A shameful blot on our criminal justice system is the phenomenon of undertrials rotting in jails for periods longer than the maximum punishment imposable upon conviction. One of the reasons is the inordinate delays in the trial inter alia because of lack of adequate trained Public Prosecutors (PPs). In this context, the anguished observations of a Bench of the Delhi High Court, comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Manmohan, were most timely. The Court suggested that in every magistrate's court there should be one PP and wondered how one prosecutor could handle more than three courts and satisfactorily manage cases. The Bench noted that lack of adequate number of trained PPs is a main contributory factor for the problem of undertrials. The judges rightly observed that a country governed by the rule of law cannot tolerate the pathetic situation about lack of PPs in courts. The Bench asked the principal secretary (home) and the law secretary of Delhi government to visit and inspect the working conditions of PPs in various courts of the city. If this be judicial activism, it is most welcome because it enforces the right of under-trials to a speedy trial guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution.
UK Supreme Court
The House of Lords has been replaced by the UK Supreme Court which is now the highest court of appeal in the United Kingdom. It was established by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. The Court is housed in a building opposite the Big Ben. The atmosphere in Court is genial, not forbidding. The court rooms are spacious and brightly lit. There is pin drop silence in the Court. Counsel respectfully answer occasional polite queries from the Bench without loud interruptions from counsel on the other side. The day I visited the Court it delivered an important judgment in which by a majority of 6 to 3 it ruled that the Human Rights Act 1998 did not apply to British armed forces on foreign soil, viz. Iraq. A noteworthy feature is that a concise press summary outlining the facts of the case, the legal issues involved and the reasons for the judgment is issued at the same time by the registry with the approval of the Court to "assist in understanding the Court's decision". Judgments of the Court are available on the same day. Adoption of this practice in our Supreme Court is worth consideration.
Obsession with attire
Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic guidance has prescribed certain hairstyles for men as permissible models to promote Islamic culture and to confront Western cultural invasion. The French Parliament has banned the wearing of full length burqa in public to preserve French republican values and secularism. Our Union Tourism Minister Kumari Selja wants to prescribe a code inter alia to tell foreign tourists what to wear and how to wear and not to indulge in "any activity that might disturb the social fabric of the country", professedly for safe and honourable tourism. The code will be a field day for subjectivity. Would jeans be permissible whereas skirts depending on their length be taboo? Besides to make the code binding on owners of hotels, guest houses, lodges, motels and other service providers apart from causing enforcement problems has a Taliban flavour about it.
Octopus as a pet
The World Cup football tournament in which the Oracle Octopus Paul made correct predictions about the outcome has led to pet shops in Delhi being flooded with requests for octopus as a pet. There may be many reasons for this. One may be that it is fashionable to have an exotic pet like the Octopus. Another reason may be the anxiety of business magnates to know about the outcome of their proposed projects. Will they make millions or collapse? Astrologers will face severe competition from octopuses. Many lawyers would also like to adopt on a trial and error basis an octopus for its accurate prediction about the fate of SLPs in the Supreme Court, a task in which astrologers have failed thanks to our unpredictable independent judiciary.