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The erratic idea of justice by the Apex Court

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Gitanjali Kapur

I embarked upon the legal profession with utmost fervor and zest, leaving behind a lucrative job in the finance sector for the unnerving world of courtroom drama.

The fire in me knew no bounds as I made my way through the myriad courtroom corridors in Delhi, meandering into the many facets of litigation. There is a certain allure to the profession of litigation that made me leave the cocoon of a decent corporate salary and plunge into the unknown contours of court life. The magnetism of serving the larger good has attracted many to join the profession, and I was no different.

It was not long before I found myself submerged in the bandwagon of the black robe tribe, and I got accustomed to the arbitrary idea of justice. After a few years in practice, one realizes that the Court is not the pedestal of good, but rather a collection of fallible humans.

As lawyers, we introspect about the personality of a judge, his background, his experiences, and his many aspects to try and gauge the outcome of our case. We often find ourselves muddled over the reasoning a court has given in refusing relief to our clients. We moan over the judge defying logic and the same becomes our daily corridor tattle. We sweat in the labor of our effort and we hope that our client will be graced with a better judge once we appeal.

One soon realizes that the reality of the profession is the endless limitation to justice. Procedural delays and nepotism become our daily battles and yet we manage to keep the love for the profession alive, despite its shortcomings.

As a lawyer, the Supreme Court is my ultimate beam of hope that makes me motivated in the profession despite its imperfections. With its unparallel gamut of powers in the guise of Article 32, 142, 144 etc., the Apex Court epitomizes the ideal of justice. One knows that the powers that the Supreme Court possesses is not just to do justice, but also command the same from governments and authorities. The distinctive powers of the Supreme Court make it the most imperative body to ignite optimism in lawyers as well as litigants.

However, as a young lawyer, I am quite alarmed at the way the judiciary is losing its lustre by making the common man question its misplaced priorities. I do not wish to take away from the many historic and unprecedented judgments that have been delivered by the Apex Court recently.

However, at times one wonders how what is obvious to a common reasonable man is the antitheses of logic to the Apex court. The recent migrant issue is an example of how the judiciary has thwarted the faith we have in our courts and has made us question the erratic notions of justice.

In the past few years, the Supreme Court has found it fit to intervene and give directions to citizens to stand for the national anthem in movie halls. The Supreme Court has treated a sexual harassment allegation against a judge as a matter of national importance. The Apex Court has also deemed it fit to order an SIT probe into allegations of wife-swapping activities in the Navy. In fact, the Supreme Court has in 2019 passed an order preventing bird feeding from balconies in Mumbai as the same caused nuisance to residents.

There is a plethora of cases where the Supreme Court has intervened to mitigate any kind of discomfort. even if it is for a small section of the society. To my understanding, all of the above represent less dire circumstances than the one faced by the migrants during the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis.

One would have hoped that the Supreme Court would have taken suo motu cognizance of the plight of the migrant workers earlier, considering their alarming displacement and the delayed response of the government. However, to the utter disbelief of the concerned citizens as well as the senior members of the Bar, the Supreme Court washed its hands off perhaps one of the most glaring humanitarian crises in recent times in our country. When one juxtaposes this refusal to intervene with some previous orders of the Supreme Court in less pressing circumstances, one does feel disconsolate.

From the mundane corporate world of high-rise buildings, the world of litigation to me seemed to be a promise of adventure and anticipation. But just like my wardrobe inadvertently changed from bright colors to dull hues, my ardor for the profession is slowly making way for somber cynicism. While I have understood the nuances of the practice and slowly gotten accustomed to the incalculable actions of the Courts, I cannot fathom the blatant ignorance of the custodian of our constitutional values to the plight of the migrants.

The Supreme Court is a reminder to all of us as lawyers that we are officers of the Court and the torchbearers of an institution which has the power to transform lives and alleviate suffering. As lawyers, we often get entangled in our cases, and we lose sight of the purpose of the profession. The Supreme Court is a symbol of the ethos of the legal profession and a reminder of the higher values of the Constitution. I only hope that the Supreme Court reclaims itself as the model establishment for justice and the shining armor of hope it was always meant to be.

The author is an Advocate practicing at the Supreme Court of India.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are of the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Bar & Bench.

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