America and India: the best Vs the biggest
It is less than a year since George W Bush Jr took over as the Most Powerful Person on Planet Earth. Even before he had settled down in White House, two reports appeared in the press, one after the other- his daughter had been punished by the courts for purchasing liquor, claiming to be an adult, which she was not! That alone is reason enough for one to admire the American democracy (read society, if you will). At the same time, just imagine the insensitivity of raining bombs on an even-otherwise devastated country like Afghanistan and killing innocents by the thousands, irrespective of age, sex or culpability, and dismissing the whole thing as ‘collateral damages’! But viewed from the narrow perspective of nationalism can the American attitude be faulted? Definitely not! Contrast that with India- the world’s largest democracy! Really, can we even recognise any semblance of democracy in this country except for the fact that some people are driven to cast votes periodically?
Games the Rich Nations Play
When you have to compare two societies what do you exactly compare? History? Culture? Per capita income? Or, in simpler terms, the quality of life? The United Nations has listed the social development factors and one state, Kerala, in India is supposed to be rated fairly high on these indices. A Keralite myself, I have my doubts if it is not a ruse by the US of A, the real face behind the UN mask, to play patron and fish in troubled waters. Kerala, which has the dubious distinction of having elected a communist government to power, being ranked a front-ranking state in an otherwise mismanaged and apparently developing country, by the greatest capitalist country itself! Isn’t it actually the US of A patting itself on the back as a true leader who can see things for what they are, without favour or rancour?
They will call the shots because they can
Well, there seems to be an implicit acceptance that the West is materialistic and developed and the East, with the exception of Japan, is mystical and (forever!) only developing. Can there be a greater distortion of facts? Definitely, there are certain areas where the West, led, obviously, by the America, is ahead of the rest, including the East. Fortunately for them and unfortunately for the rest, the area of marketing themselves and their products seems to be one where ‘they’ seem to dominate, head over shoulders! Or why should it be that the Indians should be running around to get an American patent for Basmati rice or turmeric or neem cancelled? As Bharatratna Dr A P J Abdul Kalam remarked- ‘only strength respects strength’. May be he also meant that ‘strength respects only strength’. The truism in both cannot be dismissed.
Complacency or Ostrich-like approach never pays
The great scientist also asked- ‘we lack the self-confidence to see ourselves as a developed nation, self-reliant and self-assured; isn't this incorrect?’ Yes and no. Yes, because we have what it needs to be a developed, self-reliant and self-assured nation. And no, because, whether it was Nehru running to the UN seeking a solution to the Kashmir problem or Atal Bihari Vajpayee bending over backwards, offering help to the US of A, to nab Osama Bin Laden, the basic issue is the same- lack self-confidence! May be only at the political leadership level; but ancient wisdom says – jaisa raja vaisa praja and in a democracy, every people get the government they deserve!
Destined to be exploited without the colonial yoke too?
That the nation was divided to please the ‘architect of modern India’ is now part of history. To compound a crisis, Mahatma Gandhi, a true leader and a visionary, rightly wanted the Congress Party to be disbanded ‘so that its fair name was not tarnished by self-seeking individuals’. Nehru would have none of that. And so, inspite of the fact that the leaders who took part in the freedom struggle got themselves distributed in various parties, post-independence, Nehru managed to corner all the glory of the party that led (I repeat, LED) the country to freedom. While the rules regarding trademarks prohibit people, other than the owners of a particular trademark, from using anything even resembling that trademark, the Congress Party, under Mr Nehru, also managed to retain the tricolor as their party flag. After all, how much is the chakra different from the charka, discernibilty-wise atleast? To add insult to injury, we also have Mr Nehru changing the surname of his Parsi son-in-law, Feroze, from Gandhey to Gandhi. The English language gives a lot of leeway in spelling proper nouns and in the bargain if people can be confused into believing there is a Mahatma Gandhi connection, lineage-wise, to his progeny, why not? And by blaming an entire party for the crime of one man, Nehru decimated the only viable opposition he could have had then. So was born the dynasty in a democratic country. But did anybody realise then that democracy itself had been given a silent burial? I doubt how many realise it even today!
