The wily Mr B Ramalinga Raju of Satyam couldn’t have timed his confession admitting to embezzling Satyam Computer Services to the tune of USD 1.5 billion. He had an ample 4 days to go into hiding, analyze the aftermath, and resurface. If news channels are to be believed (an entirely different debate) it gave ample time for the YSR government to do everything in their power to ‘shield’ Raju. Shield against justice, mind you.
So what is this timing I’m talking about? The court was on a 3-day holiday for Makarsankranti, followed by the weekend and no action could be taken. And since was primarily a SEBI case and not a criminal offence (trying telling that to Satyam’s 53,000 employees) he went scot-free until the AP CID (on the insistence of the opposition) stepped in and slapped charges of criminal breach of trust, criminal conspiracy, cheating, falsification of records and forgery and took him into custody the day before he disposes before the SEBI. While all this is continued proof of information exchange between agencies being in total disarray, only one thing really jumps out in all this: the court was taking a 3-day break for Makarsankranti? Are you kidding me? How many til-ka-ladoos can judges possibly eat? Further excavations reveal the following:
Total number of holidays the Supreme Court has in a year: 189
Total number of working days for the Supreme Court: 176
Besides the fact that there are more holidays than working days, it equates to officers of the court spending over half the year on a hammock. Just for the record, Pakistani courts have 43 days off + Sundays and the American courts have only 10 days off.
Why? Besides ridiculously extended offs for non-events such as Makarsankranti, courts in the country take, hold your breath, a summer vacation, a diwali vacation, and a winter vacation. Yes, these judges get more holidays than kids in school for the same reasons and with full pay. The summer vacation alone is over 2 months!
You know how usually they put a list of holidays at the bottom of every calendar? Not the calendar on the official site of the Supreme Court of India (http://supremecourtofindia.nic.in/new_s/cal.htm). These guys have a separate parallel box of holidays for each month!
And as if that wasn’t enough, judges can take full paid leaves over and above these holidays. And combining these offs and adding a few more ‘absent’ days the judges are off on their foreign jaunts. One CJI took 7 trips abroad traveling first-class with wife with the central government picking up the bill of 39 lacs for airfare alone. Here is the detailed story.
What’s similar between a school kid and a the Chief Justice of India? They’ve both got uniforms, they’ve both got textbooks, and they’ve both got summer vacations. And what’s the difference? The kid actually attends school.
And we all know there is a massive number of pending court cases. Just a reminder of the number: 30 million! Here’s a breakup court- and region-wise.
Right. Why exactly aren’t these systems changing? There was a sense of pride when we spoke about the Indian judiciary right from when we were in school. We were taught about their no-nonsense attitude; independent of the legislative and executive branches and morally upright. Later, when the Supreme Court started entertaining PIL’s we were given to believe that the future of this country could only be course corrected by the courts. And now these are the same guys who say the RTI doesn’t apply to them, and that 30 million cases is far too many too handle. Really, it’s the public that needs a holiday.