General ravings, Potshots

Courting Contempt

[Disclaimer: This has been written on the 9th day of the author’s self-isolation due to persistent cough and sore throat, and amid recurring episodes of catatonia, mild hallucination, and hysterical cackling at the sight of TV news anchors and onions. Any disrespect shown or hurt caused to any lawyer, advocate, journalist, politician or any other person connected with or disconnected to the judiciary is entirely intentional.]

Despite the title, this isn’t about the ethics (assuming the existence of any) of ex-Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi accepting the NDA government’s offer of a Rajya Sabha seat. Nor is it about the ethics (assuming they have any) of these myriad lawyers, journalists, politicians and affiliated scoundrels who today are questioning Gogoi’s ethics, when just two years ago –  on January 12, 2018 to be precise – the same bunch had extolled Gogoi as some kind of judicial hero for having been one of the four Supreme Court judges who  held a press conference to publicly accuse then Chief Justice of India Deepak Mishra of improprieties.

Ethics in India is like the radioactive element Polonium-214: it has a rather short half-life.

This is about the 3.3 crore cases that are pending before courts in India.

Now, numbers numb the brain—especially, large numbers. We usually regard anything more than six as a blurry ‘many’.  So, how in the name of Bakasura the Ravenous does one comprehend a number like 3.3 crores?  How can we visualize it, get a feel of what it is?

It’s important that we can do this. Because India is all about very large numbers; especially in the synergistic realms of political swindling, business theft and general loot of the public exchequer by public and private individuals and institutions.  For example, there’s Rana Kapoor, Founder of YES Bank, whose maxim seems to have been “Founders Keepers” as he scammed us of at least Rs 3000 crores (they’re still counting).  Vijay Mallya, that ethylated and spirited Kingfisher entrepreneur, made off to Britain with Rs 9000 crores of public money kindly gifted to him by nine banks.  Nirav Modi the Hira Chor (I just love the way our journalists call him ‘Diamantaire’ ) robbed Rs 28,000 crores from just one bank (Punjab National Bank).

And so, ignoring your howls of protest and with a murmured Guru Stotram  to the great  Isaac Asimov who had a way of making the most complex things simple to understand, we shall try and explain this number of pending court cases—3.3 crores— in a manner that even Rahul Gandhi might comprehend (if he concentrates really hard).

In sallying forth, we shall try our best to retain our footing on the treacherously narrow and slippery path that runs high above the dreadful chasm of Contempt of Court.

Here goes…


Any business involving Indian courts generates colossal quantities of paper – in the form of indemnities, oaths, bonds, undertakings, agreements, powers of attorney, declarations, affidavits, deeds, and a plethora of other documents. Each document is invariably photocopied in triplicate at the very least.

Why so many copies? No-one knows.

Maybe it’s prescribed in the Shastras and Puranas.  Maybe it’s just that no one dares ask why.

I personally believe all the kabaadiwallahs, channawallahs, peanut vendors, et al. are running this multiple-photocopies system in cahoots with lawyers and advocates to ensure that they receive a vast, steady and sustainable  supply of waste paper for packaging their wares—a fine example of the Sustainable Circular Economy.

Anyway: to return to the topic from which we were rudely distracted by ourselves…

Bird’s-eye view

Let’s assume, very conservatively, that each court case involves 2000 sheets of A-4 sized paper located in various files. Then, 3.3 crore court cases give us a total of 66 billion A4 sheets (that’s 66000000000). Since we know that an A4 sheet measures 21 cm × 29.7 cm, it’s easy to work out the total area that can be covered by the paper that makes up 3.3. crore case files:

Area of paper  = [66000000000 × 21 × 29.7] square cm =  4116 square kilometres (km2).

To visualize this better:  with the paper from our pending court cases, we could completely paper over  India’s six largest metropolises—National Capital Territory of Delhi  (1484 km2),  Bengaluru (709 km2), Hyderabad (650 km2), Mumbai  (623.7 km2),  Chennai (426 km2) and Kolkata (205 km2)— and still have enough paper left over (i.e. 289 million A4 sheets, with a total area of 18 km2) to cover 2812 football fields.

Not impressed?

