This was the topic of a very pertinent discussion organised by the LRS on 25th September`22. Introducing the topic, Com Santosh said people ultimately go to courts for justice when injustice is done to them – but it is extremely difficult for ordinary people to get justice. More so when the persecutor is leader of a political party or well connected. No victims of communal violence ever get justice! People expect that justice will be available to all – but as political people, we want to understand why people do not get justice.
Shri Raghavan, President of LRS, elucidated the question. At first sight, ‘’Rule of Law” (RoL) seems to be a good thing which should definitely be upheld. “Peace”, “order”, “good governance” sound good. But the reality is that people are getting attacked. Justice MV Ramana said that ‘Rule of Law’ should be implemented well, then there will be peace. But people don’t have peace!
Laws like AFSPA, sedition law are all as part of “Rule of Law”. We have to be objective, look at the origin and history of the term. We are taught in universities about British law but hardly discuss the history governance in our own country! According to Encyclopedia Britannica. RoL is the mechanism, the process, the institution, the practice, and the norm, which ensures equality of citizens in front of the law. If there is RoL, then the govt cannot act in arbitrary fashion. But does real equality exist? The issues of hijab, attacks on workers and peasants show it doesn’t! They try to imply that such problems will not happen if RoL is strengthened.
We have to study history to understand the real face of RoL. Five centuries ago, when James-I was the king of England, Scotland, and Ireland, he claimed that the king is the representative of God on earth – he had a “divine right” to rule. Even if he is vicious, no one could do anything, as he had sovereignty. People were unhappy with the situation and discussions took place at that time as to who had the ultimately the power to decide. Discussions took place in the parliament, where representatives of traders and landed interests felt that taxes were excessive. Edward Coke was a representative of the lawyers and initiated a discussion on Rule of Law. The King claimed that he was above the law. However, the parliament disagreed. The “Levellers” who were also there in the parliament wanted the people to have as ay in political power. They wanted to remove restrictions imposed on different sections. The concept of King in Parliament evolved as a compromise.
But the problem of sovereignty did not get sorted out. Contradictions continued and Charles-I was executed in 1659 on the orders passed by the parliament that the king was treasonous! Thus, sovereignty at the time did not clearly vest with the king. However, where sovereignty would vest was not a settled question. A class struggle was taking place. When the new class traders gained the upper hand, then sovereignty got transferred from the king to the parliament.
In modern times, the MLA/MP is elected by people, but she doesn’t remain under the control of the people. The law is used to control and suppress the people. It was people like Bhagat Singh who were executed by following the law. We get independence in 1947 but we did not get freedom from the colonial concept of “Rule of law”! The Constituent Assembly discussions premised that people are not ready to govern and need to be ruled by their representatives.
India has a history of over 5000 years with entirely different concepts of governance as can be seen from the Arthashashtra, Nitishahstra, even Ain-e-Akbari – these never say that anybody is above the law. In the Shanti parv of the Mahabharat, Bhisma advises Yudhister on how to rule. That people can even kill you if do not rule according to law (dharma). Raj dharma was the same for all kings including during the Mughal times.
But what is the dharma today? Who has sovereignty and supreme power? People don’t – in spite of elections! Only if the supreme power is in the hands of the people, then people will be sovereign. These are the lines along which we need to discuss.
Advocate Virendra Kasana asked if there really was supremacy of law in India? Can an ordinary person win an election to parliament? He said that Hindi was surreptitiously thrust on the people by the Constituent Assembly in place of the more inclusive Hindustani – thus creating a divide between Hindus and Muslims. The language policy of forcing pure Hindi on the people is making us backward in law and science and medicine. The Constituent Assembly in any case was not elected but nominated and some people were selected with an agreement with British. Is there is any discussion on how people are? Workers, peasants are getting displaced. In India, people are divided in different states and regions. This is a conspiracy. We need to think about everyone to advance.
