Veerapaa Moily , the new Law Minister has expressed the opinion that one of his prinicpal priorities is to work towards reducing the huge number of cases pending in various courts. As far as i can remember, this is a very noble intent, but that many other previous ministers have attempted this task in the past and failed. Let me quote an instance :
Many years ago, a portion of our office was rented out to a firm of architects. The office was small then and it was thought that renting out the surplus area and make some money was a good idea. But some years later as the expanded and the need was felt for more space, the firm of architects refused to vacate. Inevitably litigation followed in the local District Court, where after years of hearings, adjournments and affidavits, a judgement was passed in our favour. But barely had the ink dried on the paper, that the lawyers – ours and the architect’s were rushing to the high court- we to prevent the high court from staying the eviction order and theirs to do just the opposite. It would seem that judgements have lost all their sanctity. If you lose one case, there is always another court or tribunal to appeal to and though you pay through your nose to keep the lawyers filing one petition after another, the battle is kept alive.
With this kind of a litigation ridden culture, I do not know how any dispute can ever be resolved. When I was naive, I used to think that ultimately all petitions finally ended up in the Supreme Court if all other appeal routes were exhausted and the verdict of the Supreme Court was ultimately binding. But now I know better. As soon as one party loses, there is a rash of lawyers wanting to file a review petition so that the matter can be heard by a different judge. If the original judgement was by a single judge, then the appeal may be to constitute a three judge bench, then five, seven, nine, eleven and finally even a thirteen judge bench and at each stage, one can hope for a reversal of fortunes.
Recently the Cauvery water tribunal gave its verdict on the distribution of waters. It is obviously that water is a limited commodity and the best that the tribunal could do was to try and ensure some sort of equity so that all the riparian states received some quantity of water. It was obviously not possible for the tribunal to amplify the amount of water in the Cauvery, so that all states could get water according to their requirements. Unfortunately that level of statesmanship seems not to be present in our political leadership. Shortly after the verdict was out, Deputy Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa said that Karnataka would file a petition before the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal seeking review of its verdict on water sharing. The familiar cycle has begun.
This is not the only instance. Manu Sharma was recently convicted of the murder of Jessica Lal by the Delhi High Court after he was acquitted by a lower court and a retrial was ordered after public outcry. In the midst of all the background noise generated by the high court taking note of the hostile witnesses in the case Manu Sharma has quietly appealed to the Supreme Court challenging his conviction by the High Court. Again, some months ago, Shibu Soren became the first sitting cabinet minister to be convicted of murder and asked to resign. He has appealed to the High Court challenging his sentence of life imprisonment. Navjot Sidhu , who was convicted of a road rage incident by the Punjab and Haryana High Court appealed to the Supreme Court , got his conviction stayed and is back in the electoral fray from Amritsar , barely weeks after he resigned as MP. And so the show goes on -get convicted, appeal, pay the lawyers and get on with your life……