What is eventual justice; and who decides that? While it may not be a subject of much thought in instances where there is a ‘clear’ demarcation between the ‘black’ from the ‘white’, the issue becomes a serious food of thought when a couple of people decide upon abstract issues like morality, ethics, sensibilities. Is it fair to have a world where the ‘assessment of the selected few’ is deemed more evolved than that of others? Alas! There’s no other world.
Suppose Dawood Ibrahim were to be caught tomorrow by sleuths of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s external intelligence agency, would it be fair to eliminate him at the first opportune instant or would that be legally (or constitutionally) and morally unsuitable?
The answer – at least in public forums – HAS to be a resounding ‘no’. “Why, we have to have faith in the system and allow the law to take its course”, the appalled humanists would argue, before adding, “and if he is found guilty, he should be hanged”.
And if the reaction does not surprise us, it is simply because we are ‘conditioned’ to follow a certain method and format of humanity and humanism in life. Everything between our birth and the eventual death is confined within that ‘conditioning’.
And yet, doesn’t the approach say something like “the men in khaki do not have the mandate to kill him with gun today, but the men in black can have the mandate to kill him tomorrow with a rope”?
Don’t get me wrong here; I’m NOT, under any circumstances, advocating the so-called ‘encounters’ by the men in khaki. We are not talking about the, again, so-called D Company and its long list of ‘legally and morally unsuitable’ acts. In fact, the issue here is not even crime and the best mode of answering it with ‘appropriate justice’. The issue here is about our ‘conditioning’ in life. Conditioning about abstract and thoroughly contextual entities like ‘justice’.
Before we move any further with the topic, and because justice – at least from one perspective – is a subject of philosophy too, let’s see what has been said on the subject by one of the early thinkers. In Human, All Too Human (Menschliches, Allzumenschliches) – a book by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, originally published in 1878 – Nietzsche challenges the notion that ‘the world’ treats everyone fairly:
“One common false conclusion is that because someone is truthful and upright toward us he is speaking the truth. Thus the child believes his parents` judgments, the Christian believes the claims of the church`s founders. Likewise, people do not want to admit that all those things which men have defended with the sacrifice of their lives and happiness in earlier centuries were nothing but errors. Perhaps one calls them levels of truth. Basically, however, one thinks that if someone honestly believed in something and fought for his belief and died it would be too unfair if he had actually been inspired by a mere error. Such an occurrence seems to contradict eternal justice. Therefore the hearts of sensitive men always decree in opposition to their heads that there must be a necessary connection between moral actions and intellectual insights. Unfortunately, it is otherwise, for there is no eternal justice.”
There is no eternal justice he said. Many – and I subscribe to that school of thought – have interpreted the word ‘eternal’ as not only from the perspective of time but also from that of (geographical & cultural) location. For we believe that the problem with a ‘consistent conditioning’ – i.e. a steadfast belief in one set of methods and morals – is that it often does not take into account the varying nature of conditions. And with that, we also mean the ‘conditioning’ of the men involved in the judicial process too.
If you are born in Varanasi and have grown up along side the various Hindu scriptures, beliefs and reverences, it is possible for you to smell blasphemy at the smallest deviation from the normal etiquette towards anything related to Hindu religion (or Sanatan Dharma, as the original and true name goes). And then, if you happen to be the Chief Justice of a High Court and are listening to a public interest litigation (PIL) with regards to ‘perceived notion of hurt sensibilities of Hindus’, there are chances of your going a bit harsher on the alleged offender (more likely to be a painter, filmmaker, musician etc) than what an atheist would have. It holds true for a person of any faith or background.
Point being, a Judge too, after all, is a human being. Her psychological make-up and the ability to arrive at a judgement is invariably shaped by her family and social conditioning.
Morever, since every individual is shaped up by a varying family and neighbourhood conditioning, how can every one come up with the same assessment of a worldly happening? For a Judge who has grown up in poverty, theft of a daily wage earner’s bicycle would be just as big an offence as the theft of a Mercedes benz of a businessman. But for a Judge who has grown up in swanky C G Road or S G Highway, the bicycle theft would be a minor case of ‘routine happening’. So, in case of a team (or ‘bench’ as they call it in legal parlance) of three Judges, the ‘truth’ is decided by a vote – with the majority vote deciding the ‘justice’.
Now how different is it from the saying ‘might is right’, or the more scathing “jiski laathhee uski bhains”?
The closest analogy for that would be the fact that some people may not have voted for BJP in Gujarat, others may not have voted for Congress at the center. But the party which gets the majority vote gets the “right to rule” – or right to form the government anyway. But is that right correct? But if that is not correct then what is the alternative? Because not in the next ten trillion light years would every individual of a state would vote for the same party.
Does that mean that as in politics, a judgement based on merit or a judgement by any human on a fellow human being basically reflects the truth that there is no alternative (TINA)?
Yes, that’s precisely what it is. If we don’t allow fellow humans to judge us and mete out justice, there would be absolute anarchy. Allowing the chosen few – who, at least in judiciary, come through a rigorous process – to play God is a small price to pay to make this world go round.
So, just as “history is what the historians wrote”, justice too – in a way – is what the chief justices read out. Does it make sense? Well, you are your own judge here.