India cannot have two parallel legal systems for rich, poor: SC
While noting that India cannot have separate legal systems for the rich and poor, the Supreme Court on Thursday cancelled the bail granted to the husband of a Madhya Pradesh BSP legislator in connection with the murder of Congress leader Devendra Chaurasia.
The top court also said that the Madhya Pradesh high court order granting bail to Govind Singh, husband of BSP MLA from Patharia in Damoh, Ramabai Singh, was a failure to “protect the sanctity of justice” and directed that the accused be transferred to another jail in the state for fair trial.
Singh, who was arrested in March this year and granted bail later, is facing at least 28 cases with regard to various crimes committed by him. Somesh Chourasia, son of Devendra who was killed in 2019, had moved the top court against the high court’s refusal to set aside the bail granted to the accused.
“India cannot have two parallel legal systems, one for the rich and the resourceful and those who wield political power and influence and the other for the small men without resources and capabilities to obtain justice or fight injustice. The existence of a dual legal system will only chip away the legitimacy of the law,” a bench of justices D Y Chandrachud and Hrishikesh Roy observed.
“Unfortunately, the high court failed in its duty to ensure that the sanctity of the criminal justice process is preserved. This court has had to step in to ensure that the rule of law is preserved,” the bench added.
The influence that the accused in the present case exerted over the police and state administration became clear after the court learnt that despite facing criminal antecedents and evading arrest in a murder case, Singh was provided security by the state police on July 11, 2020. It was only after the Supreme Court questioned this decision that the security was withdrawn by the state in January this year.
The court reminded the state of its duty under Article 50 to take steps to maintain strict compartmentalization of the judiciary and executive. “There is no gainsaying that the judiciary should be immune from political pressures and considerations,” the bench said, asking the state machinery to avoid transgressing into “governmental lawlessness” and the judiciary from being wary of launching into a diatribe against the State authorities without due care and reflection.
The court also took note of the lack of infrastructure and protection given to trial court judges, saying subordinate judiciary judges are made targets when they stand up for what is right and are at the mercy of the high court for transfers and postings which makes them vulnerable.
“The colonial mindset which pervades the treatment meted out to the district judiciary must change. It is only then that civil liberties for every stakeholder – be it the accused, the victims or civil society – will be meaningfully preserved in our trial courts which are the first line of defense for those who have been wronged,” the bench said.
Referring to additional sessions judge (ASJ) in Damoh allegations that he was under tremendous pressure while conducting the trial, the bench said: “A judiciary that is susceptible to such pressures allows politicians to operate with impunity and incentivises criminality to flourish in the political apparatus of the state. An independent and impartial judiciary is the cornerstone of democracy.”
“Independence of judiciary is independence of every judge and this independence must begin by protecting the district judiciary which acts as the first line of defence for people who are wronged. If the faith of the citizen in the administration of justice has to be preserved, it is to the district judiciary that attention must be focused as well as the higher judiciary,” the judgment read.
In February this year, the ASJ had expressed serious apprehensions that the accused and Damoh superintendent of police had colluded to “frame serious charges” against him after a lady police officer, in a letter to the high court, accused him of humiliating in the court. The top court directed the chief justice of the high court to enquire into the matter within a month.