Sack the Government – Let the Courts Rule.

JK has forwarded a WhatsApp comment which conveyed the essence of what’s happening in India today. A doctor writes a prescription to a patients and as hands it over, he says, I have written a medicine for you. But double check with a court.

Indian Courts have long helped yours truly to convince people who compared breakneck growth of China vis a vis the snail pace of India’s growth. This used to be one of the topics whenever I travelled abroad and in any conversation, over dinner, would ultimately end up comparing the two great countries. I used to emphasize that India is a true democracy and our courts help us to stay that way. Suppose the Government decides to pave a new eight lane express highway for 2000 miles (3600 kilometers). In China the construction would begin in about fortnight time. In India a villager whose hut is standing in the proposed highway, would write a Postcard which costed about 15 Paise or 0.2 cents, to the highest court of the land and the honorable judge would take suo moto action on it and would ask the Government to stop all construction activity till the villager’s concerns are addressed. If you assume one villager every 100 miles whose house is standing in the line of construction that is about 20 cases costing 3 Rupees which would stop an important infrastructure project. It need not be the villager’s house. It could be a small temple/church/mosque and the result would be the same.

I would then summarize, saying this is the price we are ready to pay for keeping our country a democracy. Every citizen, as a stakeholder, has same rights. Fortunately at that time, China was building world’s largest dam which would produce million of kilowatts electricity every minute and with it, the largest environment disaster, as well displacing millions of residents. We were building one of the largest dams in India at the same time on river Narmada. While we did not know much about the protests that happened in China over three gorges dam, for a decade Narmada Dam aka Sardar Sarovar Dam was in news every single day since the mid eighties. Endless court battles and agitations were happening. Ms. Medha Patkar who headed the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save Narmada Movement) was in the headlines everyday as much as the prime minister of the day. I would ask them, could they recall the name of anyone who were protesting against the three gorges dam. Ms. Patkar was as famous if not more as Erin Brockovich. While Ms. Brockovich helped the residents of Hinkley, California years after the disaster happened in their town, Ms. Patkar was protesting so that no such disaster happened in India. It took us five years to get permission (not construction just permission) to increase the height of Sarovar dam by one meter and by the time China completed about 10% of the construction of three gorges dam.

So we were good. India would progress, albeit slowly, but we would keep everyone’s interest in mind or at least our courts would do. It did not matter to us one bit that millions of cases were pending at all courts across the country and the only time court would act with any swiftness was when a case like this came up or when a corrupt (allegedly) businessman or politician was about to be arrested and he would ask the court for an injunction for not arresting him. The other technique these people had was on the day of possible arrest they would suddenly develop severe pain in the chest and get admitted in the hospital.

But then COVID happened. So far we assumed that court had few definitive roles. A cheats B of some money. B files a case (Civil) and prays the court to give him/her justice. X allegedly murders Y and the prosecution asks for punishment for X (life or death) which is a criminal case. The third was the court would help us to understand the constitution and their interpretation of it. This happened mostly when Government passed a law or changed one and someone filed a case against it’s implementation. When COVID struck, the Courts assumed a new responsibility, instructing the Government on how to run the administration. They told the government what is a fair price of Test kits, how many they should buy from whom. This was on the first wave of infection. The ICMR (plays the role of CDC in COVID) tested and approved a rapid test kit which would help find out if someone had got COVID and developed antibodies or is in the process of developing antibodies or not exposed to virus at all. State Governments were allowed to import these kits (we had not developed these kits yet). Then the horror began. A trader filed a case in an high court that the import price was very high. The courts declared the price should be only 50% of what the state government had agreed to pay. Of course the market dynamics would not permit this and all the state governments who placed the order for import cancelled them. Here in lies the irony. Only the first couple of shipments would have to be imported. At the same time, we were developing the kits in India and this would have served as an excellent sero surveillance tool. State Government gave up this testing method all together. Today, the kit is available in India, made locally at tenth of the price originally quoted. But sadly no takers for this test. And this test method is still one of the simplest tool available for sero surveillance.

During the second wave, the courts and the learned judges took this activism to another level. Of course learned judges – if someone can write a nine hundred pages judgement without a comma or full-stop in incomprehensible English he/she must be well learned. No argument. They started dictating how much oxygen each hospital/district/state should get everyday. No consideration was given to production and logistics bottlenecks. Then they got into medicine. What should be the price and how this should be distributed. While a direction to the government to arrest black marketing of drugs is definitely welcome, the courts and the Government cannot decide the retail price of drugs arbitrarily. They passed severe strictures saying letting someone die for lack of oxygen amounted to genocide (Is it?). The Madras high court, (yes it is correct, the city is renamed as Chennai but the high court is still Madras High Court) declared that ambulances should not be queuing up outside the General Hospital (one of the biggest hospital in India and the oldest). Now these hospitals are built with enough capacity to handle emergencies, say a fire accident or a building collapse. In such emergencies many ambulances would arrive at the same time and they are built to handle that. But what we have seen during the peak of second wave was unprecedented. How were they going to implement this ‘no waiting’ order? A simple solution would have been to park the ambulances in the central station parking lot and with two people with walkie talkies one at the arriving hall in GH and one in Central station where the ambulances are parked would have solved the problem. No need for the court to simply declare ‘NO PARKING.’

