Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Verdict against Jayalalithaa- justice delayed, denied or just misplaced?

Tamil Nadu chief minister and AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) leader Jayalalithaa was finally convicted in disproportionate asset case by. It was 18 year long battle, as the FIR was filed in 1996 for the financial irregularities she and her aids committed during her first stint as CM of Tamilnadu (1991-96). There is no doubt that any person engaging in criminal activity or forgery should be tried punished, for last few decades misuse of public money has become norm in Indian political class. Corruption is very rampant at all levels in any state and at center, no matter which government is in power, so some of these recent judgments specially this one and the one about former Bihar CM Laloo Prasad Yadav are really landmark judgments in political history of India. I am sure that no one can deny the importance and need of strict vigilance and robust mechanism to catch the culprits. This can help to tame down the rampant corruption which has become norm in many sections of society in India.

The judgment which was delivered few days back took almost 18 years to come, and this is a session court, now the convict can appeal to High court and then to Supreme court. It took 18 years for one court to deliver the judgment so imagine how much time it will take for this case to go through all three courts. Such a long delay in delivering justice (for whatever reason) is very serious problem of Indian judiciary system. Jayalalithaa was doing a very good job as a Tamil Nadu CM when this judgment came. If one takes a look at central government data her state is a leading state based on many indicators which measure the progress of any state. The hysterical reaction of her supporters after her arrest is also a real shocker for me, some of them even took the extreme step of taking their own life as they can not tolerate the news of their beloved leader's arrest. Such delayed delivery of justice does create some unique situations like this and at the same time raise some serious questions which demand some serious thinking. What is the real purpose of punishing any convict? Is it just to hurt them? Is it to make them realize their mistake and then give them an opportunity to reform themselves by correcting those mistakes? Is it to set an example for others so that they don't dare to commit the same mistake? Is it to eliminate them from society (in case of capital punishment)?

So it all comes down to what is the purpose of punishment and do such delayed delivery of justice (or punishment) serve that purpose? Are we punishing the same corrupt Jayalalithaa who committed this crime? Was she already a reformed person to which court finally punished? If she has already realized her mistake and was a reformed person then what purpose does this delayed punishment will serve? Due to the nature of legal structure in India she will now apply to higher court and then come out of jail on bail so will her example act as a deterrent to other politicians? She was relatively new to the politics when she did this mistake normally these politicians and corrupt bureaucrats are so clever that they rarely leave any evidence of their crime, that is why it is really difficult to convict them is any criminal case as there is no direct evidence to prove their crime. There is no doubt that it is good to see that such judgments are finally coming, but judiciary has to make these decisions fast. Justice delivered in time can have maximum impact on the perpetrator and victims. If not then we will keep on asking this question if delayed justice is a justice at all. I have no sympathy for Jayalalithaa for the crimes she did but I feel bad for people of Tamil Nadu which were getting good governance and now feel cheated by this judgment as they feel that system unfairly targeted their leader. Judiciary needs to remove this doubt from people's mind by delivering verdicts in timely manure. There are thousands of people waiting in jails for their trials and this is very serious problem. Government and judiciary should work together to resolve this problem.

So in this case whether justice is delayed, denied or misplaced (delivered at wrong time). I don't think it is denied as she got punished for her crimes but other two scenarios are also equally disturbing. I ask this question because I am really concerned by the delay in delivering the justice. I think that it defeats the whole purpose of it. These type of incidents remind me a poem in Marathi, I can’t recall the exact poem as it is, don't remember its poet but I think it was something like this,

A lawyer meets a 65 year old lady outside the court after judgment was delivered in her favor punishing all 10 people involved in a gang rape against her. He congratulates her and says that she must be happy that finally justice is delivered, she won the case and all culprits are finally punished. She says, "Son, I am happy if you say so. But really I don’t know whether to be happy or sad, this gang rape was done on 16 year old girl, 5 of the guilty lived normal life and are already dead, 3 of them are so old that they can’t do anything on their own, this punishment doesn't mean anything to them, remaining two are doting grandfathers for their grand kids, now I am feeling bad that they will go to jail and those kids will miss them, and as far as that girl is concerned she already suffered enough because of this crime, lived her adolescent life in guilt, shame and trauma, she waited for this justice too long but she is now a grown up woman who learned to live her life with this scar...but if you say so I am happy as I won this case and finally justice is delivered"

This poem struck my mind hard when I read it as a teenager, it affected me so much that it still comes back to me whenever I see such incidents, that’s why I believe that "justice delayed is justice denied"

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]



  1. Oh great! What an article!

    In Jayalitha's case justice has been delayed. And this delay is not serve its purpose. Given at the wrong time, may be. But sure this 18 years time is too much. In this time it may be that Jaylilitha has undergone a change herself. She may have repented long time back. And may be she is a changed person now. Courth should look into all this mater together.

    I also feel that apart from lawyers we need also well trained psycologists. Courts sometimes look at matters only from pure objective way as if 1+1=2. We need combined work of psycologists and judges to look into matters. I look at it this way. It is only suggestion.

    When an offence is committed there are two things happening: 1. Offence itself and 2. Mentality of the offender.
    Plus I would add 3. Past of offender.

    Court should look at the ofence. Psycologists should study the mentality and also try to collect information about offender's past just before crime is committed. This will help us understand the motive behind crime.

    Balance should be achieved between these 3 factors. Plus I would suggest we shoudl set deadlines for certain crimes at least. Like in the poem on rape if justice comes at 65 when the crime was committed at 16, the judge should have committed suicide before he gives such judgment. Crimes like rape should be solved at esrliest so that victim feels worth of justice.

    Only one thing I differ in your article. It is:

    [[The hysterical reaction of her supporters after her arrest is also a real shocker for me, some of them even took the extreme step of taking their own life as they can not tolerate the news of their beloved leader's arrest.]]

    These people are so attached to Jayallitha because she was actress earlier. People there are crazy for actors. Even they build temple for actress Khushbu temple. So we can understand mentality of people there.

    The poem was nice. Can you find out the poet or where I can find it??

    - K. Sreenivasa

    1. Thanks a lot K. Sreenivasa for sharing your thoughts on this topic. You have raised some very important points here. I think they do the psycho analysis if the offender is juvenile (below the age of 18) on regular basis but it is not a routine procedure if the offender is an adult person. The judicial process is so slow without any such analysis so imagine if we add these things how slow it will become. We really need to speed up judicial process in India. Many important cases drag for years without any conclusion. People misuse loopholes in legal system to their advantage, many poor suffer because they don't have resources with them to fight their legal battles but many rich and powerful use all their resources to escape the law. I hope concerned authorities will look into this matter seriously and sincerely and take some concrete steps to improve the delivery mechanism of the system.

      Thanks a lot for clarifying the possible reason behind hysterical reaction of some of Jayalalithaa's supporters. I was little surprised that some of them were willing to take their own lives to protest against her arrest.

      I tried really hard to search for that poem on internet but I couldn't find it anywhere. Neither I remember exact wording of it nor I remember the name of poet but the central theme was delay in justice doesn't serve its purpose. Many be in some cases it gets delayed for some valid reasons but definitely there is a problem when every case takes decades to come to final conclusion. May be that is the reason that in spite of having so many laws we don't see any reduction in crime.

      Thanks again for sharing your views on this topic, your input is very valuable in this discussion. Keep on sharing your thoughts like this. With discussion and debates only we can improve things around us.