Icebergs, Vicebergs and the Dream—Any doubt?

Shafeeq R. Mahajir

Anger: annoyance, vexation, exasperation, rage, fury, wrath; defensive response to an underlying feeling of vulnerability or powerlessness. 

Management: process of dealing with or controlling things or people.

Anger management: psycho-therapeutic programme for anger control, deeming anger product of frustration at being thwarted from something subject holds important.

Iceberg: large piece of frozen freshwater, its molecules exhibiting eighteen different “packing geometries” subject to temperature and pressure, floating in sea water,  87.5% below surface, only 12.5% visible, hence the expression “tip of the iceberg” illustrating a small part of a larger unseen issue. 

Vice-berg: just coined expression: human form floating on the superficial façade of everything, without entitlement, displaying several diverse immoral, wrong, wicked, depraved, degenerate, perverted “packing geometries” depending on greed and unrighteous malevolence, causing injustice, corruption and depravity, spreading mischief in the land. Proliferates among top echelons of holders of office, in every field of human endeavour; keeps a low profile, 87.5% below the surface, only 12.5% visible.

Injustice makes me angry. Arguing twenty-five years ago, I encountered a judge who asked: “Why do you get angry?”

“The issue is not why I am angry,” I shot back.

“The issue is why you are not. Judges see injustice perpetrated right under their noses, see through the façade of lies created by the other side, and do nothing to protect victims’ rights, knowing by the time opponents file counters, the matter is heard, and orders issued, the damage would be irretrievable! I want to know why you are not angry.”

The judge laughed. He thought I was a fool.

What do judges, privately, think? Do they think “Why get angry? There is so much injustice in the world. Isn’t there an appellate Court?… And another? …Then the Supreme Court? So what if my laborious effort passes a perfect order? Won’t an appellate court stay or suspend it? If I don’t give time, pass orders, aggrieved parties will likely complain absence of opportunity. I will need to explain. Let me play safe.” Or do they pretend, like, “I know the law means this, but it can be said to mean that, so welcome-plausible-interpretation-what-can-the-loser-do? 99-out-of-100-don’t-complain…?”

Do judges indulge in watch-my-own-back play-it-safe circumspection: “Don’t do anything, don’t be blamed, let Karma take over? People have money, power, pull, can influence matters, including transfers, adverse remarks…play safe…its just some years at every posting…don’t rock the boat…how do we know what the real facts are?…both sides may be lying…” rationalizing till a state of crippled inaction is reached.

You remind: Koteshwar Rao, Additional Chief Judge, sentenced two Collectors to jail, matter went in appeal, High Court did not stay anything, recording instead an appreciative, “We are proud we have judges of such calibre in our lower judiciary.” Oh shut up, that’s just one instance, needle in haystack stuff…anyway that was 1980s…

Try explaining: We are a largely poor, largely semi-literate country, and a poor semi-literate client either gets justice at the lowest rung of the judicial ladder, or never. He has no “staying power,” little money, no time to wait out stronger, richer, better represented opponents who can buy top flight legal talent, several senior counsel bearing massive legal firepower… but enter a viceberg…

Like icebergs, vicebergs abound in every field, including the legal. You will find smooth-talking, friendly-faced, freshly-perfumed “professionals” whose profession boasts many talents, none taught in law schools, all learnt in the fast-track streets of “achievement.” They keep low profiles, just like icebergs. All the filth lies below the glistening surface reflecting the light. Their packing geometries range from the crudest to the most suave convoluted sophistication, and they are invariably well-connected. You need it done, they’ll get it done. Just pay the price. Fake documents, fake witnesses, false testimony and – worst-case scenario – the bogus case is dismissed. The predator simply finds fresh prey. No jail, no penal consequence, laugh all the way home, plot again…

If one gets angry, an “anger-management expert” of a different sort steps in. Explains to you its futile to take up the matter further, you must “manage” anger, channelize it “constructively” see what-is-in-it-for-me, take that, and “move on”…direction of movement being immaterial. “How can I move in an immoral direction?”, you ask. Lecture: “Child, what is moral for one, is immoral for another. I borrow a crore, do not repay, three years pass, you demand, I laugh. You go to Court, I laugh harder. Sec. 3 Limitation Act: Court has duty to dismiss your claim, despite no defence! Fool, where is the morality then? Immoral direction indeed! Morality my foot! Bloody moron!”

