Laws are like spider webs through which the big flies pass and the little ones get caught.
Honor De Balzac
Human civilization can claim without fear of disavowal that law has advanced quickly in an organized way in the last 300 years. It has advanced primarily through a strategy of hit and trial. But a noteworthy accomplishment has been the conceptualization and enforcement of ‘equality before the law’. But to what extent have we achieved it? Have we really achieved equality? Indian Constitution ensures equal rights for all in law — in reality, it’s only equal to the degree to which it’s vulnerable to money and authority. Lord Denning’s words were accepted by the Supreme Court of India when seeking to extend the rigor of the rule fairly to both wealthy and poor. But the virtual insusceptibility of the ‘super-rich’ as a class from the meticulousness of law shows up to have fuelled Goldsmith’s frustrating lines “laws grind the poor, and rich men rule the laws”.
I know, up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here at the bottom we, too, should have rights.
In comparison to the backward classes and communities viewed as untouchable, justice gets delayed to them as the socio-economic disparity comes into play. While the powerful are capable of accessing and influencing the legal and judiciary system in their favor, the poor suffer from dysfunctional and inefficient systems. The poor have little access to legal aid as well. Supreme Court judge, Justice Deepak Gupta, has said that the laws and legal framework are adapted in support of the wealthy and powerful.
It was the poorest of the poor who lose the most during a crisis including the COVID-19 pandemic. It was underprivileged who needed the attention of the Supreme Court more than ever. The need for the hour was a humane and caring judiciary.
Role of Politics
Not all elected state governments have pro-poor policies, but the poor have higher expectations of the state than the wealthy. This confidence of the poor and oppressed Indians in the political system derives from their expectations of the state, which are mandated by laws to provide equal opportunity for every person, irrespective of caste, creed, religion, or economic status, and to actively strive to remove them.
However, the state is additionally obliged both by the political handle of administration and by financial and social institutions. Unlike political education, these reflect the existing disparities and are subordinate to the markets. The equitable framework does suggest some degree of correspondence within the frame of an all-inclusive franchise independent of economic position, giving the destitute a space to make their voices heard. But this does not necessarily translate into a state committed to justice and correspondence.
In truth, developing-country democracies don’t have a great track record in decreasing poverty, compared to non-democracies such as China. They use it as a means to gain votes and become more and more powerful. Then these politicians are the ones who do nothing after gaining a position and their promises are just empty ones. They become ‘Mr. India’ once the backward people truly need them, they just become puppets in the hands of the rich and back out when they are in question under law.
Politicians in office may considerably impact the lawful framework to promote their interests. India can pretentiously claim itself as the world’s biggest democracy, but cannot stake a claim to be the most noteworthy democracy of unblemished representatives. Since, there’s a relentless and resolute increment over the years in the number of candidates in the elections, whether for Parliament or the State congregations, with criminal cases against them.
Nevertheless, the electors got to take up a more noteworthy duty by standing up to the bait of money for votes, pushing aside the caste as well as religious components, denying to be influenced by the social media, expanding the cooperation with the higher turnout at the polling stations, and subsequently exert gigantic weight “to cure the malignancy” so that they seem to elect candidates with a clear picture to represent them, and subsequently avoid criminals as lawmakers who would empty out the foundations of Indian democracy.
Is law biased?
Cricket Czar Lalit Modi, now accused of criminality under various provisions of the law, has once again has proven to the world that if you are rich and wealthy, you are above the law in India. Modi in his trademark ostentatiousness was telling one genuine Indian story. A story where money helps you in purchasing devotion and can assist you in sabotaging laws. Indian politicians cutting over political lines were in touch with him; completely mindful of his offenses. He illustrated unequivocally that India’s administering lesson cutting across political lines has no individual morals. Political corruption is the root of all disasters in public life. The moral code of conduct is connected to others and not to oneself. The set of rules is implied for others and not for them.
In any case, Modi is just one name in the long list of the high and powerful who all have managed to remain out of the clutches of Indian laws in spite of being charged under different sections of the Indian Penal Code. Indian politicians, industrialists, and famous actors too are equally guilty parties. Be it Tamil Nadu’s former Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha, Salman Khan, Manu Sharma of the Jessica Lal murder, or Rahul Gandhi.
In these cases, either the witnesses had either turned antagonistic or the courts have appeared exemplary urgency to exculpate the so-called wrongdoers of their crimes. To assist the wealthy and all-powerful, police officers, witnesses, the public prosecutor’s office, judges, nearly everybody involved was either coerced or extorted or bribed so that the process remains hassle-free and really speedy. The other method often used judiciously is to purposely delay the proceedings exorbitantly. It took 19 years for the courts to clear Jayalalitha’s case.
Another example is the spill of dangerous noxious gas on a December night of 1984 that snuffed out thousands of lives. Thousands endured the impacts of poisonous gas for years to come. The misery of a large segment of the populace, generally poor, was attempted to be mitigated by organizing for remuneration and the SC took over the part of managing the distribution of cash to families that lost their family members and bread-winners. But did anybody get rebuffed for the carelessness in running a not-so-fit plant that stored harmful gas within the most callous manner? Why were the main culprits permitted to go scot-free? Why did the courts wince in employing their otherwise razor-sharp thinking while working out their discretion in forcing rigid discipline? Was it because the blamed were wealthy and famous?
The system usually goes into a tizzy if a wealthy individual is put behind bars. Applications for his safeguard and assistance for his trial are recorded over and over in the superior courts. His case is listened to at the cost of delaying the case of the poor prosecutor. The poor too have a right to life and dignity. The judiciary ought to listen and offer assistance to them. Guaranteeing high-quality, reasonable lawful help, so people have a strong chance at a reasonable trial, regardless of financial or social foundation. In this way, contributing to the provision of high-quality legal help, not only benefits financially weaker prosecutors; it moreover gives noteworthy economic benefits. One way to realize this is by institutionalism the soul of ‘pro-bono’ legal help.
Our legal framework ought to also rise up to the event “before it becomes deadly to democracy” to cleanse the political framework without unnecessarily and unendingly holding up for the unwilling Parliament to bring out solid laws to attain decriminalization of politics. And it is more relevant to the Indian Judiciary presently in order to prevent the risk to the fundamental structure of the Constitution of India. All the more so because the dictum that people get the government they deserve would apply to the Judiciary as well! Is the super rich’s capacity to pay compensation sufficient thought in law to fortify a judge’s discretion to grant indulgent discipline? Let us pray that Goldsmith is proved wrong in the future by the Supreme Court.
Editor’s Note The article critically points out one of the really grave issues of our country. Inequality against the poor and underprivileged has been one of the noticeable flaws in our justice and political systems. Many wealthy and known people have been able to slip through the legal cases going on against them, whereas, even major inconveniences of the poor people are ignored. Many political parties make false promises about improving the lifestyle of underprivileged people but when it comes to action, they disappear. The author concludes by saying that our legal framework has to rise up before the situation worsens and affects the lives of many.