Of justice to Temple of Justice

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 21 Sep 2017 11:21:30



Vijay Phanshikar,

When Justice V.S. Tuljapurkar stood to give his address at the inauguration of the brand new building of Nyay Mandir in 1978, his face shone in morning’s radiance. In what could be termed as one of the finest speeches, Justice Tuljapurkar talked of various dimensions of justice, the
system of justice, the changing social environs, the new canons of justice and how law had evolved over time to meet changing needs. And then, he said, in effect, that the new 7-storey building also had become a symbol of changing needs of judicial system that must cater to the thousands of cases that pile up every day.

As a Reporter who attended the inaugural, I remember to have felt very impressed by the overall dignity of the
ceremony for the inauguration of the building whose
foundation stone was put in place by the legendary Justice S.P. Kotwal. As Justice Tuljapurkar delivered his speech and as the legal community nodded in admiration, the tall swanky building waited to throw its doors open for the courts to start functioning. On that day, a fresh smell of the new construction filled the nostrils. An assurance arose in the mind that Goddess of Justice would ensure justice to all.
To what extent the building served the purpose of justice or to what extent it accommodated the growing burden of legal cases in the succeeding years, can be a matter of discussion.

True, thousands of people got justice there. Thousands of
others felt disappointed, and sought recourse to higher courts. Countless thousands of still other people cursed the system as their cases dragged on and on for decades.

But sooner than anybody could realise, the Nyay Mandir started showing signs of its decadent management. Its corridors started looking filthy, its flights of stairs looking tired, its lifts operating at will, and its wash-rooms giving out the world’s most obnoxious of smells all the time. What was happening to the system of justice inside the courtrooms was one story, but what was happening to the ‘temple’ of justice was something nobody could accept. Yet, the dirty picture continued to haunt everyone, with no one to clean up the physical building.

Now that a new L-shaped building is coming up in the premises to accommodate ever-growing needs of judicial system, the thought darts back in time when the present Nyay Mandir was considered the best example of how the modern courts should be. One wonders if the proposed new building would meet a similar fate. One wonders if the new building, too, would fall on bad days.

No doubt, when thousands of harassed litigants throng the place every day, there is going to be an ominous air hanging low in the premises. Consider the scene: Thousands of people constantly moving around every where, bored policemen with criminals or accused in tow, hanging around the courtrooms on all floors, lawyers dressed smartly or not-so-smartly making their way through the crowds ...! There is very little to cheer. There is very little to be happy about. There is every reason for everybody to feel dejected.

Add to all this the utterly hopeless management of the whole place, and the dirty picture gets dirtier. For, the stink from the washroom fills the air that is already heavy with boredom and dejection. A near-total absence of a systematic effort to keep the building clean makes the place look like hell.

Yet, as a journalist, I have reported some of the most ticklish, most complicated, most absurd, most educating legal cases in Nyay Mandir. Each was a learning
experience for a young man like me. In Nyay Mandir, I have spent hours on end listening to arguments in the courtrooms, talking to lawyers on law points, understanding from them the intricacies of cases at hand. Despite the generally ominous atmosphere in Nyay Mandir, I went there every morning and stayed on till evening because the place offered me an exciting opportunity to learn about so many issues and aspects of India’s system of justice. I saw people jumping from the top floor to death. I saw policemen giving a chase to a criminal who had tried to break the chain tied to a cop’s belt and run away.

For me, Nyay Mandir was one place that offered exciting experiences for a young Reporter!
Of course, the filth hurt, the mismanagement made me rile in anger. On many occasions, I entered the District Judge’s chamber to lodge complaint -- about filth, about lack of cleanliness, about lack of overall discipline that was expected in a court-complex. Each of those men heard me with the patience that looked so good on them. Yet, nothing much changed despite my complaints, despite people’s protests from time to time, despite lawyers’ urgings.

No matter all that, Nagpur’s Nyay Mandir became a landmark of the State’s legal ecosystem. It represented
people’s hope of justice and of fair-play. The litigants did not mind the mismanagement, the unholy-looking premises. All they came there for was justice.

A new building is in the making now. One only hopes that the new place will remain new, and not follow in the footprints of its older cousin. Experience teaches us never to harbour such dreams. For, in today’s Indian conditions -- despite Swacchha Bharat slogan -- mismanagement and filth are in constant accompaniment of all of us. One does not know why we don’t do justice to great buildings we create for ourselves!