Faltering right from the word Go!
‘We, the people of India….give to ourselves this Constitution’ wrote the architects of our Constitution, the most voluminous document of its kind in the world. The preamble sets out the main objectives of the Constitution. It is a legitimate aid in the construction of the provisions of the Constitution. And what does the preamble promise? ‘To secure to all its citizens: Justice, social, economic and political; liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; equality of status and opportunity; and to promote among them all, fraternity, assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation.’ And after more than half a century of its existence how much of this promise has been fulfilled? Our political leaders, master deceptors that they are, may claim that 50 years is too short a period in the history of any nation. One need to only point out at Japan (though geographically in the East, by all other means it is with the West, isn’t it?) and Germany to call their bluff. Also compare the natural wealth of this great country with the impoverished Japan and any sane citizen will be shocked at the mess that our political leaders have made of this nation.
Crumbling pillars of our Constitution
Legislature and Executive. To blame the politician alone will be unfair. In fact, I, for one, still consider him a shade better than the members of the other two organs of our democracy- the executive and the judiciary. Theoretically speaking, all these organs are supposed to be independent and expected to provide necessary checks and balances in wielding power. However, though the politician has practically succeeded in making his will prevail over the other two, he remains the only one with some accountability for his actions too. Atleast once in five years he has to get back to the people and explain to them his conduct and contributions to the society. The head of the executive, The President of the Union, is almost dismissed as a rubber stamp! And the administrators under him have been reduced to being His Masters’ Voices! Or is it so? When Mr Ram Jethmalani was a Union Minister he went ahead and ordered that the records in his ministry be made available to the public for scrutiny and also that they could get a copy for a nominal fee. This happened long before the Right to Information Act was first discussed and, as usual with such laws that tend to bring transparency and accountability in the administration, was silently put in cold storage. It was reported in the press that the Minister’s orders were left confined to the paper it was written on because his Secretary got the Cabinet Secretary to issue directions that the minister’s orders need not be complied with till the Right to Information Act was passed! Yes, our bureaucrats in administration are not all that innocent. In fact, they are having the best of both worlds. Authority without accountability, power without responsibility! Their mindset is still the same as that of the government employee of the colonial era, but they now have the added advantage of remaining in the shadows of their political bosses and pulling the strings from behind, to serve their own selfish ends. There are exceptions like Alphonse Kannanthanam, Sukumar Oommen, and Arun Bhatia. But they remain exceptions. The very fact that they have risen to the positions where they are today should be seen as the Lord Almighty’s small little mercies for the oppressed of this country. The system certainly is with the devil.
Judiciary. But even the administration is a shade better when compared to our judiciary! ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ is a maxim that one learnt in the primary school. So imagine the state of affairs when even under-trials are left languishing in jails for 30 or more years. When even a life-convict is expected to be kept in jail for only 14 years or less, just imagine the horror of spending so many years in jail as an under-trial in a case where the maximum punishment could be just a few months! Here is a report by Swaminathan A Aiyer –‘Three liquidation cases in the Calcutta High Court remained pending for more than 50 years. And India can boast of the longest legal dispute in history- a land dispute in Maharashtra lasted 650 years! If no new case at all are registered, says Debroy, the courts will take 324 years to dispose of the backlog at the current rate of clearance.’ And this, when only 50 percent of the population is literate and the majority of the population is simply worried where their next meal is going to come from! Agreed that, as usual, resources needed are far more than what is available. But to accept that and rest the case would be nothing but a fraud. And this is what Justice V R Krishna Iyer has written in ‘Justice and Beyond’: ‘Why, in Gandhian India, are sentencing provisions and practices sadistic and retributive, judges and administrators dismissing as hawkish muck therapeutic and corrective alternatives? When do we hope to modernize, humanise and democratise our legal system and tune it upto to Third World conditions?’