But… entitlement? Lecture 2: “Go look at nature: “Want it, take it, eat it!” That is divine law, fool! This statute book, it is for the naïve, the uninitiated, the play-by-the-rules teams. We, we play to win, not to follow rules, see? More and more delays in more and more judges’ orders and more and more appellate reticence are all proving us right. So move on, boy, move on…”

“Move on?” “Yeah, I mean you can’t go carping injustice of Nellie…Delhi… Mumbai…Gujarat…Muzaffarnagar…Delhi ad nauseam, can you? Forget it, man move on!”  “Yaar, sounds sensible but…” “But? But what?” “I mean, possibly forget and move on is worthwhile self-preserving policy, but when alleged injustices of Akbar’s, Babar’s and Aurangzeb’s times are recalled, from centuries past…” an intimidating “Buddy, you want a lesson in nationalism?” No, I’m tired.

And then zzz…I dozed off, and had a dream.

A stately figure, like Leigh Hunt’s Abou Ben Adhem, white turban, white beard, clothed in flowing black robes emitting light, appeared and was relating to me, his dream. “I have a dream” he said. “A dream in which every judge is angry, has an impact terrifying wrongdoers, every instance of injustice meriting a penalty that sends shivers down Machiavellian backs, no leniency, the scales perfectly balanced, the sword striking blow after blow, impartial, unbiased, unerringly accurate, aiding the impoverished, the defenceless, the unrepresented, becoming the voice of the infant whose custody is fought over, of the orphan whose inheritance is denied, of the man whose pension is withheld, of him whose land is occupied, of him whose tenant denied him rent, and of course, of those maligned by Machiavellian master-maligner-media-minds, locking up media anchor after media anchor in the dungeons they richly belong to… freeing student after student, political detainee after political detainee from the incarceration visited upon them for dissenting, and reversing the trend, locking up malevolent politico after malevolent politico, rogue cop after rogue cop, corrupt bureaucrat after corrupt bureaucrat, reopening every closed case of mob violence, till the system stands clean again…and what the…creating a Judicial Vigilance & Accountability Commission of eminent retired judges reviewing every decision of the past decade by presently serving judges, evaluating every sentence, every order and, where reasons exist for conclusion the order is scandalous, sending judge after judge on leave… suddenly every wrongdoer of every shade and hue cowering in fright… look! the devil is fleeing scared ! and… wow !! every judge remaining stands tall and upright, responding to every instance of inequity, of violence to rights, of denial of opportunity, of unjust deprivation, of media trials, violation of constitutional propriety no longer fashionable, the light of justice a force to reckon with, the institution regaining the aura, the awe, of past decades… mothers and grandmothers blessing the long overdue change, destitute women weeping in relief, the grandeur of a just system drawing investments from all over, making this the richest of the economies…”

“What a dream! Who are you?”, I asked the glowing figure, to hear the command “Recognize me! I am sent by the Spirit of Truth and Justice. Politico-Legal future of India, I dwell in every patriotic heart and mind. My Master’s power is immense. One virus is 0.85 attogram, or 0.85×10-18 gram, or one millionth of a trillionth gram. 70 billion such virus units make for 0.0000005 gram. To make 2 million humans sick, 1 gram virus suffices. You understand? It took a gram of virus from Him to lock down 6 billion people and have them begging… Do politicians and judges, bureaucrats and money-spinners, think they possess immunity from being called to account, deny their Day of Reckoning? The dream I dreamt, regardless of the rubbish fools might talk for public consumption, for flexing of muscle, is actually the dream of every Indian…”

“My Master never gives a dreamer a dream without also giving him the power to realise it. Your people too shall. It is just a matter of time. Like the iceberg, 87.5% of India’s citizen power is hidden from view, only 12.5% visible. The “tip of the iceberg” illustrates a small part of the larger unseen patriotic canvas on which canvas the India that emerges shall script a story which shall be the world’s envy.”

“Insha Allah” I said. “Insha Allah.” “Koi shakk?” was the retort as he faded!

Shafeeq R. Mahajir is a Hyderabad-based nationally known lawyer

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