Thursday, March 08, 2007

Debating Justice

The People's Convention to be held in New Delhi on March 10 and 11, under the auspices of the Committee on Judicial Accountability, will bring intellectuals and activists on a common platform. The convention will take place from 9.30 A.M. to 5 P.M. on both the days. Key-note Speakers on the first day include the former PM, V.P.Singh, and Justice P.B.Sawant. Messers Shanti Bhushan, N.Ram, Dr.Bhaskar Rao, and Ms.Arundhati Roy will take part in the first session on appointment and accountability of Judiciary, to be chaired by Ms.Kamini Jaiswal. The second session on access to judiciary and delay in justice is to be chaired by well-known writer and academic, Dr.Usha Ramanathan.
The third session to be held on the second day will be on Values & Attitudes of the Judiciary towards poor to be chaired by Ajit Bhattacharjee.
The following is the abridged version of the theme paper being circulated for the convention:

While the corporate media often lionises the judicial system as the only working wing of the State and projects it as the only institution which stands in the way of a government controlled by criminals, the vast majority of the country do not see the judicial system as capable of providing any modicum of justice to them. The system is totally inaccessible to the poor of the country, being so formal and procedurally complex that it can only be accessed with the help of lawyers, whom the poor cannot afford. Even those who can access it cannot hope to get their disputes adjudicated within a reasonable time. The majority of undertrials spend more time during trials than the maximum sentence that can be imposed upon them. Even if they are out of jail during this time, the agony of defending themselves during this long trial is more painful and taxing than serving the sentence that could be imposed. In fact, the agony of a trial through the judicial system has become the easiest way for the police and powerful persons who can have the police at their beck and call, to harass, intimidate and silence inconvenient persons, especially political activists who are trying to change the oppressive and exploitative system of the country.
The complete insulation from all accountability, has led to a situation where it can easily transgress its jurisdiction by interfering in matters of the formation and implementation of executive policy. Under the cover of its expansive interpretation of Article 21 (which by itself is not objectionable), particularly the right to environment, the judiciary has been ordering the removal of slums from the Yamuna Pushta, hawkers and rickshaw pullers from the streets of Delhi, and has even directed the government to take up the highly controversial project of interlinking of rivers. Sometimes these arbitrary powers are being exercised against the wishes of the executive, but often in connivance with the executive, allowing the executive to do what a democratically accountable government dare not do, such as demolish the yamuna pushta slums of Delhi or take up the project of interlinking of rivers.
The people need to reclaim the judiciary by having it restructured in accordance with the needs of the common people.
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