Reluctant Justice and Hesitant Government?

Justice is a comprehensive term that covers the entire gamut of a citizen’s life. Its importance cannot be exaggerated in a plural polity like ours. After sovereignty, justice is the only essential ingredient of state and statecraft.

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Justice is a comprehensive term that covers the entire gamut of a citizen’s life. Its importance cannot be exaggerated in a plural polity like ours. After sovereignty, justice is the only essential ingredient of state and statecraft.
Is our social, political, economic and judicial system, dispensing justice to the desired extent? If not, why? Is it bias or prejudice or discrimination alone that is an impediment? Or the malaise has a past and roots in history? Why men and men are not equal in our heterogeneous society? What is, and should be, the criterion of supremacy? Are birth, caste, status and wealth capable of ensuring equality and equanimity? Can piety, God-fearingness and character bridge the gulf between the proverbial “Daridra Narain” and “Daulat Prasad”? Pressure on space does not allow one to delve deep into the searching questions.
If my memory is not failing me, it was Caliph Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) who exclaimed: an administration based upon any ideology can run. But no dispensation can live and last on injustice.
In the contemporary world also we see several countries pursuing diverse ideologies. That at end of the day, blocs of States, not just States collapse like the castle of cards because of their inherent infirmities is another story, as we in the 1990s saw in the crash of the Soviet Union led Eastern Block. A deeper analysis of the fall of the imperialist empires and social democracies would inevitably show injustice at work. Injustice, like rust, silently eats into the vitals of governance rather sovereignty.
Today, besides the accused, even the convict has rights, and punishment to the offender is considered a well defined duty of the state. Long ago, several political scientists and judicial wizards saw in the treatment of crime and criminals, the strength of a nation. Has India passed this test with flying colours?
Less-than-fair treatment with the various religious and linguistic minorities is no more disputed in Bharat. It is, regrettably, now taken into stride.
Apex -LEVEL Judiciary
What has, however, been consistently saving the face of the largest democracy is its upright judiciary, which has refused to be swayed away by parochial instincts. The Supreme Court has valiantly stuck to its morally sound and legally robust guns. More than once our highest palladium of justice has shown the proverbial majesty of law to the high and mighty. This, however, cannot be said confidently about the lower levels of judicial system.
In the given situation, the issues that pose embarrassing question are: Who, in one word, is the culprit-in-chief? Why the offenders go unpunished and roam scot-free? Why no killer of Muslims in communal riots has hitherto been hanged? Why and how the purblind succeed in saving their erring or crime-abetting compatriots? Is no mechanism possible to plug the loopholes? Why and how are the recommendations of judicial commissions consigned to the dustbin of history? And finally, how dare the proven architects of disharmony and disequilibrium challenge the half-hearted efforts at righting the wrongs?
Three Offenders
The worst offender in this regard is the cchameleon-natured politician whose face goes red if a Commission or Court finds fault with his cronies.
At No. 2 position, this dubious distinction is enjoyed by some sections of the brainwashed executive, which through its functionaries, not only tries its level best to save offenders of a particular community but also sends to the gallows the accused of another group of people.
At No. 3 position comes the less-than-perfect system, a system that sees to it that justice is not done with the aggrieved within their life-time or so.
The last point first: It was 18 years ago that the Bhagalpur riots gobbled up more than 1000 lives, mostly Muslim. In the Logain village alone, 116 persons were done do death. The Fast Court (repeat fast court) convicted 14 persons to rigorous imprisonment. The learned Judge, S.M. Mishra did not consider the case as the rarest of the rare. Withholding our comment on the nature and quantum of punishment, we are here just focusing on the period of 18 years.
Another case: In June 2000, the outlawed Ranvir Sena gunned down 33 backward class Yadavs and Dalits, who had allegedly killed 34 upper caste Bhumihar in Mianpur in Bihar. After seven years a local court found nine guilty. They were, in this case also, awarded life-imprisonment.
Below we give two cases, not dealing with delay or life-imprisonment for murders, but – instead wanting to know with what – read:
20 Years After
In many 1987, 43 Muslim youth were picked up by the PAC from Hashimpura in UP. They were shot one by one and thrown into the Upper Ganga Canal. Five of the shot at survived. Zulfiquar Nasir, Mohammed Naim and Mohammad Usman are three of them. Twenty years after the carnage the court is still hearing the testimony of the fourth survivor.
But this is not the operative part of the story. The operative part lies in the Annual Confidential Report (ACR) of the 16 PAC officers, who were charge-sheeted for the custodial killings and are being tried for murder (first in UP, and then by a Delhi Sessions Court) since September 2000.
Their ACR
To quote Seema Chishti (Indian Express, September 5): Of the 19 accused initially, other than the three who had died since the incident or those who have retired, all continue to remain in service. Not only this, the ACRs reveal that there is no trace of any misconduct on them. In case, they have been praised for their work and some have been classified in the category of “ati uttam” or “excellent”. For example, the ACR of charge-sheeted PAC officer Ram Dhyan for 1987, after the CB CID started its inquiry, declarers him to be a “smart aur swash jawan hai, football team ka sadasya hai, is varsh do naqad puraskar paaye hain”.
In the same year, the ACR for another charge-sheeted officer Bhudhi Raj reads: “kaam tatha aacharan ati uttam hai”. Another charge-sheeted jawan Samiullah’s ACR for 1987 marks him out as “kaam aur aarcharan achcha raha, satya nishtha pramaanit hai.” Two important questions remain unanswered; one, the CB CID report (which was submitted to the state government in February 1994) has still not been made available, and the other, the name of the senior officer who had ordered the killing of the men picked up from Hashimpura in Meerut on May 22, 1987 is still a secret.
This is not a case of delayed justice or inappropriate justice. This is a case in which the biased section of UP Police Department failed to dismiss and prosecute its own erring men-in-uniform.
Apex Court Feels
The people are losing faith in the system because of the nerve-wrecking delay in the delivery of Justice. It is not us who feel so. So feels the Supreme Court. To quote from a recent report in a national daily: Only last month Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice Markandey Katju had disposed of a 50-year-old suit and expressed their anguish at the situation. “Because of the delay in disposal of cases people in this country are fast losing faith in the judiciary.” The same Bench, in the latest order now, said: “We saw in the media news of lynching of suspected thieves in Bihar’s Vaishali district, the gunning down of an under-trial prisoner outside the Patna civil court, and other incidents where people have taken the law into their own hands. This is obviously because many people have started thinking that justice will not be done in the courts due to the delays in proceedings. This is indeed an alarming state of affairs, and we once again request the authorities concerned to do the needful in the matter urgently before the situation goes totally out of control”.
Missing Compassion
Because of the ever missing compassion at ground level, our frustrated society finds solace in running to the courts. Perhaps therefore,