Shri Birju Nayak asked if everyone gets justice. He said he would focus on the interests of workers and capitalists. The term ‘workers’ includes all who earn their livelihood by their labour. In Delhi the minimum wage is Rs 16,500/- But 90% of the workers do not get this wage, especially women. Over 90% of capitalists are guilty of not giving even the minimum wage – which is not even the living wage; it is the minimum to survive. In most places workers are made to work for more than 8 hours. Not a single capitalist has been jailed for violating the minimum wage law! These violations of labour laws are taking place openly! It shows that there is no equality in law.
Forming a union of workers’ choice is not contrary to law. But if workers do in fact form their own union, then they are punished. In the Suzuki factory one manager died in 2012 and 546 workers were charged with murder! It was to send the message to the workers who dared to make a union which was not under the control of the management. The law is used against us – the workers, peasants, the ordinary people. If you don’t follow their dictate, you will be declared a threat to peace and put behind bars. If you are oppressed on the basis of caste, religion, gender – don’t raise your voice otherwise peace will be disturbed, so bear it silently.
“Rule of Law” was brought by the British to ensure that one cannot speak out against the system.
The capitalists pay advocates, politicians, and the police to strengthen the system of exploitation.
RoL is therefore essential to maintain the capitalist system of exploitation. It has three elements – peace, order and good governance. If you protest, you are disturbing the peace. If a lower caste or woman asks for equality, you are disturbing the order. The loyalty of all the political parties that are part of the system is for the capitalist. Thus, RoL is not for giving justice to workers, we cannot expect justice for everyone from it.
Advocate Sharfuddin said that exploiters follow Manusmriti – which doesn’t give equality. Those who are violating the law are doing it according to the law. He recalled the death of Justice Loya and the elimination of all witnesses in the case of encounter death in Gujarat. Some 22 people were shot in UP alone in 2020 during CAA protests and no one was punished. Constitution says that there will be no discrimination on the basis of religion – but reservations are not available for Christians and Muslims! We adopted federal system but now all powers are controlled by the Centre They want to disempower the ordinary people. They want to end reservation, which was giving empowering ordinary people. They are spreading hatred amongst communities.
Shri Munna Prasad of the Inqilabi Mazdoor Kendra said that a cruel regime was opposed during the French Revolution. The slogan of equality, fraternity was given by the capitalist class. The rule of feudal lords was replaced with the capitalist class. In a class-divided society, any concept or law is not the same for all classes. When capitalism became reactionary – it left the slogan it had raised and went against. In the judicial system, the propertied class can buy the judges or even get the judges murdered (like Justice Loya). Only by ending the capitalist system can the working class get justice. The working class will have to establish its dictatorship to end the inequality. Ideological leaders of the working class never promised that they would give equality under law. They only said that they would create conditions so that no capitalists could emerge. We side with the exploited and against the exploiters and looters. You cannot achieve equality in this system.
Advocate Aslam said he would focus on the solution. India is not a small country, but we can have small states. Political power will then be closer to the people. Chhattisgarh, Haryana, and Goa are small states where the situation is better. Law cannot remove social evils – this requires a change in mentality. Perception may be right or wrong and if someone is perceiving that they are not getting justice, then something needs to be done.
Dr Venkatesh said “Rule of Law” sounds very good as does the phrase “good governance” also sounds good. Why are these issues coming in front of us? As Shri Raghavan said, 500 years ago, a big clash was taking place between traders and feudal lords. These classes wanted to mobilise the toilers of that time (masses). The same way in French revolution which raised the slogans of “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity” to attract the toiling masses to their side. Feudalism was replaced by capitalism and now it has deteriorated to the stage of monopolies. Laws are implemented in the interest of this ruling class – the monopoly capitalists. But they want to take the toilers along with them. Of course, people are feeling oppressed, but they want to confuse the people that “rule of law” and “good governance” will give them justice and prosperity.
