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  • Chahat Gautam

A Peek Into the Complex World of Indian Judiciary

Judiciary, like any other system has loopholes, but it takes a dynamic and learned personality like Honourable Justice Markandey Katju to address these issues in such a comprehensive and effective manner. Justice Katju is the former Chairman of the Press Council of India. Prior to this, he served as a Judge at the Supreme Court of India. In the book, he has highlighted various shortcomings of the Indian judiciary system like delay in justice, political interference in the Indian judiciary, issue of appointment of judges, corruption in judiciary, etc. Furthermore, Whither Indian Judiciary, gives the reader a chance to understand the complexities and nuances of our judiciary by analysing the first-hand experiences of Justice Markandey Katju. Just like his ground-breaking and unconventional judgements, the book also presents an unseen and unprecedented face of the Indian judiciary.

Whither Indian Judiciary, amalgamates numerous aspects of the Indian justice system and presents an exhaustive understanding of the same. The book provides the reader with the basic idea and philosophy of law by presenting various jurisprudential arguments. By emphasising on the importance of upright and competent judges in the Indian judiciary, it also gives a detailed understanding of appointment of judges followed in India and the political hindrances associated with it, thus also commenting on the issue of vacancies. Furthermore, addressing the issue of delay in justice, the book presents an impressive solution to the problem by promoting the idea of maintaining a balance between ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ and ‘justice hurried is justice buried’. Justice Katju also mentions that lawyers should ‘be brief, be bright and be off’, in order to fasten the process of justice. He further comments on various significant issues like importance of humility in a judge, mutual respect between colleagues, unnecessary compulsion and imposition in a diverse country like India, cases of honour killing and death penalty, etc. Most importantly, the narrative contributes to the field of law with certain crucial ideas of justice, equality, diversity, and humility, in the simplest yet effective way.

The book also throws light on one of the most vital but renounced aspect of the Indian Constitution, that is, the supremacy of the people. Honourable Justice Katju explains that the Indian judiciary system should always uphold the basic idea enshrined in the Constitution of India, that people are supreme and all the other authorities are accountable to them, even the judges. This pious idea promoted by Justice Katju might look impressive in concept; however, the reality of the country may be different. The recent cases of exploitation and abuses of people’s human rights in the name of state security, might weaken the idealistic vision of India presented by Justice Katju. Furthermore, this discussion on people’s rights cannot be completed without a mention of the controversial issue of the right to freedom of opinion and speech. In a democracy like India, people should have the freedom to criticise and comment on the working of the government or any other authorities concerned. This not only promotes freedom of expression of people, but also helps in making the government accountable. It is important that we don’t forget that at the stroke of the midnight hour, we promised ourselves a democratic and free nation. However, the unnecessary application of sedition laws and criminal defamation seen in the current scenario might provide a contrasting picture to the idealistic concept of people’s supremacy hoped by Justice Katju.

By discussing the concept of people’s supremacy and the right to criticise, Justice Katju also addresses the controversial issue of contempt of court. Commenting on the matter, he simply explains that the only test to determine if an act is a contempt of court or not, is by examining if it makes the function of the court impossible or extremely difficult. Thus, mere criticism and vague remarks should not be considered important as ‘in a democracy so many things are said and everything does not require to be taken seriously’. Concluding his argument on the issue of contempt of court, Justice Katju excellently explains that in a democracy like India, it is not criticism by people that can bring a judge to disrepute; it is his/her/others own conduct which can do so. This simple yet effective understanding of contempt of court becomes even more significant in light of the recent happenings in the country, associated with the issue of contempt. Criticising the recent situation of the Indian judiciary, Justice Katju has undoubtedly presented some exceptional and unique ideas for promoting people’s supremacy. However, in light of the current scenario, these ideas can be considered utopian in nature. The relevancy of these ideas can only be tested when they are put into practice by the present judiciary and other people involved in the field of law. Therefore, it is important that these unique ideas of justice find place not just in the book, but also in the everyday functioning of the judiciary.

Deflecting from the ordinary course of stating the plight of the Indian judiciary, the book also presents various positive aspects or cases pertaining to our Judiciary. Living in a global scenario of violence and hatred, Justice Katju stated an instance where a peaceful ‘poetic appeal’ made by the Indian Supreme Court to the Pakistani authorities resulted in release of an Indian prisoner. This judgment is a unique example of how the justice system can be used to promote peace and tranquillity between nations. Furthermore, the story of humility pertaining to Judge Mootham, Justice Katju’s initiative of building washrooms and other facilities for women lawyers, various remarkable judgments promoting justice and equality, mentioned in the book, gives reassurance to the reader on the third pillar of democracy. It not only guides the present generation of judges and lawyers but can also inspire the students of law to frame their ideas of justice and fairness in a way that will ensure a better future of our judicial system. The incidents and cases mentioned by Justice Katju assert that if the idea of justice is used in an effective manner, Indian judiciary can have an impressive and extraordinary legacy.

All in all, the book gives the reader a unique chance to delve into the functioning and various aspects of the Indian Judiciary.  The book is an impressive effort by Justice Katju to make people aware of the unseen reality of our judiciary. It presents crucial ideas of justice and equality, provides solutions to the issues plaguing the Indian judiciary, and most importantly, it can prove as a reality check for our justice system.

The book concludes on a dissatisfactory remark by Justice Katju on the current scenario pertaining to the Indian Judiciary. However, he also states that it is only through unanimous and cumulative efforts that we can bring transformative changes in our justice system. Therefore, his concluding statements also give the judiciary hope to better itself in future. Nobody can deny that people still believe in our judiciary and keep faith with it. Therefore, upholding the hope of Justice Katju, it is essential that issues pertaining to its ineffective working are solved before it is too late.


This book review has been authored by Chahat Gautam, Associate Editor at RSRR.


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