Rule of Law not Rule of Judges. The mainstay of any civilized society, leave alone a democracy, is the rule of the law. For any law to be effective it should, first of all, be simple, clear and unambiguous. The affected people should understand it and imbibe it in letter and spirit. The need to go to courts to get interpretations for each and every clause certainly doesn’t speak well of the competence of our legislators. And worse, when the judiciary interprets the same law to mean different, sometimes even contradictory, things under different contexts, the public can only get confused and confounded, as they are now. In this context it would be worth recalling that confusion had prevailed even in recognising the preamble of our Constitution as an integral part of it! In 1961, the Supreme Court had observed that ‘the preamble is not part of the Constitution’, but in 1973, it held that ‘the preamble of the Constitution was part of the Constitution and the observations to the contrary in Berubari Union case were not correct’! Our present Union Minister for Disinvestment, Mr Arun Shourie, has done yeomen service in compiling a number of intriguing cases in a book titled ‘Courts and their judgements’. At the function held to release the book he also made a tongue-in-cheek suggestion: that there should be a group of scholars reviewing all sensitive rulings of the higher courts so that the judges were also careful that their judgements were subjects to scrutiny! And this is what Ms Arundhati Roy, Booker-prize winner, has said: ‘the process of the trial and all that it entails, is as much, if not more of a punishment than the sentence itself’.
Education to usher in a Second Freedom Struggle
The way things are, there is definitely a need for a second freedom struggle. However, it is doubtful if Mahatmaji’s methods would succeed today. The solution is in education, the aims of which, according to Shri Bhanu Pratap Mehta, are: ‘provision of a general intellectual training’, ‘acquisition of appropriate skills to acquire or use information’ and ‘inculcating a healthy skepticism in students towards received facts’. Let us not forget that ‘eternal vigilance is the price of liberty’ and that ‘an alert citizen is essential for the success of democracy’. So, as an alert citizen, what do you find?
Re-write the Constitution not just amend it. Beginning with the Constitution itself, the rule-books have to be re-written. Fortunately, the need for this is well understood even by the powers that be. So there is a Constitution Review Commission studying our Constitution in detail and is expected to recommend the changes that are needed to be incorporated. But the way it has been going about doing its business and the cry for blood coming from certain powerful quarters, one needs to be wary whether the task will be performed satisfactorily. Considering that the present Constitution was documented at a time when patriotic feelings ran high and so many intricacies were glossed over, it is no wonder that there is a lot of infirmity in it. (Imagine the Speaker of the Lok Sabha calling a special meeting to draft a code of conduct for our MPs and MLAs in the 50th year of the Constitution’s existence!) So there is need to understand where things had gone wrong and suggest workable remedies. Unfortunately, it is with these workable remedies that there could be problems and the usual tendency is to let sleeping dogs lie. That would render the whole exercise futile. Further, the present Constitution was drawn up by a handful of leaders of the independence struggle. For all their good intentions and integrity, there was a certain limit to their grasp of the requirements, and to their ability to articulate them freely to a larger audience, maximise inputs and arrive at better solutions. The story is different today. The experiences of 50 years and the reach of the media need to be harnessed for getting inputs from a wider cross-section of the population and a better Constitution drafted to spell out the objectives and means for the next fifty years. Unfortunately, even the media has not fully woken up to its responsibilities so far, in this context.
