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Old Thursday, October 25, 2012
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Default The emperor has no clothes

ByMarkandey Katju

Once upon a time a little girl called Alice was dozing one summer afternoon on a meadow when she saw a strange sight. A white rabbit dressed in a coat and wearing a wristwatch was running while saying ‘I am late’. Alice followed the rabbit which jumped into a hole, and both fell and fell until they landed somewhere with a loud thump.

Alice was caught by some policemen and led away to face a trial for some unknown offence. On the way she saw a large gathering of people and on enquiry was told that the place was a country called Wonderland, and the people had gathered to see the oath taking ceremony of the Chief Justice of Wonderland.

Now the Chief Justice had to be given oath by the President of Wonderland, but before that could be done the Chief Justice grabbed a golden crown from somewhere and crowned himself (somewhat like Napoleon crowning himself at Notre Dame). The Chief Justice then declared himself the Emperor of Wonderland, a post above the President or Prime Minister.

Thereafter the Chief Justice let loose a reign of terror in Wonderland, somewhat like Judge Jeffries (the ‘hanging’ Judge) in the time of James II. At the slightest opposition he would say “Off with his head”, and lo and behold the head of the objector would fall, whether of Prime Minister of Judge or anyone. The streets of Wonderland were literally littered with heads of High Court Judges, Ministers, etc.

This Chief Justice surrounded himself with worthies who were called Judges and lawyers but were really spoons (chamchas), though in human form. Whatever the Chief Justice would say, the spoons would nod their heads and say “Quite right Your Majesty, Quite right” (following the adage ‘Billee oonth le gayi to haanji haanji kehna’ ). The spoons who were in the form of lawyers got favourable orders from the Chief Justice, about whom they would say, “Chief tere jannisaar, beshumar, beshumar” ( Chief Justice, the people who are prepared to die for you are countless). None of the spoons who were in the form of Judges dared to dissent from the Chief Justice, and hence there was not a single dissenting opinion and all verdicts were unanimous.

Now Wonderland had a Constitution, but the Chief Justice had read somewhere that the Constitution means what the Judges say it means. Since there was only one real Judge in the Supreme Court of Wonderland, that is the Chief Justice himself (since the other so-called Judges were really spoons, who were only supposed to nod their heads), the Chief Justice was of the opinion that the Constitution meant what he thought it meant, and according to his interpretation of the Constitution there was an Emperor in Wonderland, that is himself, who was supreme, above all other authorities or bodies, including the President, Prime Minister, Parliament, etc.

There are several principles of interpretation (as every lawyer knows). The Chief Justice did not have a high opinion of the literal rule, and regarded Judges who followed it as asses. He preferred the purposive rule of interpretation, and his interpretation of the purposive rule was that that interpretation of the law should be followed which served his own purpose.

When Alice was brought for trial to court she was shocked to see the Chief Justice sitting on a chair naked.

This happened because some time earlier two of the spoons who always surrounded the Chief Justice told him that they had prepared beautiful clothes for him, but these could only be seen by upright and intelligent people. In fact these spoons were frauds, and they pretended to put on these invisible clothes on the Chief Justice. All the other spoons assembled there kept saying ‘what beautiful clothes the Chief is wearing’ although in fact he was naked. This they said became they did not want to be branded as dishonest and fools, in which case the verdict on them would be the usual “Off with their heads”. The Chief Justice also did not want the people to think he himself is dishonest or a fool, and he pretended to admire his beautiful clothes, although he was naked.

When Alice saw the Chief Justice she exclaimed in horror “But you have no clothes”, at which the Chief Justice got furious and said “Off with her head”.

Now Alice too got furious and said “This joke has gone on far too long. Off with yours”. At which the people gathered there beheaded the Chief Justice, and now all the spoons are facing trials somewhat like that held at Nuremberg after the Second World War.

T i m e s o f I n d i a
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