RONALD REBELLO'S POWERFUL LETTERS

This blog contains select letters to the Editors of various Newspapers sent over the last 5 years.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Law lets the greater felon loose !

13th January, 2006.

To
THE EDITOR
THE DAILY NEWS AND ANALYSIS, AFTERNOON
TIMES OF INDIA, FREE PRESS JOURNAL, LOKSATTA
MID-DAY, MUMBAI MIRROR, ASIAN AGE,
HINDUSTAN TIMES.

Dear Editor,

The Judgment of the Bombay HC justifying the demolitions of illegal dwellings in Ulhasnagar and holding the citizens responsible by quoting “caveat emptor” (buyer beware), is truly a miscarriage of justice.

Both, as a law student and an activist I don’t believe in this maxim in its entirety. Infact, for long I have felt that the maxim “buyer beware” should be changed to “seller be-warned” to suit the Indian environment where “the consumer is king” remains nothing but a sanctimonious idea.

I am also unable to fathom the statement of Justice Lodha when he says “This is the smallest price you can pay for your ignorance.” Is throwing thousands of people including the old, infirm and children on the streets overnight, a “small price”? How can Justice Lodha call this “ignorance” when the people have been mass cheated, when there is elephantine fraud and breach of trust? While highlighting the legal maxim “buyer beware” and passing the brunt of the demolition judgment onto the innocent citizens, didn’t the court consider a very important legal maxim: “Salus populi est suprema lex” (Regard for the public welfare is the highest law).

Justice Lodha further comments “It really pains us but we have taken an oath to uphold the constitution. We can supplement justice…. not supplant it.” Well, then upholding the Constitution means upholding the right to survival, the right to housing, the right to health and education (of those infirm and children who will become homeless), the right to a humane environment which have been interpreted as the right to life (Article 21) – the most fundamental of our fundamental rights as enshrined in our Constitution.

The Constitution of India provides that the High Court and Supreme Court has the power to review its own orders. Judges have in the past commented that “under the writ jurisdiction, the Judges and Courts have the power of a Monarch”. So, this power must be used to “right the wrong”. And if Justice has to be supplemented, then arrest all those agents, officials, bureaucrats, builders who were involved in ‘legalizing’ these illegal structures, impound their property and black money, freeze their bank accounts and jail them for severe fraud and embezzlement.

That will be justice according to me. Otherwise Ulhasnagar demolition case will be a classic example of:

“The law locks up both men and women
Who steals the goose from off the common,
But lets the greater felon loose
Who steals the common from the goose.”
- Anonymous

Yours frankly,
RONALD L. REBELLO

Sunday, December 25, 2005

SC is losing touch with PILs

December 18, 2005
Ronald L. Rebello, Mumbai

The Supreme Court’s recent direction to a PIL petitioner (in a petition against Mulayam Singh amassing wealth disproportionate to his income) to file an affidavit that he is not affiliated with any political party is eccentric. This excessive firman will curtail article 51A (the fundamental duties of a citizen) and will consequently be ultra vires to the Constitution of India. What the judges should concern themselves with, is the merit of the case and not ask the petitioner to “Swear that your PIL is not political.”

The increase in the price of rail tickets, the prohibition on carrying out processions, starvation deaths, corruption and even the increase in prices of onions and potatoes is governance politics. Are the judges trying to say that a member of a political party cannot take a PIL in the court in these above situations too? Politics, by definition, is an art of making things possible. What the judiciary has to examine is whether the motive behind a PIL is power politics vis-à-vis judicial principles (Justice, Equity and Good conscience).

Today, the Judges are adopting a biased and narrow view of a PIL. Earlier in 1997, it was the corrupt babus and MPs who had tried introducing a Bill in Parliament that required a complainant to deposit Rs. 1 lakh before filing a PIL. Over the past few years, from my observation of the attitude of SC judges (many term PIL as Political Interest Litigation, Private Interest Litigation, Publicity Interest Litigation and Paise Interest Litigation), it seems that the Supreme Court is losing its touch with this bold Constitutional remedy which Justice V. R Krishna Iyer and P. N Bhagwati gave this country. As Law Minister, Mr. H. R Bharadwaj aptly remarked recently: “The Supreme Court has killed its image of civil liberty”.

