Last couple of years have seen the highest echelons of Justice in the State in an extra-ordinary activism in regard to a number of social as well as developmental and environmental issues. This is not only a welcome but a very positive development for which the senior members of Judiciary deserve credit and acclaim. Even though due to non-cooperation of the Executive which, additionally is thoroughly corrupt, not all the orders of the highest courts get implemented, yet the mere fact that the senior Judges take suo motto cognizance of various ills plaguing the society is a very satisfying and encouraging thought. One can safely comment that the Justice is not only being done but appears to have been done! The Judiciary is very actively participating in the running of a number of governmental organisations and their activities are being monitored on a regular basis. However, there had earlier been perennial complaints about the very slow judicial process. It would take ages to get justice for an ordinary mortal. The cases in lower courts would take generations to decide. The only disposal of cases in a reasonable period of time was of writ petitions filed in the State High Court. The current year is the Golden Jubilee Year of the State High Court and there can be no better celebration than to ensure speedy justice at all levels to all members of the society without any consideration of caste, creed, colour, social status, or religion. The whole judicial process especially in the lower courts may need a complete overhaul. The dispensation of justice to ordinary citizens involving cases of minor nature needs to be simplified and speeded up. Normally, whenever a person is forced to enter into litigation for redressal of grievances, he is not sure whether he will have the verdict in his own lifetime? It is generally felt that some of the cases drag on for years on end. Surely there must be some system of speeding up these cases? If a mechanism could be devised to dispense justice in a fair, transparent, speedy, and equitable manner, it would be the greatest tribute for the Golden Year. Nevertheless, the current year’s greatest celebration by all counts is the active role being played by the Judiciary in improving the lot of the people by safeguarding environment and rooting out social ills. The most important among these actions welcomed by the entire society is the one pertaining to Dal Lake. For decades people have been talking of saving the Dal Lake. A number of projects have been undertaken at huge cost but the Lake has continued to shrink. The conservation projects had been moving at a snail’s pace. It was only through the intervention of the State High Court that conservation measures got a shot in the arm. For the first time one has been able to see the stark reality of the extent of pollution as well as the slow eating away of the Lake (encroachments) by local population. The cutting down of trees ordered by the High Court may have deprived the Lake of a green cover but it has in a dramatic way exposed the human greed which is primarily responsible for the degradation of this world famous water body. The sight of the permanent brick houses with iron roofs in the middle of the Lake hits one straight in the face. One really feels pangs of emotion on seeing this wanton destruction of this once beautiful landmark of the city of Srinagar. It looks like a person standing starkly naked in the middle of a road! This step alone is going to create tremendous public awareness about the environmental degradation as well as the necessity of saving the Lake. Anybody driving or walking along the boulevard has this reality staring him in the face. After the exposure of the sin committed against the Lake, the next natural step is to restore it to its previous glorious state. It would be only due to the continued intervention of the State’s Highest Court which is seized of the matter that this may be achieved soon.
The second important step has been the streamlining of the traffic in the city of Srinagar. The shifting of bus stands which had been the main cause of traffic jams in the heart of the city is a commendable job which could not be achieved by various governments for decades due to one or the other “Consideration”. The system of transport and traffic is so thoroughly corrupt that even the most active Judiciary may not be able to help us. The whole process of licensing in Transport Sector including the issue of driving licenses, vehicle route permits, and fitness certificates of the vehicles needs a drastic change. No body is aware of basic traffic norms and rules. Not even the persons responsible for regulating it! On one hand there is no check in putting hundreds of new vehicles on the roads almost every week, while on the other there has been no drastic change in the carrying capacity of these roads. Newer and newer shopping complexes are coming up in every nook and corner of the city but the authorities permitting these seem least concerned about parking spaces for the prospective shoppers. The result would be another traffic nightmare. Not only does the system need an overhaul but the persons manning it have to be made accountable for their lapses in order to prevent its subversion.
The latest intervention pertains to the infamous sex scandal which in fact is criminal exploitation of innocent and poor young girls by persons in positions of authority to satiate their lust. The High Court has not come under any pressure whatsoever and has ensured the exposure of culprits irrespective of their rank or position. Even the day to day working of the apex body of investigation in the country, CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) is being monitored on a continuous basis. They have even been reprimanded for their slow pace! It is hoped that the scandal will be thoroughly investigated into and all the culprits regardless of their stature would be meted out the punishment they deserve. In the past credit for reforming the society and ridding it of social evils was given to eminent citizens like Subhan Hajam but with the Judiciary taking the matter head on, they will not only be remembered in future but would also set an example for other sections of the society to follow suit in redressing public grievances.
The one grey area where the Executive has succeeded in subverting the Judiciary to a great extent pertains to Human Rights. This sensitive area leaves a lot to be desired on the part of the Judiciary. The State High Court has dozens of times quashed the illegal detention of innocent persons but they have been re-arrested sometimes even within the jail or the court premises on one or other pretext. The High Court has not succeeded in reigning in the Executive in regard to Human Rights Violations. The two draconian legislations namely Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Disturbed areas Act have virtually taken away the very “Right to Life” of a Kashmiri but so far no one has challenged these nor have these been struck down in spite of the fact that both the State as well as Central Governments claim from roof tops return of normalcy to Kashmir which should have automatically resulted in the with drawl of these legislations! If the situation is completely normal then why these legislations which are meant for unusual and extra-ordinarily disturbed conditions? The number of militants given out by official channels does not go beyond few thousand. Then why the entire population is held hostage? Is it a failure of the system or a deliberate attempt to usurp the very basic rights of the people under an easy excuse of “Terrorism”? This is a point which needs to be debated by the Judiciary of the State on priority. There can be no better tribute for the Golden Jubilee Year of the Judiciary than to set the Human Rights Record straight. Every thing else comes after a man is granted the first fundamental right, the “Right to Life”. People have a hope that someone will live up to it!