Even today the Museums of UK are filled with loot from India and other colonies. But the looters if our country today want do not want people to understand that they are getting looted. That is why they use phrases like rule of law. We should increase our understanding about the issue. Are we studying the knowledge of Indian statecraft? We are following foreign examples. There is a long history of rule in favour of the people. We have to learn from that and implement that here.
Advocate OP Gupta said that the title is contradiction in terms. Rule of law- does it even exist in our country? People have never got justice and will never get in this system. Who made the rule of law? Unless people themselves make the rule of law, they cannot get justice for all. Today religion is used to divide and rule the people. Can you change the system by elections? That is not possible no matter how many governments change. Only through social revolution, can we change the system.
Shri Umesh Mishra asserted that there is no equality of law. He recollected that he had openly said in the court that there will be no justice for me. It was a symbolic protest. The Judge also said that the system cannot give justice! He was telling the truth. The country became free in 1947 but citizens did not get freedom as power went into the hands of the capitalists. After the seventies, communalism was used to make people commit crimes against each other. It’s the state which is terrorist! Each and every one must not become a tool of the state. The truth is that if rule of law existed then there would have been no massacres of Muslims, Sikhs and others in 2002, 1984, and other carnages would not have happened.
Shri Inamur Rehman (Jamat-e-Islami Hind) said everyone wants peace and harmony. These cannot be established if there is no justice. If there is justice at home, then there is peace at home. Most of the speakers said that there is no justice in India. Someone talked about workers and peasants. Talking about the cases of injustices against the minorities – there is also oppression. You want peace by remaining silent. The leaders of one organisation are being arrested without convincing anyone about the illegal actions of this organisation. When we don’t have the right to raise our voice against injustice, then there is no rule of law. If people are differently treated, then there can be no justice; and he narrated a story from the Quran to elucidate this.
Shri Vikas Dubey (PUCL) said he was connected with the farmers ‘protests. He agreed with earlier speakers that Independence came without any social revolution. In India, society is going through a crisis. Instead of people, monopoly capitalists like Adani and Ambani are being cared for. The government is attacking science and innovation. It requires a social movement. Whatever we have gained through struggles is being snatched from us using bulldozers.
Shri Arif (WPI) asked – who gets justice who doesn’t. There are different standards for different people. In the Delhi violence, those who were the criminals are free today, and those whose houses were burnt are behind bars. When there is no justice then there can be no peace. There is so much poverty in parts of India. Thousands of people are homeless and beg for sustenance throughout their lives. Those who are ruling decide how many will be in government jobs and how many in jails from different communities. We have to be in the driver’s seat to change the situation, must build a mass movement for change
Shri Mahendra Vishwakarma (E-rickshaw Union) pointed out that there is exploitation everywhere. The law is not able to stop it. The government belongs to capitalists. There is no question of getting justice. The justice system is only for show. On the ground, there is no justice. We don’t get any relief. Law has to above religion. It is today working for capitalists.
Srimati Poonam Sharma (PMS) said that the issue is very important. Look at the case of Bilkis Bano who was a victim of a heinous crime. The culprits have been released. Where is the justice? Many other people are kept in jail for years on the basis of suspicion alone and released without any charges. Who is responsible for the ruining of their lives? The state itself organises big massacres and blames the people. No government since independence has ensured justice to the people. We have to fight for a new system where people will be empowered where there can be justice for people and upholding of human rights.
Concluding the discussions, Shri Raghavan said that the discussion on this difficult topic was very good discussion. All speakers shared their experience. We have to both study the theory as well as practice on the ground. Different people spoke of different angles, but everyone agreed that everyone is not equal before the law today, and it cannot be otherwise. Even 500 years ago, it was not the intention that law should be equal for everyone. It was to defend the particular interests of a particular class of people in the name of everyone. We need a system where people will rule as well as be ruled. At one time in India, the ruler was decided by the people themselves. We need to build a movement for such a change. Thanking everyone, he said that we will have to continue this discussion.