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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 18, New Delhi, April 23, 2016

CJI bats for the Downtrodden: A ray of hope beyond the dark tunnel

Monday 25 April 2016

by M.M. Khajooria

The inaugural address of Justice T.S. Thakur to the two-day legal seminar in Jammu the other day came as a whiff of fresh air in the suffocating, stifling and polluted environment that has engulfed the country. That the concern for the denial of rights and institutionalised exploitation of the disadvantaged sections of the society and a strong push for restoration of their dignity and the solution of their problems should come from the head of an institution commonly perceived as status quoist and accessible only to the rich and the mighty spelled a revolutionary shift in the very philosophy and practice of the justice-delivery system in this country. “In the Indian culture the worker is traditionally regarded as ‘Vishwakarma’,” recalled Justice Thakur and stressed that “the country can not be happy, if the worker is unhappy”. And significantly added: “There is a thin line that separated the good of industry and the good of industrialist.” “Similarly,” he said, ”there is a thin line that separates the good of the worker and the good of the labour union, the good of the nation and the good of the government.” The people are listening but are the political class, the government of the day, the media and intellectual fraternity listening? They better do.

Justice Thakur’s address brought into public domain a number of issues—issues of crucial public concern. Referring to the huge backlog of cases pending with courts, he said: “Now in a system where the judiciary is working at half strength, people are languishing in jails, people are crying for justice, the Chief Justices of the High Courts and seniormost judges of the High Courts have considered a person suitable, it has gone through the Chief Minister and the Governor, it has reached the Law Ministry, it has gone through the scrutiny of the IB, it has come to the Supreme Court collegium and the Chief Justice and other senior judges have seen it and removed the unwanted and undeserving and sent the only most deserving of the candidates. Why should the government be sitting on the proposal? I cannot understand.”

It may be pertinent to note that after three weeks of the SC striking down the relevant constitutional amendment, the Union Law Minister had written to the Chief Justice of India: “As there was a large number of vacancies to be filled up you continue the process of appointment ( of judges).” Stressing for the need to devise a mechanism to deal with such situations, Justice Thakur stated: “The people are informed. I have a feeling that a social audit of the performance of the government be done, whether it is the government of Jammu & Kashmir when it comes to the establishment of a Board which took ten years or the Government of India, where it has taken time to clear the proposal (of appointment of Judges of High Court). There needs to be awareness but when the intelligentsia or the society respond there is no need for us to enforce.” He is right but what about the political class and the parlia-mentarians who were duty-bound to take the first call and demand an explanation from the government for the undue, unnecessary and unacceptable delay in clearing the proposal routed through the Supreme Court? Let the parliamentarians rise to the occasion, and discharge their primary duty by demanding and ensuring immediate action on the SC reference.

The author is a Director General of Police (retired) and the Chairman, J&K Ex-Policeman’s League

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