Being incorrigibly optimistic, I would say - Yes, in a democratic country like India, everyone is equal in the eyes of law and ideally there is no bias on any basis while dispensing justice. Moreover India being the world's largest democracy, if the poor cannot access justice here then where? The rhetoric is yet another assertion of the fact that justice for all is the principle of governments that are of the people and for the people.
However the recent film 'Manjhi' based on 'Dashrath Manjhi' the man who devoted his life to the daunting task of leveling the mountain to connect his village (Gehlaur) near Gaya in Bihar, to the main town and thereby ensuring the village an easier access to the town and that medical help was within reach in times of emergency.
The film highlighted the conditions of abject poverty where people lived in bondage, oppressed by evils like castecism, no security of food or shelter and owning a petty object like a pillow was a luxury beyond their reach. The agony and pain of poverty depicted therein fills one with distress and yet the ones at the receiving end survived by sheer fortitude and strength to smile in the face of adversity.
The question here is not whether the poor can expect a fair judgment or not, but whether there is any consideration at all for their case. There was this one man who single handedly using only the hammer and chisel took the responsibility to create a path through the mountain, which factually was the responsibility of the government. There was no support from the concerned authorities even after the case was brought to their notice. When the prime minister sanctioned money for the work it was quickly gobbled up by the corrupt officials and other intermediaries. Is the sanction of funds sufficient? Is their no obligation to monitor or follow up a project to its completion? Was this justice?
Or was it justice when atrocities were committed on the weak and oppressed in the name of castecism even after it had been abolished by law? Or was it fair when simple villagers were forced to take the law in their hands? And would they have done that if they had faith in the judicial system?
Well, this is not an over reaction to the documentary of 'The Mountain Man', rather a realization that the situation has not changed much for the poor even today. Being homeless, in metropolis not only exposes them to inclemencies of weather but also to the violence of the worst kind. What kind of justice can they hope for when they lie, unprotected, unshielded by law and a callous celebrity speeds over them under the effect of alcohol while they are asleep on the pavements.
There are certain sections of the society that even after sixty eight years of independence has no access to clean drinking water, and have no security of food or shelter. The denial of these basic rights renders all talks of fair judgment meaningless.
It is the poor that are the most vulnerable and are exposed to violence of the worst kind, both criminal and common, child labor, exploitation, sex trafficking, no security and enjoy no benefits as citizens of a democratic nation.
Contemplating on the probability of expecting a fair, judgment is like putting the cart before the horse. First and the foremost their appeal for restoration of their humanitarian rights and their citizen rights has to be acknowledged. Poverty creates circumstances conducive to the perpetuation of oppression, exploitation, illiteracy, child labor, malnutrition and ignorance about their basic rights and sets up a vicious cycle where the consequences ensure that their states as people below the poverty line or at the border line does not change.
This desperate situation demands desperate remedies. The issues like creating livelihood opportunities and making arrangement for meaningful education for all need to be taken up simultaneously and more vigorously. Our concern for justice for the poor should not be limited to discussions and debates, for solving a problem requires appropriate action.
Each one of us should come forward to help; in whatever capacity we can (pushing ourselves a wee bit out of our comfort zones) and impart our duties towards our less fortunate brethren. Ethically we all owe them this obligation.