Out, party-based democracy; In, real democracy. It is a fact that party-based democracy itself has failed in this country. So will the Presidential system, as in the US of A, work in our context? No guarantee, there. But can’t we think afresh, keeping in mind the lessons we have learnt from our own experiences in the past fifty years? Shouldn’t we tailor our solutions to suit our problems? Here is one suggestion: Our government should function at three levels. Villages should form the units of administration. Villages should be linked through computer networks to the next level of governance, that is the State. States should be linked to the government at the Center. Polls should be conducted to elect representatives to an Electoral College (EC). These representatives, Members of Electoral College (MEC) can be one per 500 or 1000 of the population, but should necessarily be one amoung them. MECs from the village will function as the Village Panchayat (VP). The VP will send a representative from amoung them to the State Legislature (SL) on need basis. This need will be decided by the agenda before the Legislature and the competence of the MEC to address the issues in the agenda. The agenda, of course, will be circulated by the State Secretariat well in advance so that the issues are discussed thoroughly at the VP and every VP can send its best spokesperson for the occasion to the SL. A similar exercise can follow for issues at the national level taken up for consideration in the Parliament. Of necessity, the discussions should start at the VP, ensuring the best democratic process at work always. And there shall never be defections and toppling of governments for the five years for which each Electoral College shall function!
Person-centered courts Vs Democracy-oriented jury. In the context of the judiciary too radical reforms are needed, both structurally and functionally. Firstly, it has to become accessible. For the short term, there can be more fast track courts, time-sharing the available resources and supplementing them where needed. In other words, the courts should work in shifts, using the present infrastructure and adding on minimum essentials like judges, clerks and storage space for the documents? For the long term, there is a need to evolve a system where a jury, comprising of atleast three law-qualified personnel listen to cases directly from the litigants and the witnesses, including the investigating personnel, and give their judgements. A jury can be constituted at the Village Panchayat itself, drawing on the resources from within the panchayat or employing them from outside, if need be. The system of litigants employing advocates should be done away with if justice is to be made accessible and fair. To streamline the process, one member each from the jury may be made responsible for recording the statements of the complainant(s) and respondant(s) and studying them in depth. Who is recording what should be known only to the jury and not to anybodyelse, to prevent extraneous influences being effective. All examinations/ cross-examinations should be done by the Presiding Officer of the Jury and any question that any other member needs to ask should be routed through the Presiding Officer only. The punishment should include cost of the jury in real terms and should be realised from the judgement debtor. Where the judgement debtor is poor, he has to be sent to prison and the cost recovered through his labour.
India: The Orwellian Animal Farm? Here is a quote from George Bernard Shaw- ‘You will never find an Englishman in the wrong. He fights you on patriotic principles; he robs you on business principles; he enslaves you on imperialistic principles.’ Objectively speaking, our people who have been wielding any power of the state, since independence, seem to be no different. When there was a hue and cry in our media, about starvation deaths taking place in the country at a time when food grains were rotting in government godowns, there was also the report that some leaders had come out with the preposterous suggestion that mango kernels had enough nutrients to sustain lives and since it was available in sufficient quantities all the reports were concocted! Now consider also the two cases- one that happened in 1984, with the national capital as the epicenter, and the other one that happened in 1991, at distant Sriperumpudur in Tamilnadu. In the former, thousands of men of the Sikh community were murdered in cold blood, even in broad daylight, in the open streets in residential areas and busy markets; and almost 20 years after the crime not even a single person has been convicted. In the latter, an ex-prime minister, whose party had been routed in the earlier elections, had been murdered by a suicide bomber, destroying with her whatever traces of evidence that could have been there to track the crime. In less than 10 years, 28 persons were convicted and sentenced to death. Same country, same systems; only the clout of the victims mattered in guiding the course of justice. Did George Orwell foresee the shape of things to come in this country when he wrote his Animal Farm and declared that ‘all animals are equal but some are more equal than the others’? Permit me to quote one more example to substantiate my argument that our whole system needs to be overhauled, if the objectives listed in the preamble to our Constitution need to be realised. This is in the context of the segregation of minority handicrafts at the India International Trade Fair at Delhi. This is how the editorial in the New Indian Express read- ‘The most charitable view of the segregation of minority handicrafts at the ongoing IITF in New Delhi is that there is nothing more than meets the eye in the decision. If on the other hand, it is part of a new policy, no words are strong enough to condemn it. Nor does the segregation become less questionable because it was the brainwave of the National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation, set up for the welfare of the minorities.’ Yes, whether wittingly or otherwise, in fifty years of freedom and democracy the only one lesson we seem to have learnt is to segregate and segregate and continue with the ‘divide and rule’ strategy we used to accuse our colonial masters of. We need to unlearn this fissiparous habit and learn to get integrated. And geography has no part in this. It has to come from within all of us and from within us only. And it can be achieved only through proper education. The rest will follow.
