Monday, August 31, 2009

Barefoot Justices for Ethical Democracy

Barefoot Justices for Ethical Democracy

WE the People of India display a national motto that we can be unabashedly proud of. No nation-state in the world can top the powerful appeal of Satyameva Jayate.

Truth is the vehicle of Ethical Democracy.

Ethical Democracy is secular worship of the attainable ideal of SOCIAL JUSTICE through the path of Truth. Truth is not some lofty abstraction.
Gandhiji vividly demonstrated the dynamic, pragmatic imperative of Truth. Truth is often inconvenient, contingent, relative, subtle, blatant, slow, fast. But most important, it is irresistible to humans in groups. Societies depend for their survival, on their frequently faltering pursuit of truth. Even a halting and flawed pursuit is better then none.

In the diverse, secular Indian nation-state, The search for Truth is placed higher than the search for God. Not "In God we Trust" or even " pluribus e unum" as in the US, but "Satyameva Jayate." Truth is the victor. The victor is not you or me or any individual but Truth. Way to go, Republic of India. Excellent start. But we still have a very long row to hoe.

Now, among a host of other priorities, We, the People, urgently need a transformed national, state, and local court system to stand up and deliver those high ideals and aspirations expressed in "Satyameva Jayate."

The issue of publicizing assets held by Supreme Court justices will now be placed before the public, on a website. That is a welcome and necessary development in our unfolding democracy. Hidden assets are completely incompatible with democracy, in which EVERYONE, each citizen is accountable and exercises both rights and responsibilities. Therefore, the CJI Chief Justice of India is not exempt -- and neither am I.

Public pressure from We the People, NOT only judicial activism, beginning with former CJI Verma in 1997, has finally succeeded in making those assets transparent on a website. It's taken 12 long years. TLTL. Too Little Too Late. Still, it's a laggardly triumph for ethical democracy. We can see the powerful efficacy of the public use of RTI Right to Information, in this victory for civil society (that's US, you and me working together) to MAKE democracy.

Wanted: A Justice System for a Postcolonial Democracy:
Our justice system needs to swiftly become more relevant to the unique requirements of a postcolonial democracy, instead of merely aping other systems in national-states with a completely different socio-historical trajectory. The colonial oppressors and their formerly oppressed subjects cannot possibly have identical or even similar justice systems. India needs its very own unique justice system, flowing from the demands and needs of its vibrantly emergent democratic polity.

Wanted: A ProPoor Social Justice System --

Our justice system must be continually proactive and preemptive to deliver SOCIAL JUSTICE to our most oppressed, our most marginalized, our most disadvantaged.

Redistributive justice accomplished through and by the courts is an imperative in an expanding democracy.

Wanted: Barefoot Justices -- We desperately need vigorous, erudite, dedicated BAREFOOT JUSTICES who can leave their hallowed chambers in New Delhi or Chennai and uphold the rule of law in every hamlet of our vast country. These hamlets and outposts are not remote, they have been made remote by judicial officialdom. Judicial bureaucrats on the bench don't fit the bill in a vibrant, aspirational democracy. Justice delayed is Justice denied. The court system has the solemn and fully accountable obligation to deliver justice, not later but NOW.

Our justice justice system needs to break free from TLTL Syndrome. Too Little Too Late simply will not do.

We need pro-civil society justices and a justice system worthy of our unprecedented, vibrantly unfolding democracy, the bewildered envy of the world. Our Indian democracy is a magnificent, seriously flawed work in progress. We need justices who recognize this fact and can act on that fact.

Get off the bench, lose your wigs, drop your robes, hit the streets..

Justice is waiting to be dispensed. And that delay is not good for democracy.

Chithra KarunaKaran
Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice
Times of India copyright

NEW DELHI: Under mounting public pressure, the judges of the Supreme Court on Wednesday decided to make public their assets, an issue that had
been haunting higher judiciary for quite some time. ( Watch Video )

"A decision in principle has been taken on the issue at a meeting convened by Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan and the details of the assets to be declared by the judges would be put on the Supreme Court website," a top apex court source said after the two-hour deliberations.

The decision comes after months of public debate over making public the details of higher judiciary, especially the apex court judges and their families ever since the Right to Information law triggered the issue.

The source said the decision, adopted in the form of a resolution, would be effective only after the minutes are signed by all the judges.

"Once the minutes are recorded the assets would be made public and would be posted on the Supreme Court website," the source said.

The decision was immediately welcomed by senior advocates Soli Sorabjee and Prashant Bhushan, who has been campaigning on the subject.

Sorabjee said it was a decision in the right direction. He said it was not not so much judicial corruption and that they had something to hide but it was due to some misgivings.

The issue of declaration of assets had also led to a spat with Karnataka High Court judge Justice D V Shylendra Kumar, who questioned Balakrishnan's authority to speak on behalf of all judges. The CJI hit back saying the judge was "publicity crazy".

A couple of days ago, the CJI, however, had maintained that judges were free to disclose their assets and nothing prevented them from doing so. Only there was a lack of consensus, which he said was being worked out.

In between, Justice M K Kannan, a judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, and Justice Kumar declared their assets while Justice K Chandru of the Madras High Court expressed his inclination to do so.