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Justice Sachar’s Memoir Exposes Clay Feet of India’s Judiciary

Justice Sachar’s autobiography is full of instances of judicial favouritism, blatant lobbying for posts & benefits.

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Opinion
4 min read
Justice Sachar’s autobiography is full of instances of judicial favouritism.
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‘In Pursuit of Justice’ By Justice Rajindar Sachar, Rupa Publications, is an autobiography that the author says is written with the “purpose to demystify the working of the court” (page92). He has succeeded in providing an insight into the manipulations and lobbying that go on behind the scene at different levels of judiciary, including at the mighty Supreme Court of India.

Justice Rajinder Sachar at a seminar at the Institute of Objective Studies (IOS) on January 21, 2015.
Justice Rajinder Sachar at a seminar at the Institute of Objective Studies (IOS) on January 21, 2015.
(Photo: Flickr.com/TwoCircles)

‘My Formative Years’ as the first chapter brings out the versatile life of the author as a student and as a keen sportsman. Set in Lahore during the pre-partition days it depicts the life of an upper-class family as also the freedom movement of the country.

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Justice Sachar’s Thoughts on India’s Partition

His father, Bhim Sen Sachar, a nationalist, played crucial political role in undivided Punjab. Due to his father’s close association with the stalwarts of Congress party, the writer is privy to many close door meetings with interesting anecdotes about the freedom struggle. Post-independence, Bhim Sen Sachar became the chief minister of Punjab and in the book emerges as the major influence on his son.

‘The Partition’ is full of painful memories.

“There is a permanent ache in the hearts of the people of my generation; they know well this ache will never leave them”.

Having suffered personally and deeply, the author shares some of the important political developments of the days leading to 15th August 1947, a day chosen by Mountbatten “in his vainglory” marking the second anniversary of surrender of Japanese Navy before him. Quoting Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia from his book, ‘Guilty Men of India’s Partition’ (B R Publication, 2017) he negates the perceived notion of some that “it was Gandhiji’s persuasiveness that made the Congress working Committee accede to partition. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Socialist Son of a Chief Minister to a Practical Practitioner of Law

Subsequent chapters describe how after being active in the socialist movement and trade unions, Rajindar Sachar later started practicing Law, first in Delhi courts and then in the Punjab High Court. The guilt in the mind of a young man who could afford air travel in 1947, was son of a chief minister, and who saw the stark poverty of labourers is well described. It left an indelible mark that he carried throughout his life as a judicial officer and as an activist post retirement, “a youthful, genuine and unshakable faith in a socialist society, that fortunately, I have not lost to this day”.

In contrast, ‘The Politics of Law’ and association with ‘The Bench and the Bar’ turned Rajindar Sachar into a practical, pragmatic man of the world.

He admits to ‘the anger at Chandrachud for his betrayal of the trust of the people’ (in ADM. Jabalpur case that suspended a person’s right to approach High court under Article 226 for writ of Habeas Corpus or any other writ, at the time of Emergency) and yet lobbies with Raj Narain, Shanti Bhushan, Madhu Limaye, George Fernandes, for Chandrachud to be made the Chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Further, he meets the President of India Sanjeeva Reddy, known to him through his father and briefs Chandrachud at least twice about his efforts to get him elevated. All in the name of ‘larger interest of judiciary’!

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Justice Sachar’s Appreciation of ‘Dissent’

Similarly, Justice Sachar admits converting the holiday of Saturday as a ‘working day’ in Sikkim high court as the chief justice to reach the mandatory 210 working days so that “I could declare a longer winter vacation….. to escape the Sikkim winter…” and move to Delhi. His love for comfort and a good life seeps through the book at regular intervals despite his protestations.

And so does his angst against executive interference with judiciary and reluctance of judges to stand up for themselves or protect their juniors. He had the highest regard for “Quiet and unassuming Justice Khanna who held the flag of citizens’ rights aloft…” in ADM Jabalpur case by dissenting with other four judges.

He laments that Justice Om Nath Vohra was not made permanent in Delhi High Court as he had sentenced Sanjay Gandhi to two years rigorous imprisonment, and that similar fate befell Justice Surendra Nath Kumar who, to the annoyance of Mrs Indira Gandhi, had given a verdict in favour of princely states.

That the then Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Prakash Narain failed to support the wronged judges. Justice Sachar is highly critical of Emergency and of Justice Bhagwati due to various reasons described.

Nexus Between Judiciary and Executive in India

The book has many instances of ‘nexus between judiciary and the executive’ and of ‘fixing of rosters’ ‘managing a bench’ so that a particular case does not come before an in-convenient judge. Justice Sachar is frank to cite an instance where he himself ensured that Justice Leila Seth did not sit with him for a case where she had initially differed with his view point.

Despite political ambitions during his career in Law, the writer turned to activism through People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) post his retirement. His active interventions in Kashmir and report on The Social, Economic and Educational Status of The Muslim Community in India’ are work of a person who was liberal in his thought and professional to the core. His faith in the basic goodness of Hindus and Muslims and in Human Rights pervades throughout.

Most of the book, however, is full of instances of judicial favouritism, blatant lobbying for posts, seeking position of choice and post-retirement benefits sought by judges. It would indeed attract readers interested in understanding the reality of court working in India. The language of the book is simple and narration is racy with wry sense of humour. It has been developed posthumously by writer’s family from his notes and recorded interviews.

While exposing the clay feet of the Indian judiciary, Justice Sachar wittingly or unwittingly reveals his own contradictions and inner conflicts too.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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