Feb 21, 2024
Feb 21, 2024
by Ganesh Joshi
Workshop # 17
Worldwide the statue of Lady Justice is a more easily recognized statue than the well-known Statue of Liberty in the New York habour in the United States of America.
The concept of a Goddess of Justice is old indeed, dating to ancient Egyptian and Greek times. Almost all court houses in all continents of the world including India exhibit her image in one or other form.
There is regional variation on her precise depiction, though certain fundamentals are the same everywhere.
She carries a sword, scales for weighing, and usually (though not always) wears a blindfold. She is dressed in a Greco-Roman toga or tunica, in the tradition of classical goddesses, philosophers and prophets. Lady Justice was originally known as the goddess Themis. In Greek, Themis means 'order'. Her other names are Justicia or Justice. She is also associated with the Goddesses Astraea, Dike, Eirene, Eunomia, Fortuna, Tyche, and Ma'at.
Our laws and law systems were derived in essence from her stories and ideals. She began in Greek mythology about 800 B.C. as one of the Titan gods. Each god held the power of law and Themis was Goddess of 'the order of the natural world'. That means she ordered and organized things like the seasons; i.e., winter follows autumn, summer follows spring. She also planned and ordered the path of a person's life such as its beginning and end. Importantly she ordered and arranged what was to happen during each season for both nature and man.
It followed that Caesars, Kings, aristocracy and ordinary people sought her advice and counsel on all the laws of nature as well as the laws of man's concerns. There was such advice and counsel on man’s trepidations like farming, war, love, work and marriage.
Interestingly in a traditional male dominated ancient world she was a predominant and coveted authority of prophecy, advice and law. She is also credited as being the first counselor and the first oracle at Delphi, even before Apollo.
In her time she was the final decision maker on the laws of man and nature. Her popularity influenced and was mixed into other myths and gods. Around 22 A.D. she first appeared on Roman coins as the Roman goddess Justitia, or 'Justice'. She had become a blend of Greek and Roman stories. The Roman goddess of justice, Justitia, is the most direct inspiration, since she carried the sword, scales and blindfold we are familiar with today.
The scales weigh the facts of the case. The scales date back to Egyptian times, where the god Anubis was invariably depicted with a set of scales to weigh a deceased person's soul against the Feather of Truth. The modern interpretation filters through the focus on reason, as Lady Justice weighs the factors of a case to render a verdict. The scales imply a mechanistic, rational process; too much weight (evidence) on one side will cause the scales to tilt in favor of innocence or guilt.
Lady Justice often carries a sword in one hand. The sword is a historical symbol of authority, wielded by kings, emperors and generals. It is therefore one of the earliest symbols for justice, as the power of a monarch could be delivered with a stroke of the sword. Lady Justice's sword advances the concept that justice can be swift and final. The blindfold she wears symbolizes the philosophy that justice should be rendered "without passion or prejudice." Considering only the facts on her scale, Lady Justice does not bother with letting emotional impressions of the accused enter into the implicit equation. All are fair before the facts of the case and the judgment of Justice.
Not all depictions of Lady Justice feature the blindfold, however. The origin of the blindfold is unclear, but there is some evidence that early artists added the blindfold to indicate the courts' tolerance of, or ignorance to, abuse of the law. Today the blindfold is generally accepted as a symbol of impartiality.
The scales represent fairness and balance and the sword is the symbol of enforced justice. Almost always draped in flowing robes, mature but not old, no longer commonly known as Themis, she symbolizes the fair and equal administration of the law, without corruption, avarice, prejudice, or favour.
What is the situation in India today? Is the symbolism depicted in the statue followed in practice? Not at all. In fact far from that. The balance is heavily tilted towards money. The blindfold is ineffective and the sword is rusted. Result: So much evil goes unpunished or not punished adequately.
Indian legal system is a legacy of our colonial rulers and with the passing of time many evils have crept into it and it fails to satisfy the aspiration of the people. The system is too slow and far too lenient. The system is controlled by those who are more worried about criminal's rights and rehabilitation than victim's rights, or loss thereof, and restitution.
