In the viral video of a court session from Nov 23, 2022, Justice Sandeep Kumar of Patna High Court is heard asking a suspended Land Acquisition Officer of the Bihar government whether he got the job through reservation, which triggered laughter from lawyers in the courtroom.
“Bharti ji reservation per aaye the naukari me kya? (Bharti ji, did you get the job through reservation?),” Justice Sandeep Kumar is heard in the video clip from the live stream of the court session.
The court was hearing a case involving suspended District Land Acquisition Officer Arvind Kumar Bharti, who was asked to appear and explain to the court why he had released land acquisition compensation to a party while a partition suit was pending. The court was also informed that the officer was suspended in a vigilance trap case.
When the officer left the court after replying in the affirmative that he was in fact employed through reservation quota, the judge could be heard in the video clip saying, “ Samajh gaye naam se (I understood from the name).” The lawyers and others present in the courtroom were heard laughing at that time.
Politicians in Bihar have so far refused to react to the Patna HC judge’s comment. “Why do you want to put me in a legal bind? Court ka mamla hain na (Isn’t it a court issue?),” was the common response from state’s political and social fraternity.
The officer Arvind Kumar Bharti, later, while speaking to a section of media dismissed the Judge’s comment and said it might have been made in a “lighter vein”.
This is not a matter for laughing. The judge’s observation clearly brings out his feudal and racist mindset. He has no business to utter such words even in a lighter vein. Ridiculing or deriding people for being from the oppressed caste is a serious criminal issue. Those who laughed at the observation of the judge are equally feudal, criminal and racial. The judge committed another deliberate mischief when he told that ‘he could understood it from the name’.
A civil servant cannot ridicule the policy of Reservation because it is the law of the land. He has to abide by it whether he likes it or not. The judge has deliberately breached the code of conduct expected from a senior public servant. His remarks that he could understand it by his name is a sure shot casteist slur.
Reservation policy favouring SCs and STs came into effect a few years before our Independence. OBC Reservation (27%) was implemented from 1995. Mr. Justice Sandeep Kumar, Were milk and honey flowing before that time in Bihar? Are there no corrupt officers recruited from the General Category?
In 2015, J B Pardiwala, a judge of Gujarat High Court observed in the courtroom while hearing a case pertaining to Patidar leader Hardik Patel that two things have “destroyed this country or rather, (have) not allowed this country to progress in the right direction…(i) reservation and (ii) corruption”. He also said, “when our Constitution was framed, it was understood that the reservations would remain for a period of ten years, but unfortunately, it has continued even after 65 years of independence”.
In Dec, 2015, as many as 58 members of the Upper House petitioned the Rajya Sabha Chairman to initiate impeachment proceedings against Justice Pardiwala of the Gujarat High Court for his “unconstitutional” remarks against reservations. The MPs also pointed out that the 10-year limit was prescribed for reservations in the legislatures, and not in areas of education and employment.
Such is the mindset and ignorance of some of our higher judiciary judges on the policy of Reservation. They are completely ignorant on the so called time limit. Justice Pardiwala was not only not punished but was also elevated to the apex court. Recently he was one of judges in the SC Bench which adjudicated the validity of the Reservation policy for the Economically Weaker Section. Cry, the beloved country.
One can understand that the accused officer Arvind Kumar Bharti has swallowed the casteist insult of the judge for obvious reasons. But the reaction and inaction from the politicians and social fraternity are shameful.
The judge’s two observations (whether you were recruited through Reservation and I can understand that by his name) are enough grounds for impeaching him. A criminal case can also be filed for his casteist slur against the accused officer.
If a judge makes such observations in the Madras High Court, he will be pulverised by the TN politicians of all hues and civil society. And he cannot escape from impeachment move.
Is it a wishful thinking to expect social justice from the Modi government and our courts?
Sankara Narayanan is a political commentator