There are two perceptions of law and justice: One is of law delivering justice, the other is law as justice. The state, in legislative overdrive, wants us to believe that more laws equals more rights equals more justice. In fact, there are widening fissures between law and justice. Identifying these fissures could help us mend them for better access to and delivery of justice
Public interest litigation started out as a way to make justice and fundamental rights accessible to the exploited and oppressed. There was a time when the higher judiciary would provide relief from the arbitrary actions of the executive, such as slum demolitions. Now the tables have turned and it is the courts that are ordering slum demolitions!
International law mandates the prosecution and punishment of all perpetrators of mass crimes, including heads of state and other leaders. But India has not defined state criminality in mass atrocities in its jurisprudence, making it difficult to address situations such as Gujarat in 2002
TV news media campaigns such as those for Jessica Lall and Priyadarshini Mattoo appear to be shaping and giving voice to public opinion. But is this democracy in action or a sensationalist, manipulative drama to raise ratings? Is it more about media power than citizen power?
Knowing the law is different from experiencing it. Experience tells you that sometimes the problem is not that people have no access to justice, but that ‘justice’ has too much access to them. These people include tribals accused of waging war against the state, Muslims accused of sedition, and slum-dwellers who have encroached on public lands
When and how did the purveyors of illegal execution gain the respectable title of ‘encounter specialists’? Terrorism is redefining our criminal justice system. It produces a sense of emergency, calling for the loosening of ethical compunctions, weakening established conventions of legal procedure, and fetishising encounters as legitimate means of disbursing justice
In the Afzal Guru case the legal community, swayed by misconceived perceptions of patriotism, demonstrated its abject failure to adhere to its core ethics. The judiciary was carried away by bloodlust. And the state, paranoid about ‘terrorism’, was cavalier in its interpretation of effective legal aid to the accused. Did Afzal Guru have any meaningful access to justice?
The proliferation of HRIs to inquire into human rights, women and child rights, minority rights and SC/ST rights has not translated into better protection of human rights as the state machinery remains largely indifferent to them. Is it time to look at the possibility of a merged institution?