whether they are live or blanks. Or whose finger is on the trigger.
The fact that we live in precarious times with BIG BROTHER lurking everywhere was brought home during a lovely lunch afternoon with the well heeled ladies in an upmarket locality... On hearing the word 'bilkis' there was a pregnant silence, then some indignant voices that raised pertinent questions were immediately shushed with wide fearful eyes furtively looking out for sinister ears in the walls! This repressed behaviour by women who confidently hold forth on many issues is unusual but it's rapidly becoming a mantra to zip opinions as it is better to be safe than sorry! Hats off to those who still dare to write keeping our nostalgia about democracy alive.ReplyDelete
Wonder if dispensing justice can be left to judges alone? AI endowed computers could do a better job? It's becoming like holy men variously interpreting, in their limited understanding, the Word of God ?ReplyDelete
Depressing blog, because it is so true!ReplyDelete
True. There's an sense of insecurity whe judicial security is so vastly lowered.Delete
State of the Union it is......ReplyDelete
A pliant Judiciary is worse than a dictatorial Executive. With the latter one knows the rules of enforcement. To claim to be a democracy and yet have the third pillar of the triumvirate in a crumbling state augurs ominously for the citizenry. When patriarchal and religious majoritarianism become the overarching sentiments in society, the Judiciary, which is formed from within it, will exhibit like traits. When it genuflects before its Executive as it inevitably must from being founded on a faulty plinth, then bewildering judgements will be dispensed with noticeable frequency.ReplyDelete
We are witnessing of late a divergence between Justice and Judgement.
All the cases cited in the blog appear accurate in the construct of their judgements, yet are astonishing in the dispensation of justice. Mere reliance on technicality and shroud of the law may deliver judgement; it cannot be the upholding of justice.
While Ex CJI Ranjan Gogoi has shocked and stunned repeatedly, there have been other judges of the Supreme Court who have applied salve on the people with their views and verdicts. Notably Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia delivered a superb judgement on the Hijab row, only to be confronted with the deliverance of Justice Hemant Gupta who was diametric.
The next CJI Mr. Dhananjay Y. Chandrachud whose lineage is enviable, is a stellar Judge who had the gumption to overturn two of his own father's - Ex CJI Y.V. Chandrachud - judgements! He has decriminalised adultery and homosexuality in India. He brings gasps to India's guardian patriarchs by encouraging students of Law to "incorporate feminist thinking" to take on issues involving women. Expectedly, he is accused of "toxic feminism" by those who feel jittery of "Indian culture" being violated.
Till the time that this government shows semblance to the regimes of autocrats and uniformist cultures, one fears that the inconsistent state of the Judiciary shall remain. Further, till the time that the political horizon does not throw images of opponents with character, but miniatures with "soft monoreligious tendencies" who resort to use currency as a tool for their political furtherance, we will continue to have a Judiciary that will reflect weakness. The connect lies in the societal thinking which influences the best of minds.
Is there a challenger in Justice D Y Chandrachud who will restore the Indian Judiciary to its past exalted status? Time will tell. For now he brings much needed relief to those who prefer single women to single malts.
** In the second paragraph the word 'diapensation' must be read as 'dispensing'.**Delete
At the rate the present dispensation is making long established institutions redundant, we are not too far from again becoming slaves, not by any foreign entity but by our own power hungry netas!ReplyDelete
Good piece. Completely valid comments. Saw another good piece today: https://thewire.in/law/courts-these-days-unselfconsciously-criminalise-political-actionReplyDelete
What we were and what we've been reduced to - a banana republic if there was one.ReplyDelete
The one institution one could pin one's hopes on is now as spineless as our snivelling 'so called' fourth pillar of democracy.
To pick up the thread where Mr. Patankar left it: indeed, single women may now look more enticing ever since Justice Chandrachud decriminalised adultery ( though I believe the defence chappies are still waiting for this largesse), but the Hon'ble judge has yet to prove himself. Upholding general values is fine, but his real test will come when he takes on this government on an issue that is politically crucial for the latter- eg: electoral bonds, Article 370, vivisection of J+K, UAPA, remission for the Bilkis Bano convicts, appointment of Justice Muralidhar as a Chief Justice, the discharge of Prof. Saibaba, to mention a few. Also. how he discharges his preeminent role as Master of the Roster. Till then I shall continue to take refuge in the single malt.ReplyDelete
How excellent is that...!Delete
The joy of reading Avay Shukla as he holds onto his stance while mixing it with wit, is like enjoying a heady cocktail by an expert bartender as his concoction soothes and stimulates the senses together.
If the future CJI does indeed excel at discharging his duties, particularly in the order and allocation of cases, he will certainly display himself as being a worthy occupier of the chair of Chief Justice of India.
Will Avay Shukla then shift his refuge....and join those who have gained from the Hon'ble Justice's past munificence...?
Time will tell.
The so called steel frame, the ICS-IAS biradari has much to explain for the plight you are referring to, and all of us are subject to.No Law,Amendment, Act,Ordinance in India has ever been enacted by anyone outside of that Imperium. Ideas are put into the ignorant politicians....ReplyDelete
truth wonderfully expressed...regards sirReplyDelete