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Straight from the Bar: A round-up of courtroom news and odours in A(u)gust of travesties

Straight from the Bar casts a satirical eye on the events of last months’ in the legal arena

Legal gymnastics @ Olympic level, yesterday
Legal gymnastics @ Olympic level, yesterday

It would perhaps be anti-national to begin any column about the events of the last month without addressing the elephant in the room (the State in the Nation, wait it’s a Union Territory now). L

The Union Government permitted the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution through some very creative legal gymnastics.

There’s no joke here, the joke’s already been played and the punchline was the Constitution.

In a piece of news that went unnoticed given how distracting it has been watching Parliament upholding democratic processes and our Constitution, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy published a report stating that only 40% of district courts in India have functional washrooms.

In these times of loose interpretations, it is unclear whether they have included spaces such as the corridor behind the Magistrate’s Court in Andheri, Mumbai in their definition.

One could only wish that the stench there went as unnoticed as this news.

The report perhaps also contained the greatest moment of irony that we have come across over the past month. Only 11% of courts across the country had functional baggage scanners - this, closely followed by the news that one person was sentenced to death and seven others to life imprisonment for the Ara Civil Court Blast Case.

When contacted for comment, a representative of the Central Govt. stated, “Now we can just declare people terrorists under the amended UAPA. Sure, it might have been more practical to prevent terrorist attacks but this way we might not need courts soon. It’s a masterstroke - Chanakya would have been proud.”

At least the Central Government cannot be charged with being inconsistent. It had also chosen to apply the death penalty to rape cases and encroach on accused’s rights instead of, you know, preventing sexual crimes to begin with by utilising the Nirbhaya Fund.

In any case, whether the UAPA amendment is an encroachment on the presumption of innocence or not, the presumption shall not apply to the accused in the Unnao case in the manner that it didn’t for Messrs Ram Singh and co.

However, competing hard for the most ironic moment over the last month was the Supreme Court’s direction to complete the trial within 45 days, thus ensuring that the victim had to testify from the her hospital bed. But surely putting a critically ill patient through the stress of cross-examination is worth it to send them quickly along the way to the gallows.

Speaking of human rights, senior advocate Rajeev Dhawan said that it was inhuman to expect lawyers to argue on all five days of the week.

He also asked the court how they expected them to prepare. While we completely sympathise with his position, horizontal eating pizza being our favourite, slightly more serious questions were raised by the amendment of the RTI Act.

Hey, it might have been defanged, but at least it will now also apply in Jammu and Kashmir.

In next week’s column:

  1. Inspired by their success with Article 370 and the UAPA, the Union Ministry states that the presumption of innocence must now be proved. They state that since Article 21 allowed for preventive detention, it is open to interpretation how the presumption applies. Lawyers and linguists remain baffled even as the government is hailed for taking tough steps no even else would have dared to. Protesters were individually declared anti-national and jailed in the absence of the presumption.
  2. Olympic gymnast Dipa Karmakar says she regrets her choice of vocation, “If I knew lawyers could perform such contortions and the only strain on your body would be working 5 days a week, I would have made very different choices”.

The author of Straight from the Bar is an advocate. Alex is a pseudonym. The post is satire. Mostly. Last week’s and other columns in the series are available here.

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