Awake, Arise and rest not till…
So we come full circle. Back to America, where an act of indiscretion involving an intern led to a President almost losing his job. We have a good proportion of seats in our legislatures, and even parliament, occupied by criminals. We even have an ex-justice of the Supreme Court justifying her decision to let a criminal be her own prosecutor! And the people who are the sovereign entities of this socialist, democratic republic are condemned to suffer in silent agony their Constitution being ripped apart by all those tasked to uphold and protect it!
East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet- that is until the basic needs of a democratic society are met. Here, we need to add to Maslow’s list of basic needs- food, sex, clothing and shelter- one more: education! Education that enables one to discern between right and wrong and education that gives one the courage of conviction to stand up to what is right and, equally importantly, oppose what is wrong.
Since most of us believe in the power of prayers, permit me to conclude by quoting a prayer:
‘Oh, Lord! Give me the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I can’t and the wisdom to differentiate between the two’.
P M Ravindran
06 Mar 2002
UNDER CERTIFICATE OF POSTING
Maj (Retd) P M Ravindran 2/18, 'Aathira'
Tele: 0491-2576042 Kalpathy-678003
File: 181104-cjk-judicial reforms 18 Nov 2004
The Hon’ble Chief Justice
High Court of Kerala
REFORMING OUR JUSTICE DELIVERY SYSTEM
This letter is being addressed to you in your capacity as the competent authority responsible for maintaining the health of this system. I am of course one who is affected very very badly by its present very very poor health. My aim here is to highlight certain maliciousness manifest in the system and suggest some surgical measures needed to set them right.
Contempt of Court Act – anathema to the very concept of democracy.
I quote the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC): ‘the crucial failure is the innate resistance in governments and governmental processes to the fundamental article of democracy, viz. that all power and all authority flows from the people and that all public institutions are meant solely to serve the public interest. The assurance of the dignity of the individual enshrined in the preamble of the Constitution has remained unredeemed; From this fundamental breach of the constitutional faith flow almost all our present ills. The first and the foremost need is to place the citizens of this country at center-stage and demonstrate this prioritization in all manifestation of governance'.
In this context, of the three -the law-making, law-executing and law-interpreting- organs of the constitution, the law-making is the best, the executive, the next best and the law-interpreting, the worst. The reasons are obvious. It is only the law-making politician who actually reaches out to the people, at least on the eve of elections, and demonstrates his accountability to them. Even the administration, the only one that can fail to deliver for want of resources, is responsive to the extent that a lot of things get done in a predictable manner and within time frames that are specified. To clarify this issue of resources, consider the case of a town having 10 road junctions needing to deploy traffic police. In this case, unless 10 traffic policemen are available at a time the traffic in the town as a whole can be adversely affected. Or, consider the case of regulating a crowd. Depending on the strength of the crowd, the strength of the police force also has to be comparable to ensure that nothing untoward happens. Anything less could result in turmoil.
Coming to the judiciary, leave alone the concept of accountability it is difficult to identify even any sense of responsibility. I quote the NCRWC: 'Judicial system has not been able to meet even the modest expectations of the society. Its delays and costs are frustrating, its processes slow and uncertain. People are pushed to seek recourse to extra-legal methods for relief. Trial system both on the civil and criminal side has utterly broken down.' Also, 'Thus we have arrived at a situation in the judicial administration where courts are deemed to exist for judges and lawyers and not for the public seeking justice'.
