Are we a Just society…rather Can we be a Just society?

Prima facie, India has a strong independent judiciary. In practice, getting justice is rare. Conviction rate is low. Procedures outweigh the objectives. The system is convoluted & defies principles of natural justice. One would think it is quantum physics the way it is counter-intuitive and against common sense. We all know of lakhs of undertrials in prisons for periods much longer than the maximum sentence for the laws that they allegedly violated. We all know ‘open & shut’ cases which take eons with shifting goal posts with ever evolving theories. Then again there are relatively simple crimes that never get cracked and no one is ever held responsible.

There are so many cases that never will be concluded in one’s lifetime. By the time they do, it hardly matters. Deed is done, damage is done. Time heals and people reconcile. How’s that any different than the total absence of any judicial system? Prime purpose of the system ought to be deterrence by escalating the costs of crime. For that Justice ought to be Swift, Sure and Seen & not forgotten as is the case in our nation more often than not.

With all of our intellectual prowess, we cannot get simple things like rent act in place. Who is responsible for this? Do we need a law minister to come out with gems like “shady character should not become judges”. We all know the “shoulds”-what is needed is to devise systems to ensure that they happen rather than muse over them as wishful thinking.

Laws are broken with impunity all around us and none of us know what to do? Who to report to? The beat constable neither knows the laws nor is empowered to “challan” or arrest. He is mostly a meek figure amenable to bribes rather than an officer who can challenge or chase a criminal. Chor Sipahi game that we all play as kids would be hilarious were it to reflect realty?

We have laws against dowry, child marriages, child labour, corruption & what not…and politicians cite them as evidence that such ills do not exist in the society while the law enforcement is almost nil. The science of evidence gathering as practised is dismal, crime scenes are treated as a show with hordes of onlookers & dozens of cops lounging around without a clue as to what to do.

Effective law formulation, enforcement & speedy justice are basic building blocks of a society. We are not even at 101. Naxals, Maos & such movements are a natural outcome of an unjust society. It is mere vanity which makes us aspire for a permanent seat on UN Security Council, worthy of it, as a nation, we are not, although as individuals, our contribution to world bodies are significant.

I had a long interchange with an American colleague, both of us in International sales & thereby travelling the world, who wondered why Indians do so well outside India and not in India. He concluded that the reason is laissez faire, rahter lack of it in India. As an ambassador, I defended my country. My argument was when india was born in 1947, it inherited a large populace that was very poor & disadvantaged. To throw them to wolves would be genocide. Just like as parents, we protect our children till they can be on their own, India needed to be socialist in early years and shall gradually move towards the capitalist end of the spectrum as its population becomes strong & competitive.

Regretfully, it was evident even in early 80s that India couldnot carry all its people, it might as well have thrown them to the vagaries of a dog eat dog world in its earliest years  rather than create a hugely expensive pretence of a just society. I wrote in a publication in ’89 that while China may kill its own people, India forces its people to kill themselves or simply let them wither away to die. China gets outrage & India pity + charity. The difference is in what crave as a nation from the world community. Affiliation or respect? Approval or hate? The tone for India was set by its first PM Nehru. His own psychology shaped the persona of the country.

So Can we be a Just society?? I await some comments before I expound.

P.S. I am surprised no one has proposed a single alternative to Taj Mahal as an icon of excellence. In ~500 years India has not created anything that can compete with Taj. Surely not. ….Or is it?

5 Responses to “Are we a Just society…rather Can we be a Just society?”

  1. Nikhil Wahal says:

    The News about Uphaar Tragedy this morning seemed God Sent probabably reading the above note.. I agree with the “persona” bit… The contrast you mention is notable indignfying for us as Indians…what is it that can’t put ” meaninful Nation building personas” together?? Irony Galore.. Alok…All Laws are useless with unwilling or lazy Judiciary… How many Lawyers Can I contribute in giving birth to if we are running out of numbers to contribute to expediting justice…probably in the next 20 years we will be able to do better…;-)

  2. Nikhil Wahal says:

    Poulation: 1.17 billion people (estimate for July, 2009)
    Cases Pending: Over three million cases are pending in India’s 21 high courts…..

    RTI stats Below:

    Can our Buzzword for 2010 be, Let’s make more Lawyers… Ironically “our Father of the nation” was a lawyer….

  3. Naveen says:

    My professional colleagues often wondered whether I am a soothsayer based on my ability to predict based on deduction & guestimation even with minimal data. The prevalent headlines in TV & print (Ruchika case) make this post seem prescient & timely though such incidents are so common that most of us have been systemically desensitised. Can someone kindly enlighten the forum here who exactly is responsible for updating archaic & lax laws? Does CJ of India exists only for welfare of Judges or does one of the KRAs also include dispensation of Justice. How does he or anyone justify the gross injustice? Why is CJ mum? Also, I still dont understand what exactly are the responsibilities of members of RS & LS in such a case other than expressing outrage? Perhaps, Madhukar can explain.

    Alok, speak up, react, comment, elucidate, educate, be animate…

  4. J says:

    Justice means that any man accused of something is presumed innocent, both by the courts and by society. Therefore justice does not exist anywhere in the western world.

    Since politicians are driven by political correctness it is unlikely to happen in India, either.

  5. Naveen says:

    Presumption of innocence as a principal is a pre-requiste in the western world. In practice the petitioner, say, the police, knows better and negotiates part punishment when the lack of evidence prevents certainty of conviction. That’s so much more practical than purists here. In the immediate aftermath of a crime/violation, guilt or innocence is by & large, evident. The negotiations here are extra judicial, the truth rarely comes out & conviction is a casualty. Cops & courts are both bribable. We do pronounce lawyers as ‘liars’, for a reason, of course.

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