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Mainstream, VOL LV No 28 New Delhi July 1, 2017

Pimps and Procurers of Judiciary a threat to Indian Democracy

Saturday 1 July 2017, by A K Biswas

“Courts are comparable to brothels.”1
—Bankim Chandra Chatterjee

Bankim Chandra Chatterjee (June 26, 1838-April 8, 1894), a Deputy Magistrate of the Government of Bengal, wrote the celebrated novel Anandamath. The composer of the national song, “Bande Mataram” he had observed in an essay that “courts were comparable to brothels”. Happily, the novelist was not hauled over the coals for such an observation as contempt of court. Were the British more tolerant? Decorated with coveted royal titles Rai Bahadur in 1891 and Companion of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire in 1893, the composer of Bande Mataram retired unmolested with glory. A recent case has obliged us to recall the inherent import of what Bankim Chandra Chatterjee had written over a century ago.

Gayatri Prajapati, a former Minister of the Government in Uttar Pradesh, accused of rape under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act, 2012, in the teeth of intervention of the Supreme Court, was granted bail by the POCSO court, Lucknow, presided over by Om Prakash Mishra, Additional District and Sessions Judge. This has furnished the immediate reason why the author of Bande Mataram equated courts with brothels. He granted bail to the POCSO accused along with his accomplices in terms of a ‘deal’. Intrigued by Mishra’s action merely a week before his retirement, the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court, Dilip B. Bhosale, sought an inquiry. The Intelligence Bureau, following the inquiry, revealed that a sum of 10 crores of rupees changed hands. Mishra pocketed half of the bribe. The other half was shared by three lawyers who acted as middlemen resembling pimps and procurers for brothel. The District and Sessions Judge, Rajendra Singh, who posted Mishra to the sensitive POCSO court, Lucknow, on April 7, 2017, just three weeks before his retirement, was in the loop to share the bribe.2

Documentary evidence since nineteenth century bear glaring testimony how the judi-ciary was violated and ravished with impunity by Indians manning its offices. Shib Nath Shastri, (1847-1919), an enlightened contemporary of Bankim Chandra, wrote in his memoirs (in Bengali) that “In those days, whoever had any concern with administration of justice, they amassed enviable fortunes by resorting to bribes, corruption, perjury, forgery, perversion and prevarication and became rich in the shortest possible time.”3 In fact, it is deplorable to note, these corrupt men soon became the leading lights of Bengali aristocracy.

Educationist and social reformer Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar (September 26, 1820-July 29, 1891) recorded a damning account of the native law officers, colloquially called judge pundit, if a Hindu, and kazi, in case of a Muslim. According him, “sometime back every district had a pundit well versed in scriptures to advise the courts for due adjudication of cases as per law. They were known as judge pundits of the courts. But these salaried men were extremely corrupt, greedy, perverse, immoral and unscru-pulous. They advised the presiding judge of the courts in such manners as to serve and enhance their selfish ends. In other words, the pundits were given to bribe and never followed the letter and spirit of scriptures in discharge of their duties. Though outstanding scholar in scriptures, the pundit advised the presiding judge of the court in favour of either of the parties whoever offered him the higher amount of bribes to win the case. Their unfettered perversity, misconduct and immorality so deeply embarrassed the government that the Regulation itself was repealed, abolishing the office of judge pundit.”4

The perception of corruption, perjury, perversity etc. widely afflicting the administration of justice owes its origin to these native law officers. The judge pundits were mostly, if not entirely, Brah-mans. There was no secular law then to enforce or administer. They interpreted the shastras for guiding the courts. Actually the courts ensured that justice, if at all, was delivered in rigid conformity to the scriptural ordinance. We know how perverse and caste-bound the shastras were! Interestingly, Vidyasagar did not write any-thing, as such, about the Kazi.

By his statement at the Jaipur Literary Festival, Rajasthan, Prof Ashis Nandy had rattled the countrymen in 2013. According to him, “most of the corrupt come from OBCs and Scheduled Castes and now increasingly the Scheduled Tribes”.5 Sociologist Nandy doggedly followed the footprints of S.K. Singh, a former Foreign Secretary to the Government of India. A shining star of the Indian Foreign Service, Singh dwelt on his experience as a specialist of the UPSC interview board about the Scheduled Caste candidates, “The quality of those coming for the services through reserved category is horrible. I have been on the board (UPSC) and find these people have no moral values and standards. They just want to join the services for getting bribes....” The Additional District and Sessions Judge, POCSO court, Lucknow, presented evidence to prove before both Singh and Prof Nandy that the bane of corruption had a more exalted badge of social status. The vulnerability of Dalits or tribals often keeps them on guard against committing impropriety. But the social aristocrats have the advantage of garnering support even in their immoral activities for protection and patronage which make them privileged.

Was the fulmination against the under-privileged by the likes of S.K. Singh and/or Ashis Nandy to obfuscate the truth, as briefly outlined above, from the public view? Having regard for these, can or should the issues of corruption having significant bearing on judicial perception, formally raised by former Justice C. S. Karnan of the Calcutta High Court, be trashed as merely and simply fickle-mindedness?

Footnotes

1. Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, “adalat ebom barangarar mandir tulya”, Miscellaneous Essays, 1892 quoted by Biswas, A.K., in the article, ”The ‘Uncle Judge Syndrome’ shadow over Laxmanpur Bathe”, in Mainstream, Vol LI, No 49, November 23, 2013. Free translation of the Bengali has been done by this author.

2. The Times of India, story captioned “Rs 10 crore was payoff to ensure ex-UP minister Gayatri Prajapati’s bail, finds probe” filed by Pradeep Thakur, June 19, 2017.

3. Shib Nath Shastri, Ramtan Lahiri and contemporary Bengali society, 1903, p. 19.

4. Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar translated and quoted by Biswas, A.K., in the article, “The ‘Uncle Judge Syndrome’ shadow over Laxmanpur Bathe”, in Mainstream, Vol LI, No 49, November 23, 2013.

5. Outlook, January 26, 2013, news item captioned “Most of the Corrupt From SC/STs, OBCs”: Ashis Nandy.

The author is a retired IAS officer and former Vice-Chancellor, B.R. Ambedkar University, Muzaffarpur (Bihar).

ISSN : 0542-1462 / RNI No. : 7064/62