watchman then came to me. My wife and I did what we could
to provide help and medical attention. He couldn't work for
about three weeks. He had to get dressing, full anti-rabies
course, and antibiotics and wait for the wounds to heal. There
was considerable pain, fever and suffering. The family, already
poor, underwent severe privation, monetary loss, emotional
trauma and uncertainty.
of the great challenges of modern urban life is protection
of rights of citizens and ensuring quick, accessible and affordable
justice and reparation. In Hyderabad - and in all cities in
the country - there is no mechanism that can legally take
care of simple offences, boundary or property disputes and
such other small cases in a speedy and fair manner without
getting involved in a long drawn-out process. In any civilized
society the above incident would be a fit case for a civil
suit under torts, and a fair compensation would be assessed
at Rs.10,000 or more. The owner, whose carelessness resulted
in this casualty, has the vicarious responsibility, and should
thanks to our perverse sense of justice, such redressal is
virtually impossible. If indeed somebody takes the trouble
to file a civil suit, it will take years, if not decades.
Not everybody has the patience or can afford that luxury,
more so a poor family eking out a precarious living with neither
the resources nor the stamina to wage a long legal battle
for an uncertain outcome.
is particularly galling is, this can be easily addressed.
There was a time when every city had honorary magistrates
trying simple civil and criminal cases by summary procedures,
and providing quick and efficient relief. In fact the 114th
report of the Law Commission recommended such courts. We can
easily establish such local courts for every 30-40000 population,
and provide for summary trials in the local language. The
magistrate visits the locality if necessary to gather evidence.
He is obliged to settle the case within 90 days.
cities where impersonal lives are the norm, and social support
systems are the exception, such mechanisms for quick justice
are critical. A society that denies justice is neither democratic,
nor civilized. If those without connections or means are left
to their own devices, then it is an invitation to violence
and anarchy. Lumpen elements and hoodlums will thrive on providing
rough and ready justice. There is already a growing demand
for criminals in our society. Hyderabad is a good example
of criminalization of society for want of enforcement of basic
rights. As someone rightly said a society that does not protect
the poor cannot save the rich.
costs so little to establish honorary magistrate's courts.
A law can be enacted within the state. Several reputed citizens
are available to serve as magistrates. Several mature societies
have similar systems in place. Can't we build pressure to
establish such mechanisms for speedy and accessible justice?