For example, many drunk drivers who have killed innocents by running their powerful cars over them are walking free for years together after the crime. They use all sorts of methods to adjourn the cases and get new dates. The process goes on for years and years. One of the well-known cases is Nanda trial at Delhi. A number of such cases are going on.
People who have been proved to be carrying illegal weapons are leading a free life and even police shake hands with them. Judges are undergoing trials for corruption. Result: People have no faith in judiciary, they take law in the own hand and punish the culprit.
In one of the Indian states, a man raped a young girl, cut off her arms and left her to die. The community was outraged and wanted this monster to die. The rapist's punishment was to receive free room and board in prison for a few years, free legal and medical services with no responsibilities at vast expense to the government and in turn to public. When the court finally released him after serving the jail term, lynch mobs waited for him. The authorities mobilized considerable resources to protect the criminal. They moved him to a different state, where lynch mobs again formed. Eventually the police moved him to a jail in a remote town, the only place where they could protect him.
There is no fear of law anywhere in the country. Road blocks, Bandhs and destruction of public and private property by the demonstrators are a common feature. People start agitation and destruction of property on flimsy and trivial grounds. It appears that the nation has become unmanageable for the government.
In recent years, it appears that, people have lost faith in the police, who not only watch as dumb spectators but also indulge in heinous crimes. The country continues to be plagued by violence against women. India, especially the north, has shown an unfortunate disregard for women. One of the biggest yardsticks of a civilization is the security and freedoms that it provides to its citizens. India lags woefully behind in this regard.
Community customs are considered superior to state laws, which are completely ignored. Authorities watch helplessly when young girls are killed because they married a young man they loved.
All such incidents have resulted in the rise of suppressed anger. The symptoms of suppressed anger are the berserk government property destruction because people have lost faith in the system of justice.
Another serious problem with the Indian administration and the legal system is corruption at all levels. Corruption is identified with any person or institution who misuses the power and discretion conferred on the same. Common citizens face unnecessary problems in their routine interactions with governmental agencies.
Practices such as the acceptance of favours or misappropriation of public funds have actually come to be described as 'perks' of holding public office and employment. A simple job like obtaining a death certificate from authorities has a price.
In the words of former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan: "Corruption is an insidious plague that has a wide range of corrosive effects on societies. It undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life, and allows organised crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish."
As a result the image of the statue of Lay Justice has been completely tarnished in the eyes of ordinary citizens in India of the 21st century. Therefore it is felt that there is no need for the statue of Lady Justice in any of the courts, highcourts and Supreme Court. All such statues should be removed and buried deep in the sea once for all. Here are a few suggestions to create respect for the statue of Lady Justice.
Honesty and integrity of the Judges must be given top priority. The judges should not merely be honest but also seem to be so. Besides being honest, fearless and independent, they must also be learned and wise. They must have sound legal knowledge, and must also know how to apply that legal knowledge to the cases before them.
They must be able to separate the grain of truth from the chaff of falsehood. They must be firm and above suspicion so that they may decide a case fearlessly and give their judgment without fear or favor.
Litigations should not be perennial. The reason one goes to court is to get justice, and "Justice Delayed is Justice Denied". Unfortunately the judicial system in India is based on Evidences and facts not conscience or morals, so it should be easier, once having the facts at hand, all it needs is argument and hearing and quicker pronouncement of Justice.
A people who are illiterate by and large, indigent in no small measure, feudal in their way of life, and tribal and backward in large numbers, need an unconventional cadre of jurists and judges, if equal justice under the law is to be a reality.
Article 39-A of the Indian Constitution that directs the State - to secure equal justice and free legal aid for the citizens. But the experiences of last 6 decades years show that the State has failed squarely on addressing some very basic issues - quick and inexpensive justice and protecting the rights of poor and the vulnerable.
The system is on the verge of collapse with more than 30 million cases clogging the system. There are cases that take so much of time that even a generation is too short to get any type of redressal. That it will take more than 300 years to clear the backlog of cases in Indian courts is proof enough that our criminal justice system is sick, stagnant and in urgent need of a complete overhaul.
The list is very long.
More by : Ganesh Joshi