It does take a lot of time and effort to prove a criminal guilty in India. Assa Ram’s conviction at Jodhpur is just a case in point. From the preliminary investigation to the verdict, it is such a long drawn process. The twist in the story comes in when very reputed and senior lawyers get sucked in. Voluntarily or otherwise, pro-bono or not, the cat and mouse game begins. To pick holes and to plug them becomes an interesting contest of oratory skills. In all this we have a referee who interprets the law as a judge, who waits for the cats to finish fighting over a piece of bread and finally hit his mallet to declare which side wins.
Since I have visited Jodhpur court, I was fascinated by the scene of the numerous “Munshi’s” (typist)” there. If you want to see how a typewriter looks like then either go to a museum or go to a court. Computers have replaced those machines now but the charm of listening to the keys striking the paper with multiple layers of carbon used to be music to the ears, the rat-a-tat, the quick adjustments of the roller, the winding of the ribbon spool, separating the stuck keys were a treat to watch.
Today it is the keyboard. I noticed that on most of them the alphabets, numbers and special characters are all invisible. The keyboards have been so overused that even the space bar shines like silver.
I am awestruck at the speed with which these guys type. They have a speed of more than 150 words per minute. You need that electrifying speed to key in cases. There is rarely any spelling or grammatical mistake. This I am talking of the English typing. Vernacular typing may be a word or two slower. A dot matrix printer would take longer to print than would take a Munshi to type. They are the nerve centre of any court and a force multiplier for any lawyer.
As you enter the court premises’ you will find people with black cloaks and black suits all over. I don’t understand if there are so many lawyers why cases dangle so long. They have specialisations like divorce lawyers, land & property specialists, criminal lawyers etc etc. There I found a lot of these tout kind of people hanging around. Moment you enter he will ask you your issue and take you to the perfect place. A typical Munshi with a typewriter on a “takhat”, sitting on chair, a make shift cupboard to his side, a wooden bench for you to sit, papers strewn all over are a common sight. You would be lucky if they have a tin roof on top otherwise it would be under a tree. I have never understood why they can’t have proper offices.
The record of stamp papers he issues is kept meticulously. Your name and your father’s name is the only thing that matters. Some things are done on a hundred rupees one, the price varies from state to state. Even the court rooms are dingy. Most of the times the judge refuses to see your face but sometimes he does. He summons you, looks at you and asks you your name and date of birth, turns that bunch of papers up and down, glances back at you with piercing eyes and signs the documents. You breathe a sigh of relief that thank God you have not been put in jail for registering your own house.
Be that as it may, court cases linger on far too long. Fast track courts can beat normal courts. The long list of witnesses is never ending. Some die, some are killed, some evaporate from the scenes and some backtrack from their words. The easiest thing is to say that they said so under duress and were made to forcefully confess. The investigative agencies do a shoddy job which gives a chance to these black coats to twist the case. The result is even if one judge pronounces a person guilty; the higher court judge finds no evidence worthwhile to prosecute the criminal.
If this is how the “mandi of the judicial process”, the law, the lawyer, his typist & his typewriter are going to churn out tons of “raddi” then God help us. From the commitment of crime to an affidavit on a stamp paper, from an FIR to summons, from a hearing to a judgement, from one court to another court we go around in circles. The laws keep becoming stricter but the crime and the criminal are there to stay. The speed of the typist doesn’t matter after all cases are decided on the skills of a lawyer. The judge keeps waiting to deliver justice & to finally make his kill. How can we reduce justice delivery time? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!