Astronomical view

Well…we could instead paste our 66 billion A4 sheets together, lengthwise, and make a paper bridge that’s 19.6 million kilometres long—enough to stretch to the Moon and back 20 times,  still leaving us 4.2 million km of paper with which to wrap Earth around the Equator 105 times.

If that’s not inspiring enough:

Green view

A good working estimate is that one large tree has to be felled to make about 10,000 sheets of A4 paper. This means that our 66 billion pending court cases represent the long-neglected and cruelly fragmented remains of  6.6 million trees!  

One wonders how many of these pending cases pertain to our ecology and environment? To tree felling?

Economic development view

There’s also a bright side to the issue: a silver lining in the judicial cloud. Consider the fact that these 3.3 crore pending cases have for decades provided livelihoods to lakhs of advocates, legal interns, office assistants, stamp vendors, typists, photocopiers, notaries public, stamp and seal makers, oath commissioners, and other hard-working men and women. By ensuring that these court cases have remained pending, these heroes and heroines of our judiciary have in fact contributed significantly to India’s GDP.

May they continue to do so! 

Way forward

The Indian judiciary is doing its best to reduce the number of pending cases. For instance, in 2016, the subordinate courts disposed of a whopping 1.9 crore cases…but the problem is, over 2 crore fresh cases were filed in subordinate courts during that year. [see here for details].

Clearly, like the Red Queen, our judiciary is sprinting to stay in the same place…and steadily falling back. The number of pending cases just grows and grows.

Little wonder that out of the 3.3 crore currently pending cases, 86 lakh cases have been pending for five years and more in subordinate courts and High Courts.

How we can reduce this colossal backlog?

A friend suggests that we periodically line up and shoot all advocates who ask for adjournments. An attractive idea: but we fear it might be a violation of their fundamental rights to procrastinate.

We must instead look for a Constitutional solution.

Let’s focus only on these 86 lakh (8600000) cases pending for five years and more. Let’s suppose the government and judiciary set up 100 brand-new super-efficient Special Courts exclusively to dispose of these 86 lakh old cases, with each Court working 10 hours daily for 300 days a year. Furthermore, let’s suppose each Special Court completes hearing and disposal of a case every hour (i.e. it finishes off 10 cases daily, or 3000 cases a year).

How long will it take for these Special Courts to get through all 86 lakh old cases?

It would take 8600000 ÷ 100 × 3000 = 28.66 years.

 So, if we set up the 100 Special Courts today, they could get the job done by November 2048!

Of course, that’s provided the litigants and their lawyers don’t appeal to higher courts against the verdicts in the Special Courts…






Beastly encounters, General ravings, Musings

Anopheles Dream: an exploration into the Nature of Reality

I’m not sure what philosophy is.

It’s such a heavy, intimidating word: like ‘intellectual’.

I’ve read a few people who are called ‘philosophers’ – Russell, Thoreau, Camus, Huxley, Gandhi, Sartre, Vivekananda come to mind (and leave the mind as quickly as they come). I’ve found them really interesting and absorbing to read because…well…they are common-sensey in a kind of deeper way. They don’t use long, hard-to-understand words like ‘philosophy’. They talk about the simplest, most common day-to-day things: people, situations, events and feelings and emotions that you and I and everyone else feel and experience. But they delve so deep into these things they talk about that very soon you find you’re looking at and experiencing just about every possible thing in the universe.

Right now I sit here, muttering and stuck for ideas as I always am, while Tangerine Dream’s moody notes beat on my tympani and gently stir the frail wings of the mosquito that sits on the wall across the room, relaxing and soothing our respective muscles and joints and nerves jointly and severally in gentle, soporific and sonorous waves.

I stare at the mosquito. It stares back at me.

I drink, therefore I am…

I shift my stare to the white rectangle of a blank Word document. It too stares blankly back at me.

After profound thought, I decide to undertake a philosophical Exploration of Reality.

I touch the ‘Enter’ key.


I feel, I felt, the Enter key!  It felt hard but not too hard. As I pressed it down, I heard a slight, soft click. I released the pressure of my finger; the key sprung back. And even as I went through these steps, in a fraction of a second, I saw the blinking vertical line of the cursor dart down the white virtual page on the screen.  I felt, I heard, I saw.

