Mukul Rohatgi at Sahitya AajTak 2022: Justice is not prompt or swift in our country

New Delhi : Former Attorney General for India Mukul Rohatgi and senior advocate Saurabh Kirpal spoke about the various aspects of the Indian judiciary at Sahitya AajTak 2022 in a session titled, ‘Book Launch: Fifteen Judgements: Cases that have Shaped the Financial Landscape of India.’

Former Attorney General for India Mukul Rohatgi and senior advocate Saurabh Kirpal spoke about flaws in the Indian judiciary, the conservatism of the government of India and the lack of fear of the law in the country during a session at Sahitya AajTak 2022 on November 19.

The session, ‘Book Launch: Fifteen Judgements: Cases that have Shaped the Financial Landscape of India’, witnessed Mukul Rohatgi talking about the citizens of the country facing “no fear of law” in light of cases like Sidhu Moose Wala’s death and the sand mining mafia.

“I won’t say there is absolutely no fear of the law. Then there would be complete lawlessness. But yes, there are several elements, essentially, one reason is that justice is not prompt or swift in our country. If a criminal believes he might get bail and that the trial will take 10-15 years, then in that sense, the fear of conviction becomes hazy and distant,” said Rohatgi.

He also spoke about revamping the infrastructure of the Indian judiciary system by putting a timeline on cases. “Justice must be delivered promptly,” he said, agreeing that cases should have an expiry date. “In the USA, there is a statute of limitations where a judgement must be delivered at a given particular time, failing which the arrested person will go scot-free.

We don’t have that. It should be there. But that is an ideal situation. Not just the law, should we not talk about other things in the environment too? The answer is yes, it should be, but how can it be, involves a lot of things.

It involves the government appointing new judges, and changing the legal system in making judgements fast.We have been grappling with this for the last 50 years,” Rohatgi said. During the session, Saurabh spoke about his promotion as a high court judge being stalled since 2017 by the government of India after he disclosed his sexuality.

“I believe there is no other way of saying this. There are 12 judge recommendations but only 11 are appointed and I am not. If you scratch the surface and the alleged reasons, you see it’s my sexuality and there’s no other possible reason.

I have some informed sources from my collegium that this is the reason,” he said, talking about his judgeship being stopped for five years. He further shared that even if Section 377 was decriminalised by the Supreme Court, the mindset of people is still 20 years behind.

“All that the hearing of Section 377 did was to make sure that a person who has consensual private sex does not go to jail. The entire gamut of disabilities and prejudices – they still exist. They do not disappear with the passing of one word or judgement.

The vast majority of the country carries on the way they used to think earlier and the government also, which at the end of the day was not rejoicing and embracing the raining down of Section 377. They did not file an affidavit saying decriminalise.

They said that you do what you want to do. So it was a reticence they showed even at that stage of the hearing and the reticence they show now,” Saurabh said.He added that we all have a “certain mindset or a worldview which is some 20 years behind the rest of the world and 20 years behind the youth of the country.”

Talking about Saurabh’s stalled judgeship, Mukul Rohatgi said, “There’s no way Saurabh can write a letter and get a reply from the collegium. A judgement (Section 377 decriminalised) had come but it’s not that a vast majority of India is jumping with joy.

A lot of people are indifferent to it. You can have a judgement made but mindsets don’t change. As far as the reason is concerned, I have no doubt that the only reason is Saurabh’s sexuality.” Besides this, the senior advocate further shared that he wouldn’t withdraw his offer of elevation to become a judge because he is from a community that hasn’t been represented in the Indian judiciary.

“The very reason I accepted the offer of elevation was not because of my ambition, it was always a calling, it was always about public service. For me, there was an added reason that I was from a community that hasn’t been represented. I represent the queer community. I will not withdraw my consent,” Saurabh said.

About Sahitya Aajtak

A confluence of various literature forms – poetry, prose, music and drama – the festival is a part of Aaj Tak’s endeavour to highlight the importance of art and literature in today’s era. The fest brings together a diverse mix of marquee writers, scholars, authors, musicians, actors, columnists, business leaders, poets and theatre artists, who have made their mark across audiences with their work over the years.

They will unite again on a single platform to express their views openly and engage in meaningful dialogues about the nature of art, culture and literature in the world, and the indelible imprint they leave on the minds and hearts of people.


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