Couldn’t we just get Artificial Intelligence to do the work of our judiciary and quickly get rid of the backlogs? Really, AI could just take in evidence as input and output “justice”; pure, logical and cold justice. This was a suggestion I had given to a teacher when they* had asked me for an idea to improve the world with technology. They were quite impressed with it too and said that the idea was fantastic.
But to be honest, that idea is terrible.
It would only appeal to a person who is secure in their bubble of privilege and unaware of how unfair this world really can be. Justice is truly a farce and that is why we need human judges with their human biases and human tendencies to overlook certain things and to read between the lines; to really understand the human beings that are part of the lawsuit and what they are going through, and not to look at the facts and circumstances of the case alone.
It is the judge’s discretion that is their most important tool. Not just judges, but anyone who is a figure of authority has discretion at their disposal; a teacher can pass a student who would otherwise have failed, a bank officer can grant a loan to someone who has really bad credit history, a police officer can let an offender go with a warning, a president can even pardon a capital offence! These discretionary powers are really awesome and they exist because this is not a perfect world and there are so many opportunities for us to tweak it a little and make it better. Also, there are things that metrics and numbers can’t tell us, and we might just have to go with our gut on them. For these things also, there is discretion.
This is an age when governments twist language to pass legislation that chokes all individual freedoms and destroys our fundamental rights; when the establishment and the goons work hand-in-glove to make this world a fascist nightmare and when facts no longer matter. It’s a time when it is most important that the last standing bulwark against these treacherous forces – the constitution, be protected. So it’s really important that we have faith in the protectors – the judiciary, to use their discretionary powers wisely.
But this judiciary allowed banning of the sale of meat for up to 8 days during a religious festival, effectively denying to butchers, the right to practice their trade. This same judiciary constantly upholds legislation against consumption of certain foods that are clearly based on the preferences of a particular Caste, and not to safeguard the interests of farmers and those practicing animal husbandry, as it purportedly says in the Directive Principle of State Policy. It also allowed disastrous mismanagement by the government when it came to de-monetization and fails to check the violations of its own orders regarding the compulsory use of Aadhaar and linking it to government services and schemes. This is a judiciary that believes patriotism can be forced down the throats of citizens by forcing them to listen to the national anthem while standing in attention.
But above all, this is a judiciary that treats one of its own without humanity; when a High Court judge, who has been facing harassment for 8 years straight and who has been pushed to the limit of his mental capacity, so much so that he breaks down and begs to be heard, says that he is not mentally and emotionally in the right place to answer questions, he is asked to produce a medical certificate to prove the same. Where is the discretion in favor of their humanity? How should one have faith in such a judiciary?
I interact a lot with engineering and MBA graduates and I have come to expect this from them. They often get out of touch with the humanities and the arts and become pig-headed about proof when a victim of sexual harassment speaks out, or when a person from a marginalized community alleges that they have been discriminated against. I’m not saying that arts students are better than science students (I’m an engineering graduate myself), but it’s hard to dismiss the idea that the Indian graduate curriculum for Science and MBA doesn’t allow them to develop any empathy. They only get the time to read junk and watch junk and it’s not even their fault, but most of these graduates really have no capacity to put themselves in someone else’s shoes or to think with nuance. All that our engineering and MBA ‘universities’ are doing is churning out work junkies without any personality, so that they can be exploited by corporations.
But at any rate, this is not what I expect of the highest judicial bench in the country. I want to respect and admire them, and to try and emulate them; I want to have hope in the judiciary. But how am I to respect a bench that gives curt and dismissive replies to a person who is trying to reach out to them? Where from can I muster admiration for someone who is unaware that not everything can be evaluated or diagnosed by a doctor (especially when it is about emotional and mental well-being) and sometimes one might have to go with their gut feeling and trust what the person is saying? How am I supposed to nurture hope for an institution that I cannot trust to understand the kind of mental agony that public humiliation, harassment and constantly being unheard can cause to a person?
The judiciary has always been my refuge. When it struck down section 66-A and decriminalized homosexuality, it filled me with joy and renewed my hope for this country and its people. Even in this time of despair, I want to hope that the judges of the Supreme Court of India will restore our faith by doing the right thing, because if not the judiciary and the Constitution, what do we have left?
Resigned to fate,