Law Reviews

‘Justice vs Judiciary’ review: Putting the system on trial

Journalist Sudhanshu Ranjan’s Justice vs Judiciary is a pincer attack on what ails the judiciary and the zeniths of the legal profession. From judges who flaunt their brilliance to overpriced lawyers to the torturously vague language employed in judgments and drafts, the author spares none.

The book explores delays and corruption in the justice administrative system and the ‘art’ of getting adjournments ad nauseam. It discusses instances of lack of accountability and conflict of interest in the higher judicial ranks. It refers to serious allegations of sexual harassment brought against judges and how the media was gagged through judicial orders from reporting these cases. The pages reveal an interesting exchange between Justice Learned Hand and his clerk in which the judge said he is not accountable to anyone but (pointing to shelves in his library) to the books posterity may write about him.

Courts and the man

Ranjan lays bare what many ordinary litigants think of the courts. Sample this: “It is only the smugglers, scamsters and bigwigs, politicos, and bureaucrats accused in big cases, who proclaim their faith in the judiciary from housetops. But a common man, running after seeking justice and getting insulted in the process every day, with justice eluding even after decades, does not hold this opinion, though he may not have the courage to say so publicly.”

In this era of “access journalism,” Ranjan is brave. The introduction to the book takes the case of the eminent lawyer, Fali S. Nariman, who had “no compunction defending the late Warren Anderson, the CEO of the Union Carbide Corporation” in the Bhopal gas tragedy case. Mr. Nariman, the author writes, became the “highest tax payer of the country in the individual category that year, courtesy Anderson.”

Loss of faith

Where is justice if it is to be purchased? Is justice reserved for the highest bidder? The author asks his readers. He refers to the plight of Neelam and Sanjay Krishnamoorthy, who lost both their children in the Uphaar Cinema blaze in 1997. The couple gave vent to their misgivings and loss of faith in the judiciary after the Supreme Court literally let the cinema owners off the hook for a “paltry” sum of ₹60 crore.

Another subject the book delves into is the inconsistent invocation of Article 142 as a carte blanche provision to do what the judges think is “complete justice.”

The book touches on the aspect of an inherent sense of feudalism within the judicial institution. The kind of feudalism, the author claims, which is not witnessed even in the Army. “A district judge cannot sit before a high court judge. Many judges of the subordinate judiciary, including district judges, touch the feet of high court judges,” he writes.

The message Ranjan sends through his book is that every institution and individual is accountable to the public at large.

Justice vs Judiciary; Sudhanshu Ranjan, Oxford University Press, ₹995.

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Printable version | Jun 21, 2021 10:25:01 AM |

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