Sunday, March 22, 2009

Chennai High Court reopens and back to "normal"

After the lawyer-police clash last month, followed by lawyer strike, the paralyzed Madras High Court has opened again. Now lawyers are back to work, apparently bringing relief to litigants (News). It looks as if the paralyzed courts were a big problem, and things are back to "normal". But, in my opinion, there are bigger problems that make it not so normal nor provides relief to litigants:
  • There is a statistic that says if a new case is filed today, it will take 300 years for it to get through the Indian judicial process! So much is the backlog and wait for justice (Link)
  • The laws are outdated for the most part, whether it is contract law, family law, criminal law or other, with no predictable outcomes or clear guidelines. The judges are trying to find ways to use them to come up with something close and fair. Check out my comparison of divorce laws for an example.
  • The judgments are not consistent. Two similar cases can result in very different judgments. Arun Shourie's book, "Courts and their Judgments: Promises, Requisites and Consequences" highlights this inconsistency and other problems.
  • Around 20% of judges are corrupt, according to the Chief Justice of Supreme Court (link), and one high court judge is still in office even after being recommended for impeachment by the Chief Justice.
Given all this, it is a fallacy to think courts are back to "normal" because the lawyer strike is over. A lot many legal reforms need to happen to provide litigants any relief. This will take several years or even decades!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Book Review - Gandhi & Churchill

Gandhi & Churchill by Arthur Herman: Excellent eye-opening reading of Gandhi & Churchill's completely orthogonal views on India's freedom, their leadership and struggle in pursuing their cause. The author provides a very balanced view of every one's perspective, including the British, Hindus, Muslims, Untouchables, Gandhi, the Indian congress and others in the politics of that time, so one can appreciate and understand what happened in history and why it happened. A treat and thriller for someone that loves reading incisive analysis with straight facts - this is far from a boring history book. A lot of interesting tid-bits and epithets show out - like Gandhi came to be known as "Mahatma", because Rabindranath Tagore called him so; "It costs a great deal of money to keep this man in poverty" - quoting Sarojini Naidu, on the amount of money sponsors donate to run Gandhi's ashram to keep his image going; "...freedom inside the empire, if possible, and outside of it, if necessary" - referring to Gandhi's earlier attempts to gain equality status for Indians within the British empire, and later shift to complete independence.

To me, Gandhi came out as an outstanding, fearless, headstrong and politically shrewd leader, who could pull all of India together, despite the fact that almost every section, the British, Hindu, Muslim or Untouchable hated him as a leader. He was also opinionated, intransigent and unpredictable, as well not as progressive. For example, the book cites he was opposed to the British building out railways that he used a lot, and rejected English medicine (penicillin) that could have saved his wife, and insisted on swadeshi agrarian methods that Churchill pointed out was out of touch with the reality of feeding a swelling population. Overall, one of the best books I have read, and I am glad to have read it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Book Review - Reality Check

Reality Check by Guy Kawasaki: Similar to Art of the Start, but on a broader range of life topics like marriage, career etc. This book is full of wisdom and advice from the author, distinguished in many ways as Apple executive, entrepreneur and venture capitalist, among other things. I liked his comment "I have never known anyone that was too old to marry, but know a lot of people that were too young" and "you need to be ready accept the person for what he or she is" - truly good advice that marriage requires one to be ready for it, rather than a age range. Another one I liked his advice on career to college students - to use the time to discover the passion while parents are still paying, do job hopping until 30 if needed to discover one's interests etc. Really good to check it out.