Justice lies bleeding, now in Delhi!
Enough is enough. These words surge out of one’s vocal cords when something crosses its limit and becomes unendurable. When the Chief Justice (CJ) of a High Court says, “enough is enough”, it makes one wonder what one earth has driven him to such frustrating anger.
The context is the ongoing strike by nearly 4,000 lawyers of Tees Hazari district judiciary in Delhi since January 2 last. They are up in arms against opening new courts in Rohini to take up cases of the national Capital’s western and north-western segments.
Litigants in these segments are naturally happy. No protests have been heard from them. For, it would spare them the agony of covering a time-taking and expensive distance to reach Tees Hazari to pursue their cases. More so, because, as it happens, after devoting their whole day and paying the lawyer’s fees, a number of them get back in reward only a morose face to show, what with just an ‘agli taareekh’ (next date) for their case!
The plan to set up courts in Rohini is part of an overall strategy to decentralise the local justice-delivery system, so that it is easily accessible to those, the litigants, for whom the courts essentially function. Why would one need judges and lawyers, and the superstructure of judiciary at a huge cost of public money if there were no litigants?
But the lawyers are angry. Because, what will be convenient to the litigants in the western and north-western parts of Delhi is inconvenient to lawyers; the thought of going now to Rohini, instead of Tees Hazari, to look after the cases of their clients from those areas is daunting. Inflow of money from the legal profession must continue undisturbed and without extra professional efforts; the status quo must not be disturbed.
So, the usual weapon has been put into action: strike at Tees Hazari from January 2. While speaking at a function in Dr KN Katju’s memory in Delhi on January 17, Chief Justice of India YK Sabharwal ruled out any talks with Tees Hazari lawyers till they withdrew the strike.
Lawyers’ strikes, he rued, bring disgrace to the judicial system. He exhorted the majority of Bar members, who realise it but still remain ‘silent’, to now gather courage to speak out against strikes by lawyers.
Tees Hazari Bar leaders, ironically, responded to the CJI’s observation by announcing that they would lock Tees Hazari courts on January 23! In its Chief Justice, the Delhi High Court these days has Justice Markandey Katju, a well-known name earlier at the Allahabad High Court.
He convened an emergency meeting of the administrative committee of the Delhi High Court on January 21 and announced stern measures if striking lawyers dared to lock Tees Hazari.
“Enough is enough, and lawyers will have to pay for what they do,” he warned, while ordering fixing of video cameras in Tees Hazari on January 23 to identify trouble-makers, besides directing that FIRs be lodged with police against those who ill-ventured to enforce any lock-out of Tees Hazari.
It’s only fear that makes one behave. The lock-out threat fizzled out. But, probably to save their face, strike leaders claimed on January 24 that the High Court had initiated negotiations with the Bar to end the stalemate. The same day, a TV news channel telecast it.
“It is all wholly false,” CJ Katju told this columnist when he rang him up on January 24 evening to know if what had been telecast was true. “No talks at all till the strike is withdrawn,” he declared. “We (judges) are people’s servants, we are for litigants, we are not for lawyers,” he asserted.
The strike, nonetheless, continues even now. The Supreme Court has ruled that lawyers have no right to go on strike. Then, there is CJI Sabharwal’s plea, made on January 17, to lawyers not to disgrace the judicial system anymore by resorting to strikes. CJ Katju has reaffirmed that judges are there to serve litigants. All this lies shabbily crushed to smithereens under the feet of Bar leaders at Tees Hazari.
The cause of justice lies bleeding again. Anybody there to care for the litigants, reduced again to being mere cattle and sheep, though every brick in the foundation of court buildings could be crying out that it owes its very justification for being there primarily for litigants, and not for either lawyers or judges ?
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