It’s high time to change

September 02, 2013

Almost 30 years ago I saw a beautifully made Hindi movie called Mohan Joshi Haazir Ho, which made a huge impact on me.

In this movie, an old couple, Mohan Joshi and his wife, decide to sue their landlord for not maintaining their ‘collapsing’ apartment building. For this, they hire two cunning lawyers. The court case drags on for years and the lawyers milk the old couple dry while they become rich. Back home in the society, the old couple is ridiculed for fighting the landlord, but they continue fighting. In the end, when the judge comes to check the condition of the chawl, the landlord’s men hurriedly make some repairs and convince the judge that all is well. Finally, Joshi gathers all his strength and pulls down the temporary supports put up by the men causing the building to collapse on himself. The film provides a deep insight into the struggles of the Indian middle class and is a milestone in many ways, not the least of which is how India’s judicial system needs to be thoroughly revamped.

Thirty years later, and just two days ago, we all saw how the youngest of the six males accused of last December’s gangrape of a 23 year old female student in New Delhi has been sentenced merely to three years in a correctional home by the Juvenile Justice Board (the maximum punishment under India’s juvenile law).

Of these, the eight months he has already spent in custody will be taken off his sentence. When I first heard this, I felt almost physically ill - all these months of waiting and hoping for a proper sentencing by the Indian courts and this was the landmark judgment that concerned people all over the world were waiting for?

Then thinking more logically, I tried to research and analyse what the real issues facing the people as well as the judicial system in India really are and this is what I’ve been able to come up with.
Undeniably, the system is overworked and the courts are overloaded. The Indian judicial system is one the world’s oldest legal systems. It was handed down by the British after over 200 years of rule over India. In many ways, it is now antiquated and high time the legal experts took a close look to make it more people-friendly.

The almost daily reports of sexual harassment and rape across India are adding to the load of such cases before Indian courts.

In 2012, out of a total of 100,000 pending rape cases, only 14 per cent could be decided, raising questions about the way India’s judicial system functions.
In Delhi alone, over 900 cases are yet to be concluded. Most of the accused are out on bail and have little reason to believe they will ever be penalised for their crimes. It’s therefore, not very difficult to conclude that if a person believes that he or she is not going to be punished, he or she is going to commit all kinds of criminal acts and know that it’s very possible to be let off eventually.

What contributes to this problem is a combination of a shortage of judges, lack of basic infrastructure, the accepted practice of repeated adjournments in courts and the lack of urgency among the police in tackling such cases. The outcry over last December’s Delhi rape case prompted the setting up of fast track courts in major cities, but what has really changed? India is known for long drawn-out litigations where people wait for decades for cases to be resolved. The judiciary needs to take a long, hard look at how it can reform itself in order to rebuild confidence among the people.
It’s high time for change.

On another note, Oman is planning to ban the use of plastic bags and I really think it’s high time for that, too! According to some reports that I looked up for this piece, most plastic bags are not biodegradable and end up in landfills or worse, floating around in the environment. It takes hundreds of years for plastic bags to degenerate and while they do, they release toxins into our soil, lakes, rivers and oceans.

Secondly, littered plastic bags are a threat to animals. These stray bags choke and strangle wildlife around the world. The production of plastic bags requires millions of gallons of petroleum, and banning the production would significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The magnitude of the problem can be better understood when one takes a look at the staggering statistics of how many bags are produced each year, and how few bags are actually recycled.

It has been estimated that over 1tn plastic bags are used worldwide each year and 0.5 per cent to three per cent of all bags end up recycled. In 2006, the United Nations found that each square mile of ocean has 46,000 pieces of plastic in it. Shockingly, in 2012, close to 1tn bags were used worldwide and only a few recycled, but that also means next year 1tn more will be produced and the following year and the year after that. With degeneration taking hundreds of years, the cumulative effect of plastic bags will be devastating! While we may not be able to stop a billion-dollar industry, we can take measures to make sure our lives are plastic-free or at the very least, recycle and reuse the plastic bags in our lives.

Opt against plastic bags by purchasing reusable grocery bags available at home or major retailers and grocers. The best option is to go with a reusable bag, or eco bags. which are usually ethically made and are reusable. They are also far more sturdy than a plastic bag, and can often hold more. So why wait? It really is high time we changed.