In a path-breaking initiative, the Delhi High Court has injected a fresh dimension to “justice” by providing employment to five victims of acid attacks and a transgender. Though they had earlier secured legal redress society continued to shun them, and earning a living was difficult.
When their plight was conveyed to Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal by the Delhi State Legal Services Authority, she added a humane element to the often cold statute book, personally met the under-privileged persons, interviewed them, and after evaluating their abilities offered them clerical jobs on a contractual basis.
While judicial officers have in the past issued directives or used persuasive power to rehabilitate victims, this is a rare, possibly unprecedented, case of a court tweaking its “system” to directly benefit a victim. A court official who preferred not to be named said, “we have taken this step not only to give them a job but to give value to these people”, adding that “all of them faced discrimination and failed to get jobs due to their physical condition which prompted the DSLA and the High Court to intervene”.
The transgender said she was forced to leave home as the family deemed her unacceptable, and “no one gave me a job because of my gender”. The victims of acid attacks had experienced similar rejection. It is too early to opine whether Justice Gita Mittal’s efforts will be replicated across the legal system, but it should prove exemplary for it is in keeping with the poetic line about the quality of mercy not being strained.
In fact it goes beyond that, justice is often little more than retribution. It can be nobody’s case that the courts take it upon themselves to “compensate” victims, yet a window has been opened. The legislative and executive wings of government can go beyond filling prescribed quotas. Members of Parliament, and senior officials, do wield considerable influence ~ even in the private sector ~ which can be harnessed for the welfare of the victimised, male or female.
And judicial officers across the board can extend the range of penalties they impose to include the kind of action the Delhi High Court has taken. It adds a fresh new angle to the punishment prescribed for offences against any of the several laws in place.
Perhaps it could prove even more effective than a jail term or a hefty fine, for some moral comfort can also be drawn from giving the victimised an opportunity to pick up the threads of life that were snapped when they met with unhappy fate.
The move by the High Court to cater to needs of five victims would be trivial when assessed against the several others in similar need, yet there is truth in the theory that “the beginnings of all things aresmall….”