Still, in spite of all these, it is only the Judiciary that has been given unmerited and unwarranted shelter under a perverse Contempt of Court Act. While repealing this Act may be in the domain of the law-maker, there are any number of cases where courts have held legislations, in whole and in parts, invalid. The Contempt of Courts Act is one which can and should be abrogated by the judiciary itself in toto.
What we need in this democratic country is a Contempt of Citizen (Prevention of) Act and we need it urgently too. Given the activist role the judiciary has taken on itself, I suggest that the legislators be directed to bring in such a legislation without further delay.
Judicial accountability and the National Judicial Commission. A former CJI is on record that 20% judges are corrupt. Another CJI moaned that there is pressure on the Hawala Bench. Yet another one expressed helplessness in tackling an instance of mass leave by high court judges. Some CJsI, after demitting office, have even gone abroad and advised foreign governments to avoid taking issues to Indian courts since the delays are preposterous. One CJI, shortly after retiring, came to Kerala and passed some comments which, had it been made by anybody else, would have landed him/her behind bars for contempt of court. Then of course there are the Mysore, Rajasthan and Delhi cases reportedly involving the judges of the high courts there. Suffice to say that the need for a National Judicial Commission to try judges has been amply established. When even the President of India has asked his office to be brought under the purview of the Lok Ayukt, it is disconcerting that the judiciary has not responded positively to this need of ensuring transparency in its functions and integrity of conduct of its members.
Judicial Accessibility. While the law-makers have reportedly favoured the establishment of regional benches of the apex court and additional benches of the high courts in order to mitigate the problems of justice-seekers to whatever extent such a measure would help, the judiciary does not seem to be enthusiastic about it and is even denying the need for such a measure. In the case of Kerala, though the Government of Kerala is in favour of establishing the bench at Thiruvanantha-puram, the judiciary needs to take cognizance of the fact that when litigants from Thiruvanantha-puram can come to Ernakulam, attend the court proceedings and return to their homes the same day such facilities do not exist even for litigants from Kozhikode which is located centrally in the Malabar region. Thus ground realities dictate that a bench of the High Court needs to the established at the earliest at Kozhikode. Similarly, regional benches of the apex court also need to be established in such a manner that litigants can travel overnight by train, attend the court and return the next night.
The Judicial process.
Ms Arundhathi Roy was modest in declaring that in our courts ‘the process is worse than the judgement’. (Photostat copy of a letter received from a group of aggrieved consumers along with a translation of the text is attached for your perusal. The identities have been masked because it is not considered relevant.) Some key aspects of this process, their implications and suggested remedies are given in the following paragraphs.
Listing of cases. This is one area that needs to be spruced up on a war footing. One is shocked by the number of cases listed before each judge everyday when only a meagre fraction of this number is actually heard and decided on. The percentage of cases adjourned, for whatever reasons, would easily be of the order of 80 to 90%., implying that if 100 cases are listed 160 to 180 litigants, excluding witnesses, are bound to return after having wasted their resources-time, money and energy- for no fault of theirs. This is one of the most easily solved problems because it would not be difficult to reduce the number of cases listed for a day depending on the competence of the judge and catering for a margin for lapses on the part of the litigants themselves. I would suggest that if a judge can hear only 10 cases then not more than 15 cases should be listed.
Calling the cases listed for the day in a chronological order will also help the litigants to track their turn without the need to remain tensely attentive throughout inside the court hall.
Personal appearance of litigants/representatives. This is another area that can be cleaned up with a bit of diligence on the part of judicial authorities. Except in criminal cases involving large number of witnesses and especially in cases involving only documentary evidence, the need for the affected parties to appear before the court should not arise more than once or in the worst case twice. The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) when enacted in 1986 was a more effective piece of legislation than it is now after two amendments. The reason is simple. When 5 parties – the petitioner, opposite party/parties, the judge(s), the advocates for the opposing parties- are involved in a case absence/unpreparedness of any one party affects the progress of the case adversely. This problem can be overcome ONLY by reducing the statements of the parties to writing and the judges studying them independently, noting observations and seeking clarifications in writing. The affected parties may be summoned only once before deciding the judgement and may be once more when passing the orders.
