“Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.” — Christopher Hitchens
I was talking with the judges in service at the Karnataka Legal Academy. There were more than 200 of them. One of their own High Court colleagues had spoken to them just before my talk and they were all very keen to listen to some outsider who did not study jurisprudence! When I said that I am going to talk with them (not to them) about my concept of Humanism, some of them showed signs of unrest. From my understanding of the word, almost from the time of Comte, the French philosopher, it was meant to signify that anything that man does on this planet, ultimately, helps mankind. Comte did not invent the word as a neologism; he popularised it. Our understanding was that the talk would be interactive. The first question I asked them was if, in their opinion, the present adversarial system of justice, which we have blindly inherited from the British, serves the truth?
We then went on to dissect the word truth into The Truth and A Truth at a given time. As Khalil Gibran had so beautifully described, ‘The Truth’ is something that is final and unchangeable; while ‘A Truth’ is what we all think is the truth, to the best of our ability, which, of course, changes from time to time. In the adversarial system, the judge is ONLY an umpire and has no freedom for her/his free will to act on his information even to the contrary.
What then happens is that the so-called great lawyers charge exorbitant fees to distort the truth even when they know the truth from the culprit whom they represent willingly, under the protection of the infamous saying that any person is innocent until he is proven guilty.
Now, see the catch in that statement! For argument’s sake, let us say that the judge knows, for sure, that the culprit is guilty of the offence. The judge will not be able to take a definite stand. He only has to weigh the EVIDENCE provided by both the sides. The judiciary, the cunning lawyers, the investigating officers and, in fact, the whole system banks on that clause, to the detriment of truth.
That is exactly the reason why the rich and the powerful have one kind of justice and the hapless poor another kind. Even the man-on-the-street knows the crime that is perpetrated on the innocent people who today do not have a voice in our country, while the powerful perpetrators go scot-free.
This reminds me of evidence-based medicine. No one ever questions the basis, and the quality, of the evidence. The statistical evidence that we use in medicine is not ‘The Truth’. Statistics, thus, used in evidence-based medicine are also dangerous. A senior professor of epidemiology in Washington calls this ‘science without sense’ in his book by that title. He shows how statistical evidence could be collected to favour the industry, using the so-called randomised controlled studies, where they just show that one treatment would be better than either a placebo or better than another drug of their rivals.
The total immunity that the judges enjoy is also against the normal cannons of justice and is not in tune with the truth. Therefore, we must have tighter control in selection of judges. Let the collegium continue; but once the government gets the list from the collegiums, the list must be widely publicised so that the common man has a voice in their selection. If anyone has valid unimpeachable evidence against any one of them, that must be brought to the notice and thoroughly investigated before the final selection, so that the black sheep do not make a backdoor entry. A periodic review of the working of judges will also keep them alert all the time. The job they are entrusted with is a very serious one and they have to be completely authentic and trustworthy to command people’s respect—exactly what the doctors ought to be doing.