Shares anecdotes showing the ground realities in places far from Delhi.


Bhopal, New Delhi: In a candid admission, the chairman of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), Justice Rajendra Menon, who also till recently was the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, has said that the dispensation of justice in the country is filled with great disparity.

“I want to say that in the matter of dispensation of justice, there is great disparity— disparity in the facilities available, the quality of justice being dispensed with and the infrastructural facilities available,” Justice Menon said, just one day after the Hyderabad police, in an “encounter”, shot dead four individuals who had allegedly raped a woman.

Justice Menon made these remarks while addressing a select group of people in Bhopal last week, who were a part of the inaugural event of the CAN foundation (Confederation of Alumni for National Law Universities), a foundation started by alumni of national law universities to help students who require financial assistance for university fees at national law universities.

He shared several “unpleasant” anecdotes which he had witnessed in more than 39 years of his professional experience which included 17 years as a judge, to highlight how dispensation of justice in the country was still out of reach for many people.

Justice Menon, who also served as the acting Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh high and Chief Justice of the Patna High Court, while recalling his experience of Patna, said that there were courts in Bihar which had no boundary walls and no papers.

“When I went to Bihar, I found the situation there was still bad. We had courts without boundary walls, we had courts without papers. In Patna, I was told that the Patna High Court was the first high court in the country where computerisation took place in 1993 when Justice G.C. Bharuka, who is considered the founding father of computerisation in courts of India, was a judge there and the first computer generated cause list was introduced in Patna. Today if you see the computerisation in Bihar courts, it is way bad. When I came to Delhi, I found a totally different picture regarding the facilities available, the quality of the dispensation of justice and various other factors,” Justice Menon recalled.

“Why am I emphasizing this? The Constitution is for ‘We the people’ and we the people includes everyone from a tribal area in Jhabua to New delhi and all the other places. Do we give the constitutional mandate in an equal way throughout the country? No, we do not,” he said.

Recalling his experience of Madhya Pradesh, Justice Menon shared anecdotes that showed the ground realities in places that are far from Delhi.

“You would be surprised to know that when I visited a jail in Madhya Pradesh, I found that there were more than 70 women who were in the family way (pregnant) in the jail. I asked the jail superintendent why are so many women who are in the family way in jails? I was told that they are all tribals from Mandla and Dindori district of Madhya Pradesh and because they did not have the money to go to a hospital and deliver a child, they were indulging in petty offences, stealing utensils and not applying for bail, coming to jail and at the expense of the state, deliver the child and then leaving the prison. That is the plight of the dispensation of justice in our country—a woman, to become a mother, has to commit an offense and come to prison for doing the pious job of giving birth to a child,” he said.

Those who were in attendance during Justice Menon’s speech included Justice A.M. Khanwilkar of the Supreme Court, Chief Justices of the High Courts of Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, Justices A.K. Mittal and J.K. Maheshwari, judges from various High Courts, top bureaucrats, lawyers and political entities.

“You would not believe that in the state of Madhya Pradesh, there are 182 schemes for the poor. When I visited many villages, I found that many of them were not even aware that there are such schemes. Access to justice does not mean dispensation of justice by adversarial litigation in a court of law. If the state from its exchequer has introduced a scheme for the poor, making sure that the poor get the benefit of that scheme is also a part of access to justice,” Justice Menon said.

“When I used to go to the villages, journalists used to ask me ‘you are a judge, what are you doing here in villages; this is the work of the collector and commissioner’. I used to tell them justice in not about sitting in courts and dispensing justice; justice is to see that ‘we the people’ get everything under the Constitution that is meant for them. We need to bridge the divide between the institutions and those who comprise ‘we the people of India’,” Justice Menon said.

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