Are judges above law and not subject to ordinary laws?

Are judges above law and not subject to ordinary laws?

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Is it true that the judges are not subject to the ordinary laws to which we the lesser human beings are subject? Are they above law? Well, if you read this Hindustan Times news, you may also be tempted to believe that judges are above the law. A young IPS officer with two-years service gets a challan issued to the car of a High Court judge which is wrongly parked; the challan is ultimately cancelled, and the IPS officer is transferred out within four days of the incident.

Not everyone is equal before law

Of course, what I am writing here is on the basis of what is reported in the aforesaid news published in the Hindustan Times and I have no personal knowledge of the incident. So, what can be noticed from this news report is that:

  1. The High Court judge is reported to have visited a market area in Ludhiana for shopping along with his family in his official car.
  2. This official car is escorted by an escort vehicle of the police department.
  3. The official car of the High Court judge as well as the escort vehicle are parked at a wrong place, where parking restrictions were imposed.
  4. Obstruction is caused to the public traffic due to this wrong parking.
  5. Seeing such obstruction to the public traffic, a young IPS officer (of 2012 batch) Dhruv Dahiya, who is Assistant Commissioner of Police (North) directed an inspector of police to issue challan to these vehicles.
  6. As a result, a high drama is witnessed on the scene. The newspaper reports that “the judge called up police commissioner Pramod Ban, who then called Dahiya”. It is also reported that several superior officers called ACP Dhruv Dahiya and asked him to cancel the challan.
  7. It is reported that after initial reluctance, ACP Dahiya adhered to these directions and left the spot. This means the challan was cancelled.
  8. Within four days of the incident, the ACP was transferred to the post of Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Dasuya, which was lying vacant. The transfer order stated that he should be relieved on transfer with immediate effect.

The newspaper reports that the challan was cancelled as the escort vehicle of Ludhiana police commissionerate was supposed to have warned the judge’s driver against the wrong parking.

The simple question here is: Who warns a common person when he parks his vehicle at a wrong place? And, is it not true that every day, hundreds or rather thousands of people are challaned for parking their vehicles at wrong places where parking is prohibited? Their challans are not cancelled even when nobody has warned them not to park the vehicles there. The police commissioner does not interfere in all those cases. Of course, the present matter is a special case since some people are above law.

Another relevant question would be: Is it not a well-established principle of law that “ignorance of law is no excuse”? Is it not true that every person, whether literate or illiterate, is supposed to know the law? And, here, “law” includes all the Acts that have been enacted by the Parliament and the State legislatures, as well as a plethora of Rules, Regulations, Bylaws, Orders, etc. issued by various authorities under the authority of law. Therefore, all the traffic restrictions imposed by the competent police authorities under authority of the relevant laws, are also part of the “law” which even an illiterate citizen is supposed to know. And if a person violates these provisions, he is challaned and is required to face the consequences.

Now, if a common person, whether literate or illiterate, is supposed to know the traffic restrictions which are part of the “law”, and if he is not allowed to take a defence that he was ignorant of these provisions of law, how can it be said that the High Court judge or his driver are not supposed to know the “law” in this regard? How can the High Court judge or his driver take a defence that he did not know about the parking restrictions at that place, or that the escort vehicle should have warned him about parking restrictions at that place?

If the aforesaid news report is factually correct (which I have every reason to believe it is), the only and only conclusion that can be drawn is that judges are above law, and that they cannot be subjected to the ordinary provisions of law as any other lesser mortal like us can be. It is pertinent to point out here that, as per the aforesaid news report, the judge was not on official duty and he had visited the said market in Ludhiana for shopping along with his family in his official car.

What lesson the young IPS officer will draw from this incident, that he was made to learn the hard way within about two years of his service? Can we expect that he would maintain the same standards of professionalism and integrity in future, when his own superiors did not support him while he was acting in the honest discharge of his official duties? On the other hand, his superiors decided to support a judge who happened on the wrong side of the law. Not everyone is equal before law.

Meanwhile, it is good to note that some young IPS and IAS officers have shown courage to express their anguish over the transfer of young IPS officer Dhruv Dahiya. See these tweets from some officers:

Disclaimer: Let me assert that I have no intention of scandalising the judiciary by writing this article. Commenting on the apparently wrong conduct of an individual judge is not equivalent to scandalising the judiciary. Let me also assert that I have the highest regards for the judiciary, and it is only because of such respect that one must point out the defects in the conduct of individual judges so that corrections would be made at the right time to maintain the highest standards of judiciary. By sweeping the wrong conduct under the carpet, one cannot improve the image of the judiciary since in that case such conduct will keep on repeating overtly or covertly.

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