by A K Biswas
Frontier | June 27, 2017
“Courts are comparable to brothels” 
–Bankim Chandra Chatterjee
Bankim Chandra Chatterjee (26 June 1838–8 April 1894), a Deputy Magistrate of Government of Bengal wrote celebrated novel Anandamath. The composer of the national song, “Bande Matarm” had observed in an essay that “courts were comparable to brothels.” Anybody would expose himself to be hauled over the coals for observations as such in contempt of court. Were the British more tolerant? The novelist, decorated with coveted royal titles Rai Bahadur in 1891 and Companion of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire in 1891, retired unmolested with glory. A recent case has obliged us to recall the inherent import of what Bankim Chandra Chatterjee had written over a century ago.
Gayatri Prajapati, a former minister of Government in Uttar Pradesh, an accused of rape under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act, 2012, in the teeth of intervention of the Supreme Court was granted bail by the POCSO court, Lucknow presided over by Om Prakash Mishra, Additional District and Sessions. This has furnished immediate reason why the author of Bande Mataram equated court with brothel. He granted bail to the POCSO accused along with his accomplices in terms of a ‘deal’. The Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court, Dilip B Bhosale, intrigued by Mishra’s action merely a week before his retirement, sought an inquiry. IB revealed after inquiry that a sum of 10 crores of rupees changed hands—with Mishra pocketing half of the bribe. Other half was shared by three lawyers who acted as middlemen resembling like pimps and procurers for brothel. The district and sessions judge Rajendra Singh who posted Mishra to the sensitive POCSO court on on April 7, 2017 just three weeks before his retirement was in the loop to share the bribe. 
Documentary evidence since nineteenth century bear glaring testimony how judiciary was violated and ravished with impunity by Indians manning its offices. Shib Nath Shastri, (1847–1919), contemporary to Bankim Chandra, wrote in his memoirs (in Bengali), “In those days, whoever had any connection with administration of justice, they amassed enviable fortunes by resorting to bribes, corruption, perjury, forgery, perversion and prevarication and became rich in the shortest possible time.” 
Educationist and social reformer Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar (26 September 1820 – 29 July 1891) recorded a damning account of the native law officers, colloquially called judge pundit, if a Hindu and kazi, in case of a Muslim. According him, “sometime back every district had a pundit well versed in scriptures to advise the courts for due adjudication of cases as per law. They were known as judge pundits of the courts. But these salaried men were extremely corrupt, greedy, perverse, immoral and unscrupulous. They advised the presiding judge of the courts in such manners as to serve and enhance their selfish ends. In other words, the pundits were given to bribe and never followed the letter and spirit of scriptures in discharge of their duties. Though outstanding scholars in scriptures, the pundit advised the presiding judge of the court in favour of either of the parties whoever offered him the higher amount of bribes to win the case. Their unfettered perversity, misconduct and immorality so deeply embarrassed the government that the Regulation itself was repealed, abolishing the office of judge pundit.”  The perception of corruption, perjury, perversity etc. widely afflicting administration of justice owe its origin to these native law officers. The judge pundits were mostly, if not entirely, Brahmans. There was no secular law then to enforce or administer. They interpreted shastras for guiding the courts. Interestingly Vidyasagar did not write anything, as such, about the Kazi.
By his statement at Jaipur Literary Festival, Rajasthan Prof Ashis Nandy, had rattled the countrymen in 2013. According to him, “most of the corrupt come from OBCs and Scheduled Castes and now increasingly the Scheduled Tribes.”  Sociologists Nandy doggedly followed the footprints of S K Singh, the former Foreign Secretary to Government of India. A shining star of Indian Foreign Service, Singh dwelt on his experience as a specialist of UPSC interview board about scheduled caste candidates, “The quality of those coming for the services through reserved category is horrible. I have been on the board (UPSC) and find these people have no moral values and standards. They just want to join the services for getting bribes….”
Was the fulmination against the underprivileged calculated to obfuscate the truth, as briefly outlined, from the public view? Having regard for these, can or should the issues having significant bearing on judicial perception, raised by former Justice C S Karnan of Calcutta High Court be trashed as mere fickle mindedness?
1. Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, “adalat ebom barangarar mandir tulya”,Miscellaneous Essays, 1892 quoted by Biswas, A. K., in article The ‘Uncle Judge Syndrome’ shadow over Laxmanpur Bathe, in Mainstream, VOL LI, No 49, November 23, 2013. Free translation of the Bengali has been done statement by this writer.
2. The Times of India, story captioned “Rs 10 crore was payoff to ensure ex-UP minister Gayatri Prajapati’s bail, finds probe” filed by Pradeep Thakur, June 19, 2017,
3. Shib Nath Shastri, Ramtan Lahiri and contemporary Bengali society, 1903, p. 19.
4. Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar translated and quoted by Biswas, A. K., in article The ‘Uncle Judge Syndrome’ shadow over Laxmanpur Bathe, in Mainstream, VOL LI, No 49, November 23, 2013.
5. Outlook, January 26, 2013, news item captioned “Most of the Corrupt From SC/STs, OBCs”: Ashis Nandy
The writer is a retired IAS officer and former Vice-Chancellor, B R Ambedkar University, Muzaffarpur