All these things I understand well! I know what these senses are, of touch, sight, of hearing. As I do the sense of smell, of taste.

I am aware.

I know the shapes and hues of the hills and forests, the houses where I lived in childhood, the expressions on people’s faces; I can feel winter sun’s warmth, a neem tree’s cool shade, a caress, the slap of an affectionate cat; I know and can recall the taste of mango and rum, of keema and sambar; the sighs of pine trees and tired people in a queue, the howls of lonely puppies and unseated politicians. I know the smells of coffee, of freshly peeled oranges, of grass growing in a Himalayan meadow and smouldering in a chillum, of Mumbai in the monsoon and crowded Metro trains in Delhi.  I know the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, feels of the millions of things, living and non-living, small and big, that I have ever encountered in my long and misspent life and that have influenced me, shaped me, made me what I am.

But now I ask myself: are these sensory phenomena and their vasanas—their impacts on the sense organs by which I perceive them—really ‘real’? Do these phenomena actually have an absolute, immutable, non-relativistic quality about them? Do their characteristics transcend space-time, are they perceived the same way by others, human and non-human, irrespective of frame of reference?

Do bacteria shiver in winter the way I do? Are goats and dust-mites moved by music as I am?

‘Of course not!’ shrieks the Voice of Rationality in my skull. Pressed for evidence to the contrary or in favour, however, the Voice of Rationality subsides into muttering curse-words like an aggressive Delhi driver who’s not been allowed to overtake on the wrong side.

The Voice of Rationality, too, has no answer.


If, then, a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the reality or unreality of the animate and inanimate things that impinge on my senses and enables me to sense them….what of my senses themselves? Are these senses with which I perceive the Reality around me false? These senses that have helped me define and delineate and categorize and sort and arrange and play around with the objects – living and non-living – that have surrounded me from birth, and indeed enabled me to create my version of Reality; are these senses ‘unfixed’, variable, entirely subjective, and therefore unreal?

‘Of course not!’ comes a feeble croak from the Voice of Rationality. ‘Because if indeed our senses are unreal, non-Absolute, then what you and I and everyone else’s devar and mausee and periappa think of as Reality is in fact Unreal. Illusion.


In that case, I press on triumphantly, what I think of as Reality is real only to me –  this world of shapes, of objects living and non-living and their interactions with me and with one another, their patterns of behaviour – are quite unique to me, and me alone.

I, I alone AM.

Kazhudai vishtaham,whispers the mosquito on the wall. It has covertly been listening to my thoughts.

It is, I realize with a start, a Tamil-Sanskrit scholar whose ancestors date back to the Sangam era.

“Donkey’s droppings,” the mosquito translates helpfully, and takes flight.

I am chagrined, deflated. I am also bitten several times by the mosquito.

As I mentioned earlier before I rudely interrupted myself: philosophy and I don’t get along.

My moment of enlightenment (mosquito can be seen near right ear)

I find solace in Odomos, and in the fact that physicist Richard Feynman didn’t like philosophy too much either: he found it boring, pointless, filled with long, complicated words and explanations that didn’t seem to mean anything.

Feynman’s supposed to have said: “Philosophy is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds”.

By his own admission, Feynman took an unholy delight in replying, in the most philosophical manner, to the too-clever-by-half questions framed by people who want to appear extremely profound and deep.

An example—Feynman’s reply to a question from the audience, at the end of a lecture he had given on the properties of light:

Q: When you look at something, do you see only light or do you see the object?

Feynman: The question of whether or not when you see something, you see only the light or the thing you’re looking at, is one of those dopey philosophical things that an ordinary person has no difficulty with. Even the most profound philosopher who’s sitting eating his dinner, hasn’t any difficulty in making out that what he’s looking at perhaps might only be the light from the steak, but it still implies the existence of the steak which he’s able to lift by his fork to his mouth. The philosophers who are unable to make that analysis and that idea have fallen by the wayside through hunger!

Hail Feynman, hail the great philosophers of MAD Magazine and other immortal epics.