Dispatching Sasikala to Prison With an Overdose of Florid Prose

Justice Amitava Roy's seven-page concurring judgment convicting Sasikala takes judicial eloquence to obscure heights.

On February 14, the Supreme Court Bench comprising of Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Amitava Roy set aside the Karnataka high court’s acquittal of AIADMK leader Sasikala and convicted her of corruption – thereby putting on hold for 10 years her aspirations of becoming the next chief minister of Tamil Nadu.

Justice Ghose’s opinion ran into a whopping 563 pages – which he himself described as ‘Fatty’. Examining the facts, records and the law he found the high court’s calculations in acquitting the accused arithmetically deficient.

In comparison, Justice Roy’s concurring judgment was only seven pages. One could say it acted like a codicil to a will. That is, however, if the codicil added nothing but more fat.

He opens with:

A few disquieting thoughts that have lingered and languished in distressed silence in mentation demand expression at the parting with a pulpit touch. Hence, this supplement. (emphasis added)

Leaving aside the very awkward nature of the sentence, the dictionary meaning of ‘pulpit’ is “a raised enclosed platform in a church or chapel from which the preacher delivers a sermon”. Should this ‘supplement’ then be taken as Justice Roy using the opportunity for a moral elocution?  Certainly, the aim of his ‘mentation’ seems to be so, as there isn’t much law that he either interprets or lays down. In paragraph 3 of his opinion he says:

A growing impression in contemporary existence seems to acknowledge, the all pervading pestilent presence of corruption almost in every walk of life, as if to rest reconciled to the octopoid stranglehold of this malaise with helpless awe. The common day experiences indeed do introduce one with unfailing regularity, the variegated cancerous concoctions of corruption with fearless impunity gnawing into the frame and fabric of the nation’s essentia. Emboldened by the lucrative yields of such malignant materialism, the perpetrators of this malady have tightened their noose on the societal psyche. Individual and collective pursuits with curative interventions at all levels are thus indispensable to deliver the civil order from the asphyxiating snare of this escalating venality. (emphasis added)

In paragraph 6:

This pernicious menace stemming from moral debasement of the culpables, apart from destroying the sinews of the nation’s structural and moral set-up, forges an unfair advantage of the dishonest over the principled, widening as well the divide between the haves and have nots. Not only this has a demoralising bearing on those who are ethical, honest, upright and enterprising, it is visibly antithetical to the quintessential spirit of the fundamental duty of every citizen to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity to raise the nation to higher levels of endeavour and achievement. This virulent affliction triggers an imbalance in the society’s existential stratas and stalls constructive progress in the overall well-being of the nation, besides disrupting its dynamics of fiscal governance. It encourages defiance of the rule of law and the propensities for easy materialistic harvests, whereby the society’s soul stands defiled, devalued and denigrated.  (emphasis added)

This seems more like an exercise in vocabulary-building and code-breaking than a court judgment.

Justice Roy’s florid prose may yet have been worthwhile had there been any serious legal opinion to read but unfortunately, the judgment is only afflicted (quite virulently) with instructions on morality.  Perhaps the only little bit of law that is discussed comes in paragraph 4:

Innovative nuances of evidential inadequacies, processual infirmities and interpretational subtleties, artfully advanced in defence, otherwise intangible and inconsequential, ought to be conscientiously cast aside with moral maturity and singular sensitivity to uphold the statutory sanctity, lest the coveted cause of justice is a casualty. (emphasis added)

In simpler words, what Justice Roy just said is that minor procedural errors should not become obstacles in the pursuit of justice. But one has to ‘conscientiously cast aside’ his purple prose in order to derive this. His short judgment perseveres with missionary zeal to take so-called eloquence to the heights of obscurity. His seven pages, written abstrusely and towards no apparent end other than moral sermonising, take almost as much energy to go through as Justice Ghose’s ‘fatty’ judgment. It is as if adjectives are used to describe other adjectives only for you to find that there no object to be described. Sadly, judgments like these – and yes, there is at least one more judge in the Supreme Court who loves bombast – make the justice they seek to uphold seem not just incoherent but absurd as well.