The transfer of Chief Justice Dinakaran to the High Court of Sikkim has been finally completed. He has also managed to take oath amidst the protests and boycott of the Sikkim bar association. Several commentators and newspapers have criticized this move as being offensive to the Sikkimese people. The sentiment is entirely understandable but the predicament of the Supreme Court collegium also needs to be appreciated.
The SC collegium has no power to remove a judge and its only weapon remains effecting a transfer. With Chief Justice Dinakaran continuing to exercise his administrative prerogatives (which are by no means insignificant), a open and growing conflict with the “blogger Judge” Shylendra Kumar who enjoyed considerable support from the journalistic fraternity and the public and a divided bar, the situtation needed to be defused before it reached a flashpoint. Given the gravity of the allegations, the only option for it was to pack him off to a location where any damage he might inflict would be minimal. What better place than Sikkim which boasts of the lowest number of cases in its High Court? From a utilitarian standpoint, the choice may thus be justified by the objective of limiting harm to the least number of litigants if he is indeed actually guilty of corruption.
Of course, the message being sent out is that if you are a law abiding people, New Delhi will treat you for the suckers you are and will happily reward you with judges of dubious integrity. On the other hand, as in Kashmir, if you take to rioting, the powers that be will fall over one another trying to showcase their “empathy”, pleading for dialogue, sending out assurances and granting “packages” of goodies, no strings attached. Welcome to the new India where whiners take all, violent mobs rule and the immediate demands of firefighting prevail over the long term needs of just policymaking.
So what is it that Sikkimese must do to be heard loud and clear? First of all, having the fewest number of cases in their High Court is not at all helping their cause. Sikkim needs to become a more litigious and crime prone society: people need to fight amongst themselves much more, commit more crimes and start suing everything that moves. It is said that a grave crime like murder is almost unheard of in that state – that sort of innocence simply will not do. A total image makeover is necessary. Peace and quiet are now passe; the state must strive to become the bad boy of the Indian Union. Ghastly and horrific acts must be perpetrated with striking regularity to get into prime time news and stay there. And as a consequence of all these measures, one would expect a large number of cases to be filed leading to an overflowing docket, huge arrears and prolonged delays in the Sikkim High Court – in other words, restore some sanity in the system and bring it in line with other more “normal” Indian courts. Finally, these efforts will hopefully just create enough noise for the powers that be in Delhi to take notice. If we start to hear words like “empathy”, “dialogue”, “justice”, “development”, etc. the Sikkimese can rest assured that their long journey has slowly but surely begun.
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