Tale of a Judge and innocent villagers of India

The so called Indian elites—lawmakers, media professionals, legal eagles and ubiquitous politicians—will endlessly debate if the four sitting Supreme Court justices, J Chelameshwar, Ranjan Gagoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Josheph did right or wrong by addressing a press conference on Friday.

These “elites” will also endlessly debate if the chief Justice of India (CJI), Dipak Mishra was right or wrong in ignoring the plea of the four senior most judges after him to set the “apex court’s functioning in order”.

The social media sites—Facebook and Twitter—are on fire with everyone claiming to be knowledgeable enough to give his or her opinion on the issue. Sadly, several social media users are freely using unusable words and imputing motive while advancing their arguments in favour or against the honourable judges.

The Indian judiciary, at its apex level, is surely in crisis and there appears to be no immediate end to it, given “I am right, you are wrong” atmosphere that pervades the Indian behavioural pattern today. Such an unprecedented crisis on Indian judiciary could have been resolved with the spirit of statesmanship, consensus, sanity and dialogue which have vanished from the Indian system, as of now.

An ordinary pen pusher hailing from a remote Bihar village, I have decided to keep out from the debate couched in nasty and indecent languages. Even otherwise, I am not qualified enough to “judge” the honourable judges. Inherently, I treat the Supreme Court as the exalted temple of justice and the justices as the last hope of justice seeking common people of India.

I am sharing with you a story about a Patna High Court judge which shaped my concept and perspective about the justice system when I was in my formative age, living in my village among innocent and illiterate agriculturists and cowherds.

It was in early 1970’s. Gampalia village had a judge in Patna High Court then. Gampalia was only a kilometre away from Daraili Mathia, my village in Darauli block of Bihar’s Siwan district. But Gampalia was known in almost all the villages of Siwan district because it was JUDGE SAHEB’s village. The villagers usually called Gampalia as Judge Saheb ka gaon (village).

Judge Saheb was a deeply religious person. He had the habit of coming to his village in Dussehra or summer vacation every year. He would live in his modest house and did not meet too many people.

My family and Judge Sahib shared a common purohit (family priest), Gajadhar Mishra who used to tell us about Judge Sahib. The limited people who had access to judge saheb were the Purohit, the family barber, servants and close family members. Judge Saheb was fond of meeting school children. Our Purohit had once taken me too to judge Saheb. “Achha se padho, Bhagwan tumeh khush rakhen (Study well. May God bless you with happiness)”, Judge Saheb told me when I touched his feet at our Purohit’s instruction.

Every morning, Judge Sahib would go to the bank of the river Saryu at Darauli, barely two kilometres from Gampalia. He would bath in the river and performed puja for hours in a hut that his aides had got constructed at the river bank. The barber, servants and purohit would accompany him. Our Purohit ji used to say that judge saheb never allowed the policemen or local politicians to accompany him particularly when he was worshiping at the riverbank.

One day, his servants forgot to carry a datun (precursor of toothbrush in Indian villages or a small piece of Neem tree’s stick which the villagers used to brush their teeth) at the riverbank. Judge Sahib asked a servant to go out and pluck datun from any Neem tree around.

The servant went to the Darauli police station’s campus which had a big Neem tree. As he rode on the tree to pluck the datun, the Daroga or police station’s in-charge came out, baton in hand. He began abusing the servant at the top of his voice. The servant pleaded that he had climbed on the tree to pluck a piece of datum for Judge Saheb.

But the Daroga did not listen and lashed the servant mercilessly. Bruised, the servant reached to Judge Saheb without datun. It was not known how Judge Saheb immediately reacted to the situation.

But a few minutes later, thousands of villagers from Gampalia, Daraili Mathia, Kumhati-Bhitauli and Darauli encircled the police station, shouting slogans against the Daroga who had shut himself inside his house to escape the agitated people’s wrath.

Our Purohit ji used to tell, “The villagers had seldom met Judge Saheb. The Judge Saheb too seldom mingled with the villagers. But the villagers had tremendous faith in him. They treated him as next to Bhagwan (God). They were hell bent to punish the Daroga who had beaten judge Saheb’s servant for no reason”.

The irate people—mostly unlettered agriculturists and cowherds—laid a siege to the police station for over three hours. The Daroga stayed holed up in his house. Eventually, the Superintendent of Police (SP), Siwan descended on the spot to persuade the people to go home. Several local politicians too tried to appease the people. But the people were not ready to leave till they punished the “badmash (wicked) daroga”.

On suggestion of some elderly people of the area, the SP went to Judge Saheb and requested him to pacify the people. Judge Saheb, escorted by the SP went to the police station.

The Daroga came out, falling on Judge Sahib’s feet. Judge Sahib politely counselled the Daroga, “You are a young policeman. Never misbehave with innocent villagers. We the judges, the policemen and officials are there to serve the cause of the people”.

Then he persuaded the people to leave the place and go home. Several people wept at Judge Sahib’s compassion and went home.

I listened to our Purohit ji telling this story again and again with great interest. In retrospect, I think that the common villagers who constitute over 70 percent of the Indian population and, to me, they constitute the real India have better consciousness about the Indian judicial system than many of the so called “educated” people using all sorts of unusable words on the pretext of debating the issue.

Nalin Verma

is journalist, author and teacher. He is also Patron of eNewsroom India. The senior journalist loves writing on the rural India's folklore and on Indian politics. He has co-authered Gopalganj to Raisina Road with Lalu Prasad Yadav and The Greatest Folk Tales of Bihar

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