Liberal and bold judges are the need of the hour.

Friday, November 18, 2005

May it NOT please your "Lordships"

----- Original Message -----
From: RONALD REBELLO
To: Times of India
Cc: Bar Council of India ; Supreme Court of India ; HC Kerala ; HC Bihar ; HC Bombay ; HC Rajasthan ; HC Gauhati ; HC Gujarat
Sent: Friday, November 18, 2005 9:50 AM
Subject: May it NOT please your "Lordship" !


To
THE EDITOR
TIMES OF INDIA
Mumbai

With respect to the tenets of natural justice – May it NOT please your “Lordships”!

I hope the article “Come to Judgment, my Lord” (TOI Nov. 18) is read in good spirit by our judges and lawyers. Colonial hangovers are the bane of the legal system, one of these being the judges taking summer vacations like the British judges who used to lock their courts in summer to escape the summer heat, inspite of three crore pending cases.

What is more hypocritical is the way in which lawyers (officers of the Court) slavishly bow before the judges on entering the court, monotonously repeat “my lord” over and over again, begin their briefs with “may it please your worship”. Whose worship are we doing—of the judges or of the antediluvian practice the British left behind?

Judges must shun their bloated ego and realize that they are not feudal lords anymore, but public servants of a free India. And advocates, how about beginning the briefs with “With respect to the tenets of natural justice.”?

Yours frankly

RONALD L. REBELLO

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Courts and Right to Information

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

The Editor
The Times of India
Mumbai

Sub: Courts should be transparent too.

Sir,

Reference: “RTI in force; courts yet to keep pace” (TOI Nov. 2). It is highly improper of the High Court of Bombay not to have appointed a PIO as yet. The HC registrar should not mull over the kind of information that should be given since there is lot of scope for demanding information from HC and SC. For instance a petitioner may want to question the CJ’s office on the action taken on a letter petition and whether any directions were issued or comments made on it, or was it junked? I have sent letter-petitions to the PIL cell of the SC reporting violation of fundamental rights. But the PIL cell, meant specially for the purpose of looking into letter petitions, has not even acknowledged them.

One can also examine the leave records of the judges to know whether some of them take leave frequently and the total number of days in a year that the judges were present, or to know how many complaints against High Court judges were received in a year, the nature of the complaints and whether disciplinary measures or notices were issued to the judges. Likewise, RTI can be used for demanding information from the Special Investigation Department (SID) of the Bombay HC about the conduct of judges from the lower judiciary, as corruption in the judiciary is growing out of bounds.

As per the Code of Conduct for Judges (Restatement of Values of Judicial Life), adopted in the Conference of Chief Justices of all the High Courts, Judges passed a resolution to declare their assets in the form of real estate or investment within a reasonable time of assuming office. RTI Act can be used by citizens to know whether Judges have declared their assets and whether these are in proportion to their sources of income.

The Supreme Court in landmark judgments (ADR v. Union of India - 2002 and PUCL v. Union of India - 2003) has justified citizens’ right to know assets and antecedents of politicians. In PUCL judgment, it emphatically stated that “Exposure to public scrutiny is one of the known means for getting clean and less polluted persons to govern the country.” Using the same principle, citizens have a right to know their judges because the buck of probity stops there. At least corrupt politicians can be defeated at the hustings every five year or earlier, but one arrogant, corrupt judge rules for 25-30 years.

Hence, judiciary should not shirk from the Right to Information Act, thinking itself to be a holy cow. RTI Act should be used to clean the Augean’s stable called the government, Judiciary being the most important pillar!

Yours powerfully,

RONALD L. REBELLO

Address: 28 Sunrise (552), Samta Nagar,
Kandivali (E), Mumbai 400 101

Tel: (022) 2887241
Cell: 9869 650 870

Email: yoursfrankly@rediffmail.com

Copy to :
1.. The Chief Justice, Bombay High Court
2.. Advocate General, Bombay High Court

3.. The Supreme Court of India, New Delhi
4.. Attorney General of India, New Delhi.

5.. Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression,
in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

6.. Law and Social Science students.
7.. Conscious Citizens, Activists and Journalists.

8.. National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI)

Letter sent on November 04, 2005.