"I realise that some of my criticisms may be mistaken; but to refuse to criticize judgements for fear of being mistaken is to abandon criticism altogether... If any of my criticisms are found to be correct, the cause is served; and if any are found to be incorrect the very process of finding out my mistakes must lead to the discovery of the right reasons, or better reasons than I have been able to give, and the cause is served just as well."

-Mr. HM Seervai, Preface to the 1st ed., Constitutional Law of India.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Ayodhya Verdict

The decision is out. Court has said Ram was born in the place beneath the main dome of the erstwhile Mosque. Channels have qualified judgments as ‘astonishingly once sided’, ‘panhchayati’ and ‘paving way to reconciliation and settlement’. One commentator even said that the judgment has gone all in favour of the Hindu’s at the same time showing magnanimity to the Muslims. Some call it a political decision making than legal. For some, it is a welcome decision whereas for others it is partially disappointing and both sides have registered their intention to go on appeal all the same.

I had occasion to gloss over the summaries of the judgments and thought the reasoning given by S U Khan (in the summary) for the division as joint possession for a long time as appealing. Could not stop musing, had there been more than three claimants! But I am sure the promised gargantuan judgments will have findings relating to title, ownership and possession of the property that the judges decided for apportionment. There is law to back the decision and not mere sense of reconciliation.

While listening to the responses of lawyers and opinion makers I could find at least two camps. One that find fault with the judgment because of the perceived lack of legalese, going on the reconciliatory way and arriving at a formula verdict which was asked neither by the plaintiffs nor by the respondents. Others exalt the judgment for its practicality and problem solving potential. My initial reaction was that of equating the judges with the Karta of the family who lets the warring heirs go on their own ways partitioning the property for peace.

What intrigued me in all these is the role of the judiciary. Is it just to apply the law without any concerns about the repercussions it could create, or find an amicable settlement, may be even tweaking the law? True, we call the courts court of law but it is also a court of justice. Does the demand of justice adorn the courts the problem solving mandate through the methods of law and if no way found there through notions of good conscious and equity? Or will it be good to leave this part to the other branches governance and politics and courts confine only to law and legality, doubting judges’ suitability and capability to deal with issues other than law? Would we want a dynamic court or letter of law court? Pros and cons are on both sides but I, in the background of this judgment, would support a court with problem solving capabilities than a mere black letter court.

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