Sunday 31 March 2024

The role of women in the judicial world

  I have been motivated to write this article by the judgments and speeches of Justice BV Nagarathna, Judge of the Indian Supreme Court, who is in line of becoming the Chief Justice of India in 2027, whom I greatly admire, and who dissented from the majority judges more than 3 times since her elevation to the Supreme Court ( and in my opinion correctly ).

Her career is given below :

 I was particularly impressed by her speech explaining why she dissented from the majority in Vivek Narain Sharma vs Union of India ( the demonetisation case).

I agree with her views about the role of the Governors of States under the Constitution, and her criticism of the way some Governors were behaving in India.

I was also impressed by her views on the abortion debate.

Her views about women's equality are also noteworthy, as also her decision regarding hate speech.

However, I hasten to add that I admire her not because she is a woman, but because she is a great Judge.

While I am happy that more women are entering the legal professinon as lawyers, I am not a supporter of having greater representation of women in the judiciary as a means of womens' empowerment. This may sound contradictory, so I may explain.

In earlier times a lawyer's career was regarded as unsuitable for women, and there were very few women lawyers. In fact for a long time in most courts in India under the relevant rules no woman was permitted to be enrolled as a lawyer, as a woman was not regarded as a 'person'.

 I remember when I started law practice in the Allahabad High Court in 1971 there was only one lady lawyer who would come regularly to the High Court. From time to time some other young woman lawyer would come to the Court, but she would disappear after a few months. When we enquired what happened to her, we were told she had got married. In other words, she had entered the profession just to while away time before marriage, and was not serious about it.

Today in almost all courts in India, from the district courts right upto the Supreme Court, about 8-9% lawyers are women. This is of course a far cry from the ideal of 50%, but it is a great advance over almost 0%.

The view that women are unfit for the legal profession is a myth. The work of a lawyer is mental, not physical. I.Q. ( Intelligence Quotient ) tests in modern psychology have proved that an average woman's I.Q. is the same as that of an average man. Hence there is no reason why a woman cannot be a good lawyer. 

However, when it comes to appointment as a Judge, in my opinion the sole criteria should be the merit of the person being considered, and his/her sex is wholly irrelevant. After all, lawyers and litigants are only interested in high quality justice, and not the sex of the person rendering such justice. If out of all persons being considered ( on the basis of their reputation and knowledge of law ) all are found to be men, then 100% of the judges in that court should be men. On the other hand, if all are found to be women, then 100% should be women. I am totally against applying the Women's Reservation Bill, which reserves one third seats in legislatures for women, to the judiciary.

Justice Nagarathna was selected for being a Judge in the Karnataka High Court, and in the Supreme Court, not because she is a woman, but because of her profound legal acumen ( as is evident from her judgments ), and high level of integrity.

- Justice Markandey Katju

Thursday 28 March 2024

JNUSU elections 2024

The leftists have swept the polls in the recent elections for the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union elections.
This is being hailed as a great victory for the poor people of India.
But going by past experience one can safely predict that after leaving the JNU these 'revolutionaries' who have won the elections will in later life forget all about revolution and the poor people of India, and start thinking of building a career for themselves. Some 'revolutionaries' may end up in Congress, like Kanhaiya Kumar, former President of JNUSU, or like Shehla Rashid, former Vice President, who may join the BJP.
There is a long list of such turncoats who at one time were hero worshipped in JNU when they were students there, and reckoned as rising stars in the red firmament, and therefore the hopes of the poor people, but are today occupying cushy jobs/posts in the civil services, in the corporate world, in academia, in politics, and elsewhere, with fat salaries and perks, in India, or even abroad.
One is reminded of English poet Robert Browning's poem 'The Lost Leader'.

I have always had a poor opinion of Indian Universities, and I particularly regard JNU as a highly overrated.
I was once invited to speak in JNU, but I dont think the newly elected office bearers of JNUSU will invite me. They may fear I will speak about how history shows that most 'leftists' ended up as rightists, in India, and all over the world.

- Justice Katju

Sunday 24 March 2024

One Cannot Murder A Ghost!

 The Aam Admi Party has called the arrest of its leader, Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi, as the murder of democracy in India AAP leaders have called for a nationwide protest against it, and some protests have taken placeOpposition leaders, such as Rahul Gandhi, Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerji, Akhilesh Yadav, Shashi Tharoor, etc, and a section of the media too are shouting themselves hoarse that arrest of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal amounts to murder of democracy in India I am not going into the merits of the charges against Kejriwal, which principally relate to a massive liquor scam

However, in my opinion the question whether democracy has been murdered in India or not by this arrest arises only if we presuppose that there was democracy in India in the first place at all, or just a charade or a sham pretending to be democracy. 

As defined by US President Lincoln, democracy means government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Modern democracies cannot be government of the people. That was only possible in ancient times e.g. in Greek city states like Athens, where there was direct democracy. With the growth in population people cannot gather together in one forum and rule themselves. So it has to be a representative democracy.

As for government by the people, this implies that even if there is indirect or representative democracy, the leaders really represent the people, and hence can be equated or identified with the people, not just in the sense of being elected by them, but by working for their welfare, and securing them better lives.

Does this happen in India ? Not at all. Our political leaders only seek power and pelf, and do not have any genuine love for the people, nor really care for their welfare. To achieve power they polarise society on caste and religious lines, seeking vote banks, for which they incite and spread hatred, an activity in which they are experts. Is our 'democracy' for the people ? Again, the answer has to be in the negative. As stated above, our politicians work for themselves, or their kith and kin, not for the welfare of the people. This is evident from the fact that even 77 years after Independence, there is massive poverty, record and rising unemployment, appalling level of child malnourishment ( every second child in India is malnourished, according to Global Hunger Index ), skyrocketing prices of essential commodities like food, fuel and medicines, almost total lack of proper healthcare and good education for the masses, atrocities on minorities, etc.

So where is democracy in India, which is said to have been murdered ? One cannot murder a ghost, or something which does not exist.

- Justice Markandey Katju(retd)