Sunday, January 29, 2012

All Humans are Products of the Society they live in

The past year has seen a slew of corrupt deals surfacing. Several important ministers, politicians, bureaucrats and corporates have been sent to jail on countless charges of malfeasance and misfeasance. The Anna Movement that followed as a sequel to the weak Government Lokpal Bill showed people’s ire against corruption. Today, the man in the street talks of rule of thieves or “kleptocracy” – the neologism added to the English lexicon.
            The recent exposé of the judges’ wrongdoings in Karnataka and Orissa High/ Supreme Courts is the saddest commentary on body corruption. How can the dispenser of justice be a party to this open defiance of rules and law including the ones formulated on the judgments pronounced by the highest court of the country? What will become of the country when the fence, purportedly meant to protect, starts eating the crop?
            Never perhaps in one’s fallible memory of contemporary India has the higher judiciary been exposed for violation of rules and procedures the way they have today. Let’s get real. The courts are deemed to be the last bastion of safety in a democracy to ensure that the rule of law is followed not only by the executive but also by the legislature. The courts are honorable places where the common man can go seeking remedy for perceived wrong or willful or questionable executive fiats or legislation. The judges are deemed honorable people looked upon with respect by the society. They also have the power of contempt to protect themselves from any motivated and tendentious criticism.
            The names, photographs and details of land questionably allotted in Bangalore to former and sitting judges of High Courts and Supreme Court in the Karnataka Judicial Employees House Building Society in alleged violation of its own bye-laws is pathetic. The membership of such Society, as per its own bye-laws, is confined to judicial employees. Judges of the High Court and Supreme Court are not judicial employees. As per the Supreme Court judgment delivered by a five-judge constitutional bench in Union of India vs Sankal Chand Himatlal Sheth (1977) case, “A judge of the High Court is not a government servant, but the holder of a constitutional office… A High Court judge has no employer; he occupies a high constitutional office.” Membership granted to these judges is not only violative of the Bye-laws of the Society but flies in the face of judgment delivered by the highest court of the land.
            The latest crisis that lists a string of names of serving and retired Orissa High Court judges – including one who became the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court – receiving favours in land allotment in Cuttack/Bhubaneshwar from minister’s discretionary quota has now come under intense public gaze. It is such a pity that judges who ought to be the guardian angels of the society and nation have indulged in day light heist, twisting and mangling well settled rules of law established by the judiciary itself.
            What does it show? Simple: societal values shape everyone – politician, bureaucrat, corporate, professional, teacher, lawyer, judges, and common man. Values are cachets that leave their imprimatur regardless of profession. If a society is corrupt, it would be facetious to expect dishonesty affecting one segment of society and not affecting others. This is what we need to be aware and legislate laws that encompass everyone without exception. If transparency is the buzzword today, and it’s good it is, let transparency suffuse everyone in public domain. Let openness be the fulcrum on which all transactions are carried out. Understandably there can be no exceptions.
            It is important to remember that the nature of the society affects all denizens much as children are affected by the environment they grow up in. If the parents have a liberal outlook the child is likely to grow into a liberal human. The values the society nurtures get rubbed off on the people who form this. To expect that some would defy societal value and imbibe qualities different from the society they inhabit are only exceptions. For the majority who form the microcosm of the society the societal norms set the tone for its denizens to follow – as a lodestar.
Only that, not always, such lodestars turn out to be admirable.