118 years of Trust This above all
THE TRIBUNEsaturday plus
Saturday, August 8, 1998

Regional Vignettes



Where is justice in India ?

DURING the last seven years of the British rule, I was a practising Barrister at Lahore. Even then I had become aware of the growing distance between the practice of law and justice. Just about every witness produced in court took the oath to tell the truth — and lied. Occasionally, a magistrate or a judge would charge him for perjury and put him to jail. Things have not changed very much. Witnesses continue to lie in court but rarely is anyone sent to jail for perjury.

During my lawyer days there were not so many persons in the legal profession; lawyers did not extract exortbitant fees and one rarely heard of lawyers’ taking money from their clients’ adversaries. Though a few indulged in professional misconduct, by and large they were an upright community and the practice of law was considered an honourable profession. Things have changed very much. Now there are far too many lawyers than needed . Moreover, they indulge in cut-throat practices and the legal profession does not deserve the honorific honourable. In my days I never heard of lawyers going on strike. Now it has become a monthly phenomenon.

The third arm of the law is the judiciary. In my lawyer days, though many magistrates and judges were notorious for being partial towards members of their own community, patronising some lawyers and doing favours to friends, not many were known to accept bribes. Today, things are different. Earlier, magistrates and judges pronounced judgements soon after they heard the final arguments. This is no longer so. I know of judges who do not pronounce judgements for months and even years. I know of one who quit office with over a 100 unpronounced judgements. He still got full pension and remained a respected member of society.

Judges in the past did not take up paid jobs after retirment. Now even retired Supreme Court Judges take in lucrative assignments.

I did not practise law in Independent India but had to appear as an accused person in many false and frivolous cases filed against me. I escaped unscathed. However, I noticed the rapid deterioration in the quality of litigants, the legal profession and the judiciary. The entire system seems to be on the verge of sinking into a morass of its own making. We have become a litigious nation. As a result, the number of cases pending before courts have risen to horrendous heights. H.D. Shourie. Editor of Common Cause, estimates that about two crore cases are pending in civil courts and one crore in criminal courts. Cases drag on and on, year after year, up to a decade or two — often resolved by deaths of the people involved. The number of undertrial prisoners (many innocent), langhuishing in over-crowded prisons, has broken all records. As a result most people have lost faith in the judiciary and trust those who can hire thugs to settle their disputes out of courts. Our judicial system is on the brink of a collapse.

Shourie further points out that there are provisions in both civil and criminal procedure codes requiring proceedings to be heard "from day to day until all witnesses in attendance have been examined." The way our courts function today it would seem that rules prescribed by the civil and criminal procedure codes are more observed in breach than observance. The takia kalaam (pillow or favourite words) is taareekh lag gaee — a further date has been fixed.

Is there nothing we can do rectify this state of affairs? Chief Justice of the Supreme Court come and go. All make brave speeches of how they will put the judicial system back on the rails. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens. Without exception they speak in three languages: one, when they are aspiring to become Chief Justices and have to keep some ministers and the ruling party on their side; second, when their aspirations are fulfilled; and a third one, after retirement. Not one of them will go down in history as an able and upright man who have India a clean and working judicial system. We have learnt to live with a judiciary without expecting justice from it.

How much sleep do you require?

There is no fixed norm about the hours of sleep a person in good health requires. Some can do with only four in the 24 hours that make up a night and day; others need a minimum of eight or 10 hours. The quality of the sleep makes a lot of difference.

Some enjoy deep, dreamless sleep: for them three-four hours is enough and they get up fresh and cheerful. Others sleep fitfully and after tossing in bed all night get up tired and fretful. As you age, you can do with less sleep at night but need to have an afternoon nap to recharge your batteries.

My friend Prem Kirpal is 87 and in very good shape. He eats a lot, drinks a lot, keeps late nights and is very chirpy and cheerful in the evenings. The secret of his good health is long hours of sleep. He gets up at 9 a.m., has a full breakfast of cornflakes and milk, eggs, toasts and tea. Then he has a snooze of an hour or more. He takes a half hour stroll in Lodhi Garden. He has an appetiser in the form of gin and lime before he sits down to lunch. He eats a full meal of chapatis and vegetables. Then follows a two-three hour siesta: when he gets up he has tea and toast and takes a second stroll in Lodhi Garden. He spends a little time in the India International Centre before returning home. He takes yet another nap of an hour or so. He loves entertaining. By the time his guests arrive around 8 p.m. he is gay as a lark, singing couplets of Ghalib. He relishes his Scotch and eats a hearty dinner.

I am sure the secret of Prem’s good health are long hours of sleep, between 10-11 hours a day. I don’t know how long a life Kumbhkaran lived.

The morality of long hours in bed remains to be considered. If you spend almost half your time sleeping, what kind of life have you led? Speaking for myself, I affirm that sleep does not pose any problem for me. I have never taken a sleeping pill. There are nights when for no rhyme or reason I am awake at 2 or 3 a.m. I don’t stay in bed feeling sorry for myself. I go to my study and start reading or writing. I do not tire because of sleeplessness.

As soon as the light comes in, I go to play tennis. I work through the morning and make up for the lost sleep by adding another hour to my siesta. I have discovered that afternoon sleep is more refreshing than sleep at night. If for some reasons I am deprived of my siesta, I am cranky and ill-tempered for the rest of the evening. Seven hours of sleep is good enough for me. I manage to get through a lot of reading and writing: I get more done than anyone I know of my age.

Modern Shrimati

Santa and Banta were having a gup-shup session. Suddenly Banta got up. "It is getting late; I must go home at once. Otherwise my wife will go without her dinner," he said.

"You are a lucky fellow to have such a pati-vrataa wife who does not eat till her husband has eaten first, "remaked Santa.

"Nahin yaar, it is not like that," replied Banta, "I have to go home and cook the meal, otherwise she’ll go hungry".

(Contributed by J.P. Singh Kaka, Bhopal)

Immoral translation

The Chandigarh Senior Citizens Association at its last meeting ended its session with the prayer from the Upanishads:

Asto maam sad gamaya

Tamaso maam jyotir gamaya

Mrityo maam amritam gamaya

O God, lead me from unreal to the real,

From darkness to light and From morality to the immorality.

The English translation of the prayer printed omitted the latter ‘T" making immortality into immorality.

(Contributed by Maj.Gen P.S. Gill, Chandigarh.

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