the total cases pending in Supreme Court on June 30, 2007 were 43,580; the total cases pending in 21 High Courts on March 31, 2007 were 3,678,043 (29,98,226 civil; 679,817 criminal); and the total cases pending in district and subordinate courts on March 31, 2007 were 24,956,919 (7,210,174 civil and 17,746,745 criminal).

This data tells a tale, not told by any idiot, but by the over-burdened judiciary.
We are inclined to feel it is the opportunist (call him shrewd if you like) politician who shamelessly refuses to act in time and, to the utter frustration of the victims, continues postponing decisions till his decision appears to garner votes for him. Just an example:
Gujarat was rocked by communal riots in 2002. Now, when the State Assembly elections are due in the State by the year end, Rs. 70.55 crore relief had been sanctioned for the riot victims by the Congress-led UPA Government. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it is at par with the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. The Centre has made Rs 70.55 crore available to the Gujarat government for providing additional ex-gratia assistance for the victims of genocide. An ex-gratia amount of 3.5 lakhs to the next of kin of the deceased, involving 1,169 cases, will be given by the Centre in addition to the amount already paid by the State Government. In cases of injury, involving 2,548 cases, an ex-gratia assistance of Rs. 1.25 lakhs would be paid minus the assistance given by the State government.
This gesture of proverbial Haatim is meant to ensure electoral victory to the Congress in Gujarat. Add to it the proposal of Muslim sub-quota within 27 per cent OBC share inclusion of Christians in the SC list.
Sachar Implementation
This brings us to the cool and calculated non-implementation of the Sachar Committee recommendations, which, in November last year, submitted its report to Parliament. The Cabinet, accepting it in May, directed the Planning Commission to provide adequate financial backup for the implementation of various measures. Identification of 90 Muslim districts for special development programmes was also accepted.
It appears as if the administration is really clueless and directionless on the question. The various Muslim organisations like All-India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, All-India Milli Council, All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind, have, from time to time, expressed concern over the delay in the said report’s implementation. The Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind has only recently threatened with a country-wide agitation if seriousness is not shown in the implementation of the Sachar panel.
It goes without saying, as pointed out by Mr. Mujtaba Farooq, Secretary (Community and National Affairs) Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, only 69 out of 90 said districts are purely Muslim concentration districts. The Jamaat reading is that even among these 69 districts, many have a smaller concentration of Muslims than some other districts that have been excluded from the list. As for the Government stating that public sector banks (PSBs) will open more branches in these districts, Mr Farooq told Radiance Viewsweekly that banks do not seem to be responding to the RBI’s directive to extend loans to the members of the Muslim community. “Providing loans is merely a declaration and there is no execution of this declaration.” This is the ground reality.
Srikrishna Implementation
But the most pathetic case is that of the Justice Srikrishna Commission Report, submitted in 1998. “No use opening old wounds.” That was the line taken by the Congress-led Maharashtra State Government since it came to power in 1999. But following the award of death sentences in the post-Babri Masjid blast, 1993 Bombay riot cases, pressure mounted on the Government. Then started assurances like, “Guilty will be punished”. It is the 9th year since the tragedy struck Mumbai. No visible, concrete punitive action has been taken against 31 police personnel and some highups who allegedly engineered the riots. How much the various Governments have been serious about the implementation can be understood from the fact that in August, a 4th committee has been constituted to review cases of the riots. No government has shown proper seriousness in the implementation of the recommendations. It is fair to recall that in the 2,270 cases, about 7,600 people were arrested. In 894 cases, charge-sheets were filed. According to Ms Teesta Setalvad, a renowned social activist, of the 260 cases pending in the Sessions Courts, 82 are of a serious nature. The cause of concern is that the new committee is not going to open up the 1,371 closed cases. This closure itself is an affront to the aggrieved. Is anybody listening?
Add to this reluctant justice, the blind but deliberate arrests of Muslim youth, particularly the highly educated ones in Andhra and Maharashtra.
Saffron Agitation
This less-than-comprehensive discussion on justice vis-à-vis the principal minority of Bharat would remain incomplete without a reference to the Saffron resolve, made on September 2, to launch a nationwide agitation against the implementation of the Sachar Committee on the status of Indian Muslims. The BJP proposes to mobilise national opinion against them because, in its view, the country is now moving towards what it calls a “communalism based development, expenditure and budgeting”.
The political arm of the RSS, which, on the pattern of Gobbles, authored and relentlessly pursued a fiction called “appeasement of Muslims” now feels that the implementation of the report would “destabilise social harmony” of the country. The Saffron effort at inventing and perpetuating injustices against the principal segment of Bharat’s plural policy is a classic example of surreptitiously but steadily eroding the nation’s most prized possession and its sovereignty.