And the list goes on. It is bit ironic that a body (Courts) which has 38 million cased pending in District courts, 5.8 million cases in state high courts and 67 thousand cases in the highest court is telling anyone how to run administration efficiently. If you file a civil case when you are twenty, you would be lucky if you get a third hearing of your case, when you are about to enter a hospital for ventilator support just after celebrating your eightieth birthday.

It is said that Indian democracy has four pillars, Legislature, Executive, Judiciary and Media. Looks like our courts have decided that one pillar is enough and they would take care of the rest. They can pass laws (Legislature), implement them (Executive), interpret what they passed is as per constitution (Judiciary) and then applaud them – no need to criticize (Media). The democracy, then, will be standing like the revolving restaurants standing atop a pillar, that you see in Shanghai or Vancouver. May look wobbly. But then, should that matter?

Cartoon Courtesy: Mr. Prasad

One thought on “Sack the Government – Let the Courts Rule.

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  1. இந்திய உயர்நீதி மன்றங்களில் ஐம்பத்திஏழுலட்சத்தி ஐம்பாதியிரம் வழக்குகளும்,மாவட்ட நீதிமன்றங்களில் மூன்று கோடியே எண்பத்தியொரு லட்சத்த்தி ஐம்பதாயிரம் வழக்குகளும் நிலுவையில் உள்ளது,இதை தவிர உச்சநீதிமன்றத்திலும் நிலுவையில் 67 ஆயிரம் வழக்குகள் உள்ளதாம் இந்த வழக்குகளை முடிக்க வேண்டியது தான் நீதிபதிகளின் வேலை அதை செய்யாமல் நிர்வாகம் செய்வதிலும் ஊழல் பெருச்சாளிகளுக்கு ஜாமின் வழங்குவதிலும் கவனம் செலுத்துகின்றனர்,அவர்களது வேலையை யார் பார்ப்பார்கள் என்று நினைக்கிறார்கள் 🤔

    தற்போதைய தமிழக சபாநாயகர் அப்பாவு 2014 ல் ராதாபுரம் என்னும் தொகுதியில் போட்டியிட்டு 58 வாக்கு வித்தியாசத்தில் தோற்றார்,அதற்கு காரணம் தபால் ஓட்டுகளில் ஒரு சின்னத்தில் உள்ள மை இன்னொரு சின்னத்திலும் பரவியிருந்ததை இவர் ஆட்சேபனை செய்து உள்ளார் இவரது கெட்ட நேரம் இவருடைய சின்னமான உதயசூரியனில் உள்ள மையே வேறு சின்னத்தில் அதிகமாக பரவி இருந்துள்ளது அதனால் அத்தனையும் செல்லாத ஓட்டுகளாக அறிவிக்கப் பட்டது,இதை எதிர்த்து இவர் தொடர்ந்த வழக்கில் இன்னும் தீர்ப்பு வரவில்லை ,கிழவி சமைஞ்ச பின் வரும் தீர்ப்பால் என்ன பயன்

    ராஜிவ்காந்தி கொலை வழக்கில் சம்பந்தப்பட்ட குற்றம் சாட்டப்பட்டவர்கள் மேல் குற்றம் நிருபிக்க பட்டிருந்தால் தண்டனை வழங்கி இருக்கனும் நிருபிக்கப்படவில்லை என்றால் விடுதலை செய்து இருக்கனும்,இரண்டும் செய்யாமல் அரசிடம் இந்த முடிவை எடுக்க சொல்லி தங்களது பணியில் இருந்து தவறி உள்ளனர்,இதனால் அரசியல் குழப்பம் வேறு 🤦‍♂️

    கீழ் கோர்ட்டுகளில் ஒழுங்கான விசாரனை இல்லாமல் தீர்ப்புகள் விலைக்கு வாங்கப் படுவதாக குற்றச்சாட்டு அதிகம் உள்ளது,மத்தியில் அதிக நாட்கள் ஆட்சியில் இருந்த காங்கிரஸ் அதன் செல்வாக்கை பயன்படுத்துகிறது,இதற்கெல்லாம் விரைவில் தீர்வு வரனும் இல்லை என்றால் மக்கள் இப்போது உள்ளதை விட அதிகமாக கட்டப்பஞ்சாயத்தை நம்ப ஆரம்பித்து விடுவார்கள்

    சரியான நேரத்தில் நாட்டிற்கு தேவையான கட்டுரையை கச்சிதமாக கொடுத்ததற்கு பாராட்டுகள் ரமேஷ் 👏👏👏

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