Sunday, March 07, 2010

When the law leaves India

The images above are the infamous MF Hussain Paintings, which led to Hussain's home being attacked in 1998, his shows in India vandalized and 1250 court cases filed against him. The paintings were created in 1970, but came to controversy in 1996, when an Indian magazine published them.

Subsequently Hussain fled India and lived in Dubai, where he continued to work and prosper, owning by some reports multiple Mercs and Ferraris, which is believable as a recent work of his sold at Christie's for $1.6M. Then 2 weeks back came the stunning news that Hussain has given up his Indian nationality for the nationality of Qatar (great PR coup by Qatar).

So why does an Indian citizen have to flee just because he has raised a controversy?

Today in the papers there is a report that the Andhra Pradesh High Court will take 320 years to clear pending cases! With this kind of break down in the system of justice, people can easily take the law into their own hands, attack anyone or create harassment, with no fear of being pulled up by the courts. The story is the same across India, the law and order mechanism is in shambles: if you goto court it takes forever to get justice, if you goto the police station, it is virtually impossible to register your complaint (FIR).

In Mumbai we constantly see political parties hold the city to ransom, you dare say something that is not to their liking, and they will attack your house; and if you are a movie star that will attack the movie halls when your movie is showing causing you financial losses. The courts are helpless (probably takes 10 years for your case to be decided), so the only thing you can do is stare them down, which recently Shah Rukh Khan did and the bullies retreat with their tale between their legs. But that is not how civilised society can function.

Successive government upon government has not done much to improve the delivery of justice, neither have the powerful industrial lobbies done much to push the cause of fast justice delivery. So while on one side India has a year on year growth rate of 7%, on the other, the gap with the justice system keeps widening. Its already at proportions where justice is non-existent as we can see from Hussain having to give up his Indian nationality.

I pray and hope the Indian government, industrial houses and citizen groups awaken to the importance of a fast and effective system of courts. This is the single biggest threat presently facing our country.