On rights and wrongs, where is Right to Justice?

The oldest case of the country got solved only last year, 76 years later. We need the right to protect our dignity and demand timely justice to become a super power in the right sense

seema

Seema Sindhu | June 27, 2014 | New Delhi



The budget which finance minster Arun Jaitley (a renowned lawyer himself) presents on July 10 is likely to carry the baggage of Right to Food which the UPA II thrust on the reigning government. Happily or unhappily he is slated to set aside a huge corpus for the Act whose time has not come yet.

It would be plain ignorance on my part if I could wish the Narendra Modi government would have the guts to subvert the Act as it has been passed with the support of BJP in the last leg of the UPA. Political compulsions of populism kill all the fiscal and intelligent logic in this country.

When UPA came to power again in 2009, the party gave the credit of victory to its “rights based approach” of governance. UPA I had given the country Right to Information, Right to Education, Right to Employment (NREGA - the biggest money eating scheme), Right to Land and it promised to give Right to Food in its second term. And it did despite opposition from many sane people within its own party.

Rahul Gandhi monotonously applauded his “rights based approach”. My humble grudge against his approach was: thank you for making us beggars and dependent. But how do you prioritise enactment of these rights? Of course people need information, of course they need education, food etc. But if your great vision is lacking anything it is Right to Justice - the only way a man can sustain his dignity? How many centuries it would take to lay the first foundation of a civilised society?

Can any country be civilised without Right to Justice? Leaders talk of making India a super power. Wonderful, but it agonises me gravely to say as a citizen of a free India which boasts of being the largest democracy in the world, I do not have a Right to Justice even after 67 years of independence of the country.

What do I mean by Right to Justice? Not the moon! But just timely delivery of justice so that I can be a guardian of the law of this country. So that I can live with a certain dignity if it is in question. Of course we have courts, we have the finest of judges, who have in the recent past set precedents in terms of ‘judiciary activism’ in cases like 2G and Coalgate.

But as William E Gladstone (four-time prime minister of Britain) said, “Justice delayed is justice denied”. With over two crore cases pending in various courts of the country, one can empirically say India virtually has no system to dispense justice.

The oldest case of the country just got solved last year on February 20. Filed in 1936, the litigation over a six-acre plot in Raja Gaon Kharauni village in Uttar Pradesh went on for three generations of a family - taking 76 years to do justice. My generation does not hope to live for 76 years.  

“I would have spent over Rs 3 lakh fighting the case and gone to court over 11,000 times in the past 60 years. When the supreme court during review of old cases took my case as one of the oldest in the country and directed the lower court to dispose it off fast, my hopes were revived,” Dharmnath Singh (the first generation petitioner) told a paper last year. Dharmnath was one fortunate person. Many litigants just die with a wish of poetic justice in their heart at the durbar of God up in heaven.

Irony dies its death two crore times when various governments come and go without doing much on this concern citing fiscal constraints while not thinking twice before spending several lakhs of crores on money guzzlers like NREGA. Food security will cost the government over Rs 1.2 lakh crore according to rough estimates. In all, the social sector schemes of UPA would glut down 60 percent of the gross budgetary support every year despite the admission of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi that “Of every rupee spent by the government, only 17 paise reaches the poor.” 

I can buy education, food, land but I can't buy timely justice which should be the first and foremost right of a civilised society. I don't know how many years, sometimes even generations it would take to claim one's dignity put at stake in litigations.

Chief justice of India, RM Lodha, had just shown a glimmer of hope when a week ago he moved a proposal to keep supreme court, high courts and trial courts open throughout the year. But then any right idea meets the fiercest opposition and so did this.

Justice Lodha had proposed, “Judiciary over the years has become an essential service provider like hospitals, electricity or water department. These departments function 365 days a year. Then why not the judiciary?” At present, the supreme court works for 193 days, high courts for 210 days and trial courts work for 245 days a year.

While one does not know what is the collective stand of justices across India on the chief justice’s suggestion, the black coats have shown the black flag saying this will leave them with no personal life. But one needs to remember that 365 days don't mean working breathlessly without weekly offs or the basic leaves. People have a roster system in office across various sectors. Why not here?

To my understanding the problem of the lawyers is if courts are made to work 365 days, they will have to take lesser number of cases and let go of their economy of scale. If a lawyer is taking 100 cases in a year in the current set up, he will have to take only around say 50 because the gap between hearings is cut short. Many times lawyers take dates after dates because of their lack of homework due to excessive cases. And the plaintiffs suffer due to their greed.

I don't know if justice Lodha will go against the Bar Council of India. But this is an idea whose time has come. It will not only help in speedy dispensation of justice, but will add to employment at large scale starting from judges to lawyers to court administration and other court staff.

Haile Selassie (emperor of Ethiopia) had rightly said, “Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”

Hope justice Lodha will not let the idea die silent. Hope some party, some leader or some government will someday conceive the idea of Right to Justice and make us a civilised nation first on our endeavour to become a super power.

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