Justice instead of judgment.

This should warm the heart (I deliberately use the word ‘heart’ rather than the one I would normally use) of my future lawyer Ashok. This should also be of interest to those of my readers interested in the very complex society that India is. The most gratifying part for me is that our Justice (Judicial) system is working! I wish that I could say the same about our Legislative and Executive systems.

A news item in The Calcutta Telegraph, brought to my notice by Anil, has this to say.


Women should not be left to lead a life of vagrancy. This seems to be one of the chief messages of the Supreme Court ruling on the maintenance of women deserted after living with and depending on a man for a long time, even if the relationship had not been one of legal marriage. The court ruling is in line with recent legislations placing the live-in partner within the purview of rights and claims to duty granted to legally wedded wives. Its generous scope, however, obscures two interesting points. One is the emphasis on vagrancy. It offers a sudden glimpse of the helplessly dependent status of many women and points to their lack of education, of exposure, skills and of control over their own lives. The just ruling has behind it a protective impulse. In terms of principle, this is a movement, intellectually, away from the ideal that all are equal before the law. Not that the law can help it. A law can only respond to a given situation, and this situation has been created by long years of indifference to constitutional directives: a social situation produced by political apathy. “Someone” has to take care of a deserted woman, the court has reportedly said. Mindful of the dignity of women, the court also referred to the old notion that women are the source of all strength. The ruling itself proves how distant the reality is from the ideal.

The second interesting point lies in the particular case. The widow of an older brother was ‘married off’, by custom rather than by law, to a brother much younger, as is the convention in many communities, especially in the north of India. With the turbulent entry of modern ideas, the traditional safety nets for widows in the family are beginning to fail. The younger brother in this case refused to maintain the older wife after he married according to his wish. The silent acceptance of bigamy within the family as a strategy for security is no longer working, for sharing the resources with a traditional burden is not a priority anymore. Hence the court’s ruling regarding the continuity of maintenance. A woman ‘married by custom’ is not really the same as a live-in partner. Although the ruling on maintenance will help many women in different situations, in this particular case, it is basically ensuring protection for a woman left in the lurch by her marital family.

A Fair Society?

Many states in India are now going to the polls to elect local state governments. Not a day passes without news of some political murder, or crime or intimidation or whatever. This apart from the normal crime news covering petty and big time criminals.

The latter class of criminals however seem to eventually get caught and pay the price for the crimes commited. The former however, do not either seem to get prosecuted at all or manage, one way or another to pervert the investigations and justice mechanisms to escape.

Many Indians consider that this is a peculiar Indian phenomenon and the Western countries do not have such blatant misuse of position and power. While that may indeed be true, though with the recent revelations about various shenanigans in many Western countries, there are some issues which catch the imagination of people all over the world.

One such story is about the single mother setting fire to her car and killing herself and her daughter in Britain. We have many similar stories in India, if not exactly for the same reason, for others such as loss of face due to rape, or blackmail or harassment or whatever. In most cases, the police here too treat the matter exactly the same way that the British police has in the case cited.

The degree to which the power of law is used seems to differ from indifferece to active involvement depending on the status of the complainant. Many instances of police stations not registering complaints, come to light after some tragedy takes place and I cannot help but agree with Dr. Dalrymple that “The rule of law is fast evaporating in Britain; we are coming to live in a land of men, not of laws.” I would just add that it is so in just about all parts of the free world and not peculiar to Britain. Where men are concerned and the laws are not being implemented, obviously justice is not delivered and that is a shame.