A Padma for the prosecutor: Casting prejudices in stones

A Padma for the prosecutor
Sandeep Joshi

IN the feudal times, kings and monarchs were known to reward with royal honours those whose loyalty and performance they approved of. The modern democratic state, too, carries in its copious bag of tricks a number of medals and awards that it hands out to a handful of citizens. The award of state honours is not a matter of simple choice. When a regime singles out individuals for state honours, in a way, it identifies itself with the performances, preferences and prejudices of those selected. The Padma awards, our republican version of the Queen’s Honours List, too, carry with them a sense of approval and appreciation of the honoured individual’s presumed achievement. No Padma list is ever perfect. Nor can it be. A Padma list reflects choices made — or, not made by a government, which in turn is a political arrangement. This year, too, on the eve of Republic Day as many as 83 men and women were picked for the Padma honours. As in the previous years, the awards reflected the incumbent government’s sense of affiliation and solidarity with those on the list. However, there is one name among the 83 awardees that particularly demands attention because it is as revealing as it is disquieting. Ujjwal Nikam gets the Padma Shri in the public affairs category. Nikam is a lawyer for the state of Maharashtra. There is no doubt that he is an accomplished legal hand and that he has a natural courtcraft, an asset that eludes very many in the world of lawyers and judges. But he is no legal luminary. He is not an MC Setalvad nor a CK Daphtary nor a Fali Nariman. Nikam is a very public prosecutor, seeking vengeance on behalf of the State against those who defy the magistracy of the law. In a society that normally cheers those who stand by and seek insaaf for the underdog, Nikam stands for punishment to one and all. Severe and harsh. An equivalent of the ‘hanging judge’. As a public prosecutor, he demands, loudly and insistently, vengeance and retribution on our collective .. (read more)

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