Involvement of advocates. It is shockingly true that in our courts advocates for the opposing parties in any case can find rules/ precedences to support their obviously opposing stands. Ultimately, it would appear to an onlooker, that the judge can as well deliver his order by tossing a coin! Further, it is not practically possible for the litigants to hire the services of equally competent advocates. Thus the richer person tends to get undue advantage. This is quite evident even in ‘Consumer Courts’ where the complainant is often a simple, law-biding citizen of modest means and the opposite parties are establishments/organizations with much greater resources at their disposal. When the second amendment to the CPA was being contemplated there was a suggestion that opposite parties should be allowed to engage advocates only if the complainant has engaged the services of an advocate. Unfortunately it did not materialize. The reasons are anybody’s guess. But there was certainly an opposition to it from the Bars. However the logic holds good even today and it applies to regular courts as much as to ‘consumer courts’.
Citizens’charter and working hours. As with government offices delivering various services of the government, the courts also need to publish Citizens’ charters giving out the details of the qualitative and quantitative norms and cost for their services. This will include displaying the working hours of the courts, approximate number of hearings, time frame for completion of a case based on the clause on which a charge has been framed and the authority who may be approached in case there is any default in following the Charter.
Grading of advocates and establishing norms for fees. To mitigate the injustice in economically weaker litigants not getting the services of competent advocates, there is a need to grade every advocate by his/her specialization, success rate etc and fix the fees accordingly. Then it should be mandated that the economically better off litigant can only hire the services of an advocate who is in the same category as the advocate hired by the economically weaker litigant. Since these may fall within the purview of procedures it is hoped that the courts have the jurisdiction to accept and implement them.
Irrationality and unfairness of decisions. There are any number of cases where the decisions are patently devoid of reason, leave alone fairness. There is an order of the Kerala High Court in a particular case making Section 56 of the CPC applicable while passing orders under Section 27 of the Consumer Protection Act. This in effect actually excluded women as a whole from the punitive provisions of a period legislation! Or, in other words, it literally gave women a license to cheat and get away with it! And there are similar orders of the apex court which one finds difficult to believe
have actually been passed by supposedly learned judges. For example, 'courts have jurisdiction to decide right or to decide wrong and even though they decide wrong, the decrees rendered by them cannot be treated as nullities' and 'there can be no interference in revision merely because the decision is erroneous in law or in fact where there is no error pertaining to jurisdiction'. I can quote similar instances in cases which I have personally pursued in consumer disputes redressal fora / commissions and even the regular courts.
Conclusion. It would be naïve on my part to presume that our justice delivery system will improve with writing a letter of this nature. It would be my effort to pursue this with a satyagraha in front of the High Court of Kerala at Ernakulam on 31 Dec 2004 and 01 Jan 2005. I shall be approaching all civic society groups that I know of or heard of, for whatever support they can offer. I am sure that the language of this letter is modest enough to convey the grim facts that needed to be conveyed. It is just in keeping with the dignity of a law-abiding citizen who according to our Constitution holds the highest office of the land. I quote the NCRWC : 'The highest office in our democracy is the office of citizen; this is not only a platitude, it must translate into reality'.
I shall be grateful if the contents of this letter is disseminated amoung your companion judges.
Looking forward to a favourable response.
Regards and best wishes.
(P M Ravindran)
The Hon’ble President of India - by e-mail
The Hon’ble Prime Minister of India - by e-mail
The Hon’ble Chief Justice of India - under Certificate of Posting
The Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha - by e-mail
The Hon’ble Governor of Kerala - under Certificate of Posting
The Hon’ble Chief Minister of Kerala - by e-mail
The Leader of the Opposition in the LA, Kerala - by e-mail
Media - by e-mail
Civic Society Groups - by e-mail