“This, is a court of law young man, not a court of justice.”
These words articulated beguilingly by a former US Chief justice are just the tip of this iceberg of questions that comes along with the unwavering word of law.
Today, this 14-year-old tries his best to explore the oceans, unknown. What lies beneath these questions which have seemingly obvious answers: What is the relation between law and justice? Does every sinned soul find justice? Does every wound heal? And does the court of law always uphold this justice…?
Merriam-Webster defines justice as ‘the quality of being just, impartial, or fair.’ But can justice always be acquired through law, and if not which is greater: the premonition of justice or the ruling of law.
This question is as vast as the universe and yet sharper than the tip of a needle; often upon the happening of an unresolved atrocity, the transgressed human turns to the orchestration of law to try and find retribution among one of the many pages of this system.
But as I browsed through the deepest corners of the internet, and opened my eyes to the big, bad world out there: I realised. I realised that justice is not always served on a platter and sometimes not at all. And this thought, scary as it is, was nothing compared to the thought that justice should be placed on a higher pedestal than the law.
According to a report by the Economic Times, India has one of the world’s highest number of undertrial prisoners, that means around 4.2 lakh or two thirds of the prisoners, languish in jail: No, not because they have been proven guilty, but because they either cannot afford bail or because they have been accused of a crime that does not ‘warrant bail’. And according to the Economic Times, the prejudice here too is clearly visible with 70% of those undertrial being illiterate and 53% of those at the bottom of the ‘social strata’ including Muslims and Dalits.
They say each of us is a story, so today I want to tell you the tale of one particularly remarkable patriot who did not get his due.
Such is the story of Nambi Narayan, hardworking and dedicated, at the forefront of the 1994 ISRO project of building a cryogenic rocket engine in Thiruvananthapuram.
In the year of 1994, he was accused of being a traitor and imprisoned for a period of 50 days during which he was allegedly tortured.
However, in 1998 a CBI investigation confirmed his innocence; however it was too late as his life was already in shambles and his career had lost track. The National Human Rights Council ordered the Kerala government to pay him back, but that did not happen.
I am not on a mission to show the inefficiency of the judicial system, as I, myself am proud of some of the landmark judgments they have made in the past years including the abrogation of Article 377; what I am trying to say is that the only constant in life is change and as the times have changed we must too. Our outdated judicial system is not only a problem in itself but a root cause to a series of other problems; so, should we not spend some time pondering how we can assist it with catching up to our times.
A major side-effect to the inefficiency of the law is that it often leads to people taking the law into ‘their own hands.’
This situation sounds revolutionary when put poetically: the nuanced mettle that shrouds the concept of taming a Goliath in an ugly battle against a much meeker David not caring about the law or personal harm sounds heroic, but me: I have my reservations.
I agree that the law is not always fair, and that justice does not always triumph, but Oh fellow citizens of mine, of this magical country on this beautiful planet I ask you: When the sole of your shoe comes apart, do you try to fix it, or do you abandon it and conquest this earth on foot. You fix it, don’t you, find a way to repair: seek a solution or if it feels like it can’t be healed, get a new one and start anew.
Then why, oh why, my beloved friends: do you abandon the law!? When your soul feels like it has come apart; is it not worth some time, some repair, and maybe this struggle is longer, but is it not worth it for the memory of visionaries like Dr. Ambedkar!? Why do you take to the streets and destroy public property!? Why do you pelt stones, burn buses, attack policemen who are just doing their duty!?
Yes, I know! Yes, I understand when you tell me nothing feels alright anymore. I understand your anger at the world.
Yes, I understand! Your frustration at the law for its inability to protect you from the rampant rise in discrimination on all levels, the wrongs done everywhere and everything seeming difficult to deal with but…. isn’t the dream, the idealistic world we hope for, worth the long fight.
Or in the words of the great Martin Luther King Jr.,
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
What I am asking from all of you who believe the law has failed you is not to partake in ignorance, because that in my belief is worse than violence, but instead to keep down your swords and lift your pens, keep down the stones and lift your kind voices. Abandon violence, and unlawful means, because maybe it does not always seem like it but the law is there to protect the right.
We often feel a world without bureaucracy or stringent measures of law is not effective enough, we wish for a world where justice is administered before law. We hope for a world in which what it says in the book is not important, but those who do wrong are punished with the highest possible reprimand. But in this humble opinion of a 14 year old boy change is indeed possible. But not with unlawfulness.
Only with controlled and peaceful rebellion can we give birth to revolution, and only revolution can bring the change we desire: so why lift knives when we can lift minds, empower souls and change the world for better.
Every new day we begin our journey on this path of truth, from law to justice (we try to find our way), and as humanity exists it also learns and while it may not seem like much coming from this 14 year old, I genuinely believe that this journey is only possible with love and not hatred, and peace not violence. On some days, it will all seem impossible, all those dreams of a better hope, on other days it will feel as if the judicial system has let us all down and on different days it may seem the only solution is war… But hold on, hold on and watch the next Malala conquer the voodoo surrounding minorities, watch Greta Thunberg pioneer a war against climate change, watch Colin Kaepernick give everything up for what he believes in and watch our miraculous nation hold hands with this world as we all rise to this challenge. With no boundaries of age, colour of skin, religion, gender: hold on for when dark turns into light and hate turns into love.
Hold on, hold on for today, hold on for tomorrow and hold on for that day you dream of, with hope in your heart and a spark in your soul.
Hold on for this young 14-year old dream of mine……hold on!
-Siddhant Prabhu (One of the Prize Winners of Article Writing Competition 2020 in the 13-24 Years Age Group)
Picture Credits: wp.lancs.ac.uk