Wednesday, 9 June 2010

The Bhopal Verdict Presents an Opportunity for Reform

For over twenty years now, most of us have been outraged by the lack of justice for the victims for the Bhopal Gas tragedy. The judgement, which was on expected lines if you were watching the story closely, was a bitter disappointment. Other cases that are being dragged at a snails place like the 1984 riots or Bofors case also come to mind. 

The Bhopal judgement has triggered a groundswell of outrage cutting across party and political lines. The condemnation is almost universal. This decision, if used intelligently, could turn out to be the straw that will break the camel’s back.

Judicial reform has been on the back-burner. Nobody has had found the right opportunity to take on the system, clean it, and give it the infrastructure and support it needs to dispense justice and uphold the constitution. Any sweeping change, targeted at such a key institution,  needs to have a massive groundswell of public support. There is no time like now to build that support!

The Bhopal case presents us with an opportunity to clean out the stables and strengthen the system. We can use it as an opportunity to reduce political interference in the dispensation of justice, reduce the misuse of law, reduce the backlog burden, and address the large number of under-trials waiting for a day in court.

The moment has presented itself. It will be difficult to oppose reform that will make justice more accessible to victims. Can parliament unite, cut across party-lines and drop hidden agendas? Will the law ministry seize the moment? I hope so.

Call to action:
Let us use our anger and outrage constructively. Let us force the Indian media to start asking about Judicial reform. Let's dig up reports made at the behest of Parliament and the Law Ministry on Judicial Reform. Let's start getting our elected representative to demand a reform in the judicial system. Anything that can add momentum to the call for sweeping reform should be don and done before the issue fades from public memory. 

Hopefully folks on the left, right and centre of the political spectrum will see eye-to-eye on this one.

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