November 29, 2005

OK to sleep

A part-followup to this.


The day starts with what must be the finest aroma in this city. Morning in Dadar, and especially Plaza Cinema: the delicate freshness of green vegetables, the sweet pungency of coriander. I have to wait for a while for Arun whom I'm supposed to meet, but bathed in this fragrance, I don't mind.

He turns up, and takes me to the second floor of a nearby building to meet his lawyer. Between 9 and 915, the lawyer had said. We're on time; he doesn't arrive till 1020.

Time to catch up on five years. Arun is the younger brother I mentioned here. His lawyer is trying to see through an insurance claim for the man whom I found on the highway five years ago. The insurer has contested the claim, and the judge hearing the case has asked me, the only eyewitness to the accident, to appear. There have been several hearings so far, and Arun has turned up for each one, taking leave from his job each time.

The rest of the day after the lawyer, we're in court. The aroma this time, I do mind. Urine. All day.

And the courtroom is lined with hundreds, possibly thousands, of dusty case papers. On shelves, in cupboards, on tables, on the floor. A short stocky woman with thick glasses above a stern mouth spends all day moving case papers from one resting place to another, mostly across the room. On one of those trips, she hisses at me: "What's this? You can't read here!"

Nothing is happening in court -- nothing happens all morning, because we are waiting for a lawyer -- the judge himself is reading, there are two women on chairs in front of me actually sleeping. But no, I must not read. She catches me at it again, an hour later, and admonishes me silently but forcefully from across the room.

After lunch, half an hour before the judge returns, I try once more. Court's not even in session, surely reading should be OK? She's on me before I've completed a page. "I told you twice, don't read!"

I ask, remembering the two women, is it OK if I sleep? "That's fine. Just don't read!"

I'm left with nothing to distract me from the fragrance of urine. Quite a change from Plaza this morning.

My time in the witness box comes and goes. The lawyer, the opposing lawyer and the judge confer and decide on the next date. Three weeks hence. Arun has had no say in this. I have no idea whether my appearance today has helped; is he any closer to getting his money?

But before I leave, glorying in the fresh Bombay air, he says to me: I'm sorry you had to waste your time.

Seems I've heard that before.


More about this, soon.


wise donkey said...

and this is probably happenin everyday all over country. and no one seems to notice and care, since its not breaking news or an expose.
will Court TV help restore, some dignity?

or even then only "star" cases be followed.

and they say someting about justice delayed is justice denied..hmpf

Sunil said...

apart from the denail of justice (i optimistically and unrealistically hope there is judicial reform sooooooooon).....there's one answer that i just need to know.

Why can't you read there?

Dilip D'Souza said...

WiseD, this and worse is indeed happening every day across this country. Our justice system is a mess, and if a mere insurance case is like this, that should say something about the much more serious cases. (If we needed to know, that is).

Sunil, why can't I read there, you ask? You mean, apart from the age-old notion of the whims of a person who thinks that courtroom is their fiefdom? Apart from that, I have no idea.

wise donkey said...

Well this is one of the issues I really feel very strongly about,though for no personal reasons.

We are our laws, right? Something I feel very strongly about is the misrepresentation of our legal system in the movies.

If they potray a doctor performing a surgery with a saw wouldnt doctors protest, but somehow the justice system doesnt seem to care about how its potrayed in the movies. If the film industry wants to misrepresent for artistic reasons, how about a fine for that:) Perhaps India will awake when they realise the Court Cases dont get resolved in couple of days.

National Legal Literacy Mission was launched by the Prime Minister in March this year and he said "Our constitutional commitment to the rule of law becomes an empty dream when it is beyond the grasp of the common man," "All the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution would become illusory rights for those who do not understand them and are not aware of them""Democracy can effectively flourish only when people know their rights and privileges and also their duties and responsibilities," "Equality in law requires equal access to law for this noble principle to translate into reality," he said, promising his support for the mission which would be in force until 2010.

Ha !