HOW THE WHEELS OF JUSTICE (DON’T) TURN
In his 27th book, Arun Shourie starts with the almost unbelievable story of his wife, Anita, being issued an arrest warrant for evading summons that had never been served on her, in a case pertaining to an illegal farmhouse that she never built. In the next 12 chapters, with characteristic attention to detail, Shourie writes about several controversial legal issues.
The two chapters on Jayalalithaa’s disproportionate assets case reveal the systematic manner in which the criminal justice system was abused and the case prolonged for almost 20 years. All important issues that were considered properly by the trial court and shockingly by the high court have been summed up by Shourie in a manner that can be a matter of envy for any lawyer.
Shourie rightly criticises the judiciary for stepping outside its domain and the resultant collateral damage that public interest litigation can sometimes cause. For example, the ban on the sale of liquor within 500 metres of a highway caused havoc because the Supreme Court failed to realise that several roads in the heart of metropolitan cities have been notified as ‘highways’. Further, the regrettable episode that resulted in Justice C.S. Karnan being sent to jail and, in contrast, the failure to promptly bring to book a corrupt high court woman judge expose the inconsistent manner in which judges treat judicial misdemeanour and corruption within the judiciary.
The strange and inexplicable events that led to the mysterious death of Justice B.H. Loya were written before the Supreme Court closed the case and prohibited any further investigation. But the details given by Shourie cast serious doubt on whether Justice Loya’s death was due to natural causes. In retrospect, it would have been better if the Supreme Court had ordered an impartial inquiry because so many questions remain unanswered.
The excessive verbiage and pompous prose that some judges use in a pathetic attempt to parade their learning has also been criticised by the author and these provide the lighter moments in this very serious book. Shourie, for instance, writes about a zoological discovery made by a Rajasthan High Court judge that peacocks are celibate and “it is by drinking the tears of a peacock that the peahen becomes pregnant”! The world knows oral contraception but only India knows oral conception.
Despite criticism, the judiciary is the only institution that has prevented India from degenerating into a dictatorship. Our courts have repeatedly protected human rights, released thousands of undertrials, prevented large-scale damage to the environment, and elevated privacy to the status of a fundamental right.
The sub-title of the book is: “What are our courts doing? What should we do about them?” However there are only a few pages on what should be done to change the current scenario. It is important and imperative that the legislature, the executive and the judiciary stop working at cross-purposes and formulate a systematic plan to prevent further erosion in the credibility of our courts. This book can be the starting point for formulating such a plan.
This book can be the starting point to formulate a plan to prevent further erosion in the credibility of our courts
Anita Gets Bail pages