Delayed Justice – Sad Reflection on the System

‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ is such an oft-repeated maxim as it has lost its impact on the common litigants in India. There is no gainsaying that the rule of law cannot exist without effective judicial system, which is capable of enforcing rights in a timely manner that inspires the public confidence in the administration of justice. For the law to govern, the system through which it is administered must measure up adequately when mapped against the three dimensions of justice- substantive justice on merits, timeliness in the disposal of cases, and proportionate use of the State’s resources. Access to justice must ensure that legal redress does not become the preserve of a few. Unfortunately, apathy and ineffective governance have created barriers to accessing justice, which has resulted in granting limited access to the full range of socio-economic and civil -political rights available.

Every politician of any stature, minister or a judge will invariably lay emphasis on the speedy justice delivery but that remains elusive. While the High Court and the Supreme Court judges are still addressed as ‘My Lords’ but they look at litigants with their noses high and behave in a manner as if it is they who are the sole repository of understanding and wisdom. However, the way a judge of Madras High Court K. Chandrababu has won the heart and the laurels of the public with his humility and uprightness. Delivering a judgement, he has apologised to an 89-year-old man for the 37-year long delay in delivering the justice, although he was no way personally for the same.

The brief facts of the case are that the petitioner V. Gandhi joined the Indian National Army (INA) of the great leader Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. He was a part of the Indian Independence League in Rangoon (Burma). In the struggle for freedom of this Country, he underwent imprisonment in Rangoon Central Jail from May 1945 to December 1945. The petitioner, with this background, thus made a request on 6th July 1980, for grant of freedom fighters’ pension by the State of Tamilnadu. He waited for 12 years but when there was no response, he sent a reminder on 18th November 1992 but neither the original application nor the reminder was considered by the government favourably. It is not that the petitioner has not made the said claim without having any justification or proof. One K.Kalimuthu, a co-prisoner, has issued a Certificate to him certifying that the petitioner is a bonafide freedom fighter and that he was also imprisoned on account of his participation in the freedom struggle. He was lodged in the same jail along with the said K Kalimuthu from May 1945 to December 1945 at Rangoon Central Jail, Burma. It is also seen that K.Kalimuthu is a recipient of freedom fighters’ pension from the Government of India. Apart from the said Co- Prisoner Certificate, V Gandhi has also obtained another personal knowledge Certificate from Col. Lakshmi Sahgal on 15th April 1994.

It may be mentioned here that Col. Lakshmi Sahgal was a Commander in the Indian National Army. She was the mother of the well-known politician Mrs Subhasini Ali. She was born on 24.10.1914 in Madras (now Chennai) to Shri. S. Swaminathan, a Lawyer and Smt. A.V.Ammukutty, a Social Worker and Freedom Fighter. She became a Doctor by profession. However, at the age of 26, she left for Singapore in 1940 and three years later, she met the revolutionary leader Subhash Chandra Bose, who changed the course of her life. A Women’s Regiment called the Rani of Jhansi’s Regiment was set up and she became Captain Lakshmi, which name stood as her identity throughout her lifetime. Captain Lakshmi was arrested by the British Army in May 1945. She remained under house arrest in the jungles of Burma until March 1946. She married Col. Premkumar Sahgal, a leading figure in INA in 1947. After independence, she led her life all throughout by serving the public. She was the presidential candidate for the left party in 2002. She died on 23rd July 2012 at the age of 97. Such is the short story of the great personality viz., Captain Lakshmi Saghal. She had chosen to give the above-said Certificate to the petitioner, specifically indicating her personal knowledge about the petitioner’s role in INA and his fight for freedom of this country.

Further, it is seen that one K.Gurumurthy, the President of All India Freedom Fighters’ Successors’ Organization, has also sent a communication to the respondents on 4th August 2015, indicating that the claim of the petitioner is genuine, especially, when Dr.(Col.) Lakshmi Sahgal had issued the Personal Knowledge Certificate, which will vouch for the credential of the petitioner’s participation in the Freedom Fighters Movement and sufferings. He specifically stated that it is a rare fortune that personality like Dr.(Col.) Lakshmi Sahgal issued a certificate for him. He also further stated in the said communication that the petitioner is in poverty and he has to be rescued from such pathetic condition by providing freedom fighters’ pension.

On receipt of the above communication from the said K.Gurumurthy, he forwarded the same to the governments to take necessary steps to accede to his requests. As nothing had happened, again a reminder was sent by the Mr Gurumurthy on 20th January 2016. Except sending the reply in a mechanical manner, the State government did not take any effective step to consider the request of Mr V. Gandhi for freedom fighters’ pension, even though it was brought to its knowledge that there is an urgent need of extending such monetary support to him. The pension is not a charity, but conferment of an honour on such a selfless freedom fighter. Unfortunately, the government failed to note that but for such selfless contribution and participation in the freedom struggle by the persons like Mr Gandhi we would not have been in the present position to deal with this matter like this. It is a sorry state of affair and saddening factor to note that a person, who fought for freedom of this country is again driven to fight now, even after freedom, to get some financial assistance for his sustenance by way of such pension.

The judge said that ‘in my considered view, persons like Mr Gandhi, who fought for freedom, should have been conferred with such due honour and dignity by extending the invitation to them and not by waiting for them to make their application. I am totally unable to either comprehend myself or conceive the above reasoning of the government for rejecting his claim for the pension, that too, especially when the same is not going to the root of the matter. When the factual aspect of the matter viz., the factum of participation of the petitioner in the freedom struggle, is vouched by a co-prisoner, and by the great personality Col. Lakshmi Sahgal, who issued the Personal Knowledge Certificate, there cannot be even a little doubt for the government about the bonafide of Mr. Gandhi. Despite the availability of those two overwhelming pieces of evidence, it is very unfortunate, that the government has chosen to mechanically reject the claim of the petitioner with irrelevant and immaterial reason which only shows that the government officials somehow wanted to wash off their hands and relieve themselves of their liability.’

The judge further said that ‘I wonder as to how such immaterial reasoning with regard to the age of the petitioner, Mr Gandhi, even assuming to be true, is not going to alter his claim with regard to the payment of freedom fighters’ pension. It is very saddening to note that the government has chosen to rely on the irrelevant materials to deny the claim of the petitioner rather than accepting the genuine certificates proving the petitioner’s participation in the freedom struggle, especially when these respondents did not dispute the genuineness of such certificates. I fail to understand as to how the age of the petitioner at the relevant point of time is going to matter much while considering his claim for freedom fighters’ pension now, when his actual participation in the freedom struggle, through INA, is proved and established through the undisputed Certificates issued by those two competent and eminent persons. What is relevant to be seen is as to whether the petitioner actually participated in the particular freedom movement or not and certainly not his age, at which he had participated in such freedom-movement. Therefore, the respondents have indulged in fishing out a reason, only to reject the claim somehow.’

The judge said that ‘I can only say to the writ petitioner “Sorry sir, you are made to suffer at the hands of our people too, as, unfortunately, this is how the bureaucratic dogmatism with wooden approach works, at times, in this country, for which you fought to get freedom.’ The judiciary, certainly, needs such judges, who are humane and sensitive to the problems and difficulties of the people.

Delayed Justice – Sad Reflection on the System