Saturday, July 3, 2010

Judiciary cannot see the writing on wall!

This speech by a Supreme Court judge merits point by point rebuttal, to let judiciary know what is wrong.

Cyriac Joseph, judge of the Supreme Court of India, on Friday came down heavily on the “unfair criticism” levelled against the judiciary and wondered why cultural leaders and institutions such as the Bar Association were silent on the issue.

Comments: Cultural leaders? … that’s a debate on its own.  In India, there are religious gurus, political leaders, film stars, cricket leaders, some intellectual ‘leaders’ who debate with one another mostly or pat each other on the back.   About Bar association: I bet they are lot more busy handling things like agitations or rowdyism by lawyers in court premises, or by one lawyers’ group against another, to be able to worry about such finer things!

Delivering the first K.K. Mathew Memorial Law Lecture series on the ‘Role of Judiciary in Democratic India,' organised as part of the centenary celebrations of the Kottayam Bar Association here, Mr. Joseph said the “abuse and intemperate outbursts” from any quarters were only a display of “ignorance of the constitutional provisions” as also a mark of “lack of culture.”

The people of India as represented by the Constituent Assembly had given shape to the Constitution and had “entrusted the judiciary with the responsibility of upholding the Constitution, constitutional values and constitutional institutions. Thus the people of India, through the Constituent Assembly, had assigned the role of a watchdog and corrective force for the judiciary in its functioning so that parliamentary democracy could flourish,” he said.

Comment: Public is tired of hearing the same old lectures given from a pulpit.  With more than 3 crore pending cases, what justice and constitution are we talking about?  Does not constitution say that speedy justice is a right of citizens?

“Judges think, speak and act in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and cannot act like bull in a china shop,” Mr. Joseph said and added that whatever powers the judges have are derived from the Constitution. “They are not an unwanted, unauthorised group of people who wield self-acquired powers unaccounted for,” he said

Stating that unfair criticism of the judiciary would undermine democracy and the rule of law in the country, Mr. Joseph said India was ranked high internationally on account of its vibrant democracy which ensured elections every five years and the presence of an independent judiciary. “Independent judiciary is the hallmark of Indian democracy,” he said and added that the decision not to have an elected judiciary was a principled decision of the Constituent Assembly. “This does not make them less authentic,” he said and added that they are appointed on the basis of well laid out rules and guidelines.

Comment: This seems another attempt to stifle dissent against collegium based appointments in Supreme Court.  When even a high court judge like Justice Shylendra Kumar raises voice, the SC is quite eager to shut him down with a judge having “tears in his eyes”.  Of course they don’t have tears in eyes when a so called Chief Justice of Karnataka high court is barred from judicial functions by the lawyers themselves!  After all, on paper he is Chief justice, and that is according to constitution so it must be all hunky dory!

“Judgments were not above criticism and any judgment could be subject to constructive criticism at an academic and intellectual level,” he said and stressed that judges who passed judgments that one does not agree with cannot be subjected to unfair criticism, abuse and ridicule. The Constitution provides for revision of judgments and the aggrieved parties should take recourse to such avenues, he said.

Comment: Except for the practical fact that taking recourse to revision or appeal is practicable for only well-heeled, powerful people.

“Unlike in a game of football, there is no provision to show the Red Card, though some believe that the provision for Contempt of Court was one such stipulation. “But, I fear even this would become ineffective if people are ready to go to jails,” he quipped.

Comment: So it is clear that there is so much widespread opposition to judiciary that even if contempt of court was used against public, the already struggling business in courts will grind to a halt!

Describing the late Justice K K Mathew, former judge of the Supreme Court of India, as a “saint among judges,” Mr. Joseph said he considered K.K. Mathew as the greatest jurist produced by Kerala.

K P Presanna Kumar, District and Sessions judge, presided. Senior lawyer and former Minister M P Govindan Nair; senior lawyer V.K. Satyavan Nair; George Boban, president of Kottayam Bar Association; and others spoke.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Corporation’s tactics to retaliate against activist?

The interesting part of news is that the official of Jindal Steel and Power claim that they had given a shop to Agrawal’s son to dissuade him from raising environmental issues.  So they are willing to engage in bribery if it serves their corporate interests?

The threat to kill company official makes it even more incredible?  An activist threatening to kill an official of a large, powerful company?  Makes sense to anyone?

The police complaint has shocked environmentalists. "This is exactly the tactic American Corporations have used to browbeat environmental activists," said Sunita Narain, Director, Centre for Science and Environment. She said this reminded her of SLAPP or Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation used by companies in America "to shut up individuals who were raising issues of social and environmental concern".

"Ramesh Agrawal of Jan Chetana is well known to the environmental and human rights fraternity. He has been raising issues related to not just a single corporation but several agencies on a very systematic basis," said Kanchi Kohli of Kalpavriksha Environmental Action Group.

Agrawal has a long series of achievements to his credit. In 2009, a PIL filed by him in Delhi High Court resulted in a major amendment to the rules governing environmental clearance. The court made it mandatory for companies to publish their full environmental clearance order in two local newspapers to enable the affected people to access the order and challenge the clearance if need be.

Ritwick Dutta, well known environmental lawyer, who has represented Agrawal in several public interest cases, asked,
"Why has the company filed an FIR against Agrawal after MoEF acted against them? Why did it not go after him earlier?"

When asked why, Sanjeev Chauhan said, "We discussed the matter within the management. We were waiting for the right time". He added that the company "will definitely prove the allegations in court".
Environmentalists say proving allegations against Agrawal will not disprove allegations against the company.

"The Ministry did not rely on Agrawal's word. Its team did due diligence and found Jindal Power had clearly broken the rules," says Narain.