Saturday, April 1, 2023
HomeOpinionJudges who uphold equality in court shouldn't be asking for separate lanes...

Judges who uphold equality in court shouldn’t be asking for separate lanes at toll plazas

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Why should judges and other so-called VIPs not wait in line at toll plazas just like everyone else?

In a democracy, there are no privileged classes.

I disagree with the order of the Madras High Court to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to set up separate lanes for VIPs, including sitting judges, at toll plazas and threatening to issue a show cause notice to the NHAI if it did not issue a circular to this effect.

The justification given for the order was that judges had to often halt for 10-15 minutes at such tolls, which was ‘disheartening’. But everyone has to suffer the same ordeal. Why should judges be treated any different?

Articles 14-18 in the Indian Constitution ensure equality of all citizens, and there is no provision for exceptional treatment for so-called VIPs. Moreover, the term ‘VIP’ is not defined anywhere—soon there may be a galaxy of people claiming to be a VIP.

I was the Chief Justice of Madras High Court from 2004-2005. There was a newly created bench of the High Court at Madurai, and the first time I went to Madurai was by train from Chennai. On reaching Madurai station, I saw a huge crowd of policemen waiting to receive me. The distance from the railway station to the Madurai bench is about 16 kilometres. We went by car and saw policemen posted every 200-300 metres.

Also read: The Supreme Court’s reputation has been spiralling downward even before CJI Dipak Misra

In the evening I called the Inspector General of Police, Madurai Range, and told him that the police exist to protect citizens, not satisfy the egos of ‘VIPs’. By diverting the policemen from their duty of protecting citizens, the masses were left unprotected. Thieves and burglars could have had a field day. I requested him not to post policemen in this manner again.

When I came to Delhi as the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, some of my colleagues asked me to speak with the airport authorities not to have security checks for judges, but I refused because everybody must undergo a security check. Every day we enforce Article 14 of the Constitution (the equality provision) through our judgments. Would we be justified in saying that the provision does not apply to us?

I have been to the US many times and never found separate lanes for judges at toll plazas. I met many American judges and found them very humble, never claiming special privileges. So why are we?

The writer is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India.

The views expressed are the author’s own.

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  1. The fact that we have people like Justice Katju bores well for India. These voices exist, in India as well as everywhere. But they are not loud enough, often due to fear, sometimes due to lethargy. We all have to shout with unison. Gandhiji could mobilize this Sentiment and drive away the British inspite of so many handicaps of the times. Thank you Justice Katju.

  2. Exceptionally written.
    Welcome this as a breath of fresh air.
    Hope some one breathes it.
    In India, we have gotten in to a stage, where just because of a certain position or level one has reached, is entitled to get special privileges and honours that go with it.
    Humbleness and humility does not seem to be a trait we Indians seem to lack.
    Wish as I said, we learnt to be more humble, it will on its own give us more respec.t

  3. islamabad high court bar wrote to national high authority to waive lawyers from toll tax on motorways.if not,than lawyers would pass by force as done in every case in pakistan.than pakistani needs respect

  4. Well said . Salute your opinion . These type of unilateral arbitrary orders driven by swollen ego should be set aside with stringent remarks .

  5. It is a matter of great shame, everyone wants a special status, including Judges. How far down we will go.

  6. Very well said. This is what is required from all so called VIPs. Most of this behavior is seen from Politicians, senior bureaucrats, Film Stars, Sports stars and such celebrities. They believe they are above rest of the population and needed to be treated differently. This special treatment should stop.

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