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Trapped in a messiah complex

Trapped in a messiah complex
The country is going through tough times. Poverty, sickness, mismanagement, corruption and misgovernance are rampant and almost omnipresent. Everything seems to be in a state of dilapidation. And in this state of confusion and hopelessness, India in Shambles: Only the Judiciary can Save Us, comes up with a one-size-fits-all solution.

The book, as the title suggests, believes that if the judiciary is given over arching powers and made responsible for all that ails the country, we are all in for a joy ride. Much as one would want to believe this simple recipe works, this magic wand solution doesn’t really hold. India is a complex country where individual identities are a mesh of religion, region, caste, creed and colour (this mind you is just to name a few). These identities are well entrenched in the hearts and minds of people.

The author draws people’s attention to the chaos that the country has been thrown into by the Legislature and Executive. He says vote bank politics and narrow vested interests of those in power have thrown the citizens into a quandary and then through citations builds a case for judicial activism in running the country. The book completely ignores the limits that judicial activism suffers from in dealing with or even understanding the multi-layered problems of India. Agarwal says since the Legislature and Executive have failed in their responsibility to uphold the Constitution of the country the judiciary must step in to ensure that the Constitution is followed in letter and spirit. But the very Constitution which Agarwal has set out to uphold through his book, says that the role of an apex court is interpreting and laying down principles of law that bind the courts below. The same Constitution also envisages the role that the Legislature and Executive are expected to play.

The Legislature makes the laws, while the Executive ensures its execution. The Judiciary, on the other hand, has been tasked with acting as the redressal mechanism in case of violations of what the Constitution guarantees. But even the Constitution doesn’t talk about the redundance of the Legislature and Executive.

From controlling stray animals on roads to nipping environmental damage, Agarwal feels Supreme Court has a panacea for all problems. Even the Supreme Court would not be that ambitious, or should we say naïve in its thinking. This piece is not a criticism of judicial activism or judicial functioning for that matter and yet just to draw home the point on how superficial Agarwal’s thought on the ‘Nation’s Saviour (read Judiciary) is one has to look into the shortcoming of the judicial system itself. The Constitution makes the aam aadmi’s age-old struggle for social justice the struggle of the judiciary. It is this goal of social revolution that connects the aam aadmi to the judiciary, and to its highest institution, the Supreme Court of India. But the Supreme Court itself suffers from some of the very problems that it is expected to be providing solutions for.

Courts are the channel for people to fight injustice. But poor in this country have a very poor access to courts. Poor are unable to access courts for a host of reasons. India has amongst the lowest number of new cases filed each year per thousand population (some 15 new cases per thousand population as against around 250 cases in Europe and 330 in the United States). Regional disparities too have been something the courts have been able to fight.

A man is unlikely to have a miraculous change in his philosophical outlook on reciting the judicial pledge. It is the same problems that ail the Legislature and Executive. Corruption in judiciary too is an open secret.

There is no doubt that the country could have done far better, that we often become victims of the systems meant to serve us and yet that doesn’t build a strong enough case for over throwing institutions or shaking the earth to force the emergence of new power centers.
Vandana Singh

Vandana Singh

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