India’s courts letting down its most vulnerable sections

justice is blind

Indian judiciary, once known for its independence and integrity, had been the last hope of the dispossessed. Where do they turn for justice if this last resort is snatched from them? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will guard the guards themselves, as Roman poet Juvenal would ask.

Following the stunning UK Supreme Court ruling this week, rebuking Prime Minister Boris Johnson for his move to suspend the Parliament, many Indian journalists with their conscience still alive rued the capitulation of their courts before the cult of a ‘strong leader.’ Rajdeep Sardesai tweeted: ‘Salute the British judges…When will the Indian Supreme Court summon the courage to ensure law above power of the state?’

But it was NDTV’s Nidhi Razdan who really captured the state of Indian judiciary when she wrote: ‘Our judicial system is completely broken. A man accused of killing a police officer gets bail; a young girl who was raped is under arrest and our Supreme Court looks the other way on civil liberties in Kashmir. What a shame!’

She was of course referring to the coldblooded killing last December of an upright police officer by Hindu extremists for trying to do his job in the face of mob violence alleging cow slaughter in UP’s Bulandshahr.

While the family of inspector Subodh Kumar Singh is running from pillar to post for justice, the main accused Yogesh Raj, local leader of Bajrang Dal, an RSS outfit, has been granted bail and offered rousing reception.

Indeed, in all the cases of mob lynching of Muslims over the past few years — from Mohammed Akhlaq to Hafiz Junaid Khan and from Pehlu Khan to Tabrez Ansari – the accused have either walked free or are out on bail. Adding insult to injury, it is the victims and their families who have been hit with charges like cow slaughter, cattle theft and smuggling!

The most bizarre case of persecuting the victim has to be that of ‘Swami’ Chinmayanand, a former BJP MP and federal minister. After a law student in one of his numerous colleges accused the 72-year-old swami of raping her over the years and presented some 42 videos to back her claim before a Supreme Court-constituted investigation team, police promptly arrested the victim and sent her to jail on ‘extortion and blackmail’ charges!

Meanwhile the rapist, considered very close to UP chief minister Adityanath, is recovering at a 5-star hospital after complaining of ‘uneasiness!’ All this has happened on the watch of the highest court in the land that the victim had approached for protection!

There was a time when victims of injustice and highhandedness of the state, having exhausted all avenues, often knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court. They still do but it’s not justice that they get but pontification and academic hair-splitting from their lordships!

Look at the pathetic failure of the top court in the case of Jammu and Kashmir and how it has allowed the government to run amok, arbitrarily partitioning the state and locking down all its people and leadership without so much as a debate in Parliament.

It’s been nearly 2 months since Kashmiris were imprisoned in their own homes, cutting them away from the rest of the world and denying them the basics of life. Even Apartheid South Africa and Zionist Israel couldn’t come up with such draconian curbs against their quarry.

Let alone taking suo moto notice of this brazen rape of democracy and stealing of the basic rights of Kashmiris, the top court has refused to intervene hiding behind the fig leaf of ‘national security’ even when dozens of writs were filed seeking urgent relief.

Perhaps the inimitable Faiz had honourable justices like these in mind when he demanded:

Mit jayegi makhlooq to insaaf karo ge
munsif ho to ab hashr utha kyun nahi dete

Not long ago, many of our Pakistani friends in Dubai would envy us Indians pointing out that for all its imperfections, India is still a vibrant and inclusive democracy where all institutions, including the judiciary, are independent and the rule of law reigns supreme.

Not anymore. In Modi’s “new India”, all that has changed. Over the past few years, India’s courts have increasingly let down the most vulnerable sections of society in their quest for justice. Especially against the increasingly hysterical and bloodthirsty Hindu extremists who are now in power in Delhi and majority of the states.

If India’s courts and the proverbial long arm of the law had really worked, the BJP would not be governing the country despite its high crimes against Muslims during the 2002 Gujarat pogrom and during the Ayodhya agitation in the 1990s that led to the destruction of Babri Masjid and killed thousands of Muslims.

From the brazen killing of Ishrat Jahan and her three friends at the hands of men in uniform to the NIA rescuing Hindutva groups and pinning the blame for Malegaon and Samjhauta Express blasts on the victims, it has been a familiar game.

From the 2016 verdict in the infamous Gulbarg massacre that killed 64 people, including a former member of parliament, during the Gujarat pogrom to the recent outcomes in the lynching of Mohammed Akhlaq, Pehlu Khan, Junaid Khan and Tabrez Ansari, India’s courts have repeatedly let down its most vulnerable groups.

Since the BJP’s capture of power in 2014, India has been under siege, facing an all-out offensive by the saffron party and its numerous sister outfits to paint the republic saffron in the truest sense of the word.

Perhaps no party anywhere in the world has established and enjoyed such stranglehold over all levers of power and state institutions in the shortest period of time as the BJP has. The only parallel you find is perhaps in Nazi Germany.

From legislature and bureaucracy to police and security forces and from universities and think tanks to the media, the Hindutva takeover is complete and overwhelming. It’s as if the grand old Congress with its galaxy of leaders like Gandhi, Nehru and Azad who led India during its long freedom struggle — which by the way RSS and its clan sat out — and ruled the country for about six decades never existed.

All that you see everywhere is the overwhelming presence of the painstakingly built cult of Modi, the ‘Hindu hriday samrat’ (conqueror of Hindu hearts) and apparently the best thing to have happened to India since the Aryan invasion.

As part of this ‘Modi-fication’ of the republic, the BJP and RSS have aggressively infiltrated and deployed their men and women in all strategic spheres, including in courts. And the opposition, including the Congress, and the media are not even pretending to resist.

No wonder the courts too have chosen to stand and stare as institutions are hijacked and the regime goes after religious minorities, especially Muslims. Be it the criminalisation of triple talaq or the NRC declaring two million people ‘illegal’ in Assam or even the Kashmir power grab, every decision of this order stems from its ‘love’ of all things Muslim.

Aijaz Zaka Syed is an award winning journalist and former editor. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @AijazZaka




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