Who cares if ‘justice delayed is justice denied’?

Justice delayed is justice denied – as the famous saying goes. But is ‘Justice delayed’ considered a sin loaded with appropriate punishment? Obviously,this is not done in any modern society,although we all wax eloquent on the importance of speedy justice. It is in this background that I found it extremely interesting to read a story from Valmiki Ramayana. This is narrated by Rama himself to Lakshmana after the former’s return to Ayodhya and coronation. It is the story of King Nrga well known for his respect for Truth and devotion to Brahmanas who were considered as representatives of gods in those days. Once he happened to gift away a cow to a Brahmana,not knowing that the same belonged to another poor Brahmana whose livelihood depended on that. The poor owner of the cow went about searching all over the kingdom untill he finally stumbled on his cow, already in the posession of the other Brahmana. Natuarally a dispute arose between the two Brahmanas with each one of them staking his rightful claim over the cow. Finally they decided to seek justice from the King Nrga himself and reached his palace. They kept waiting outside the royal gate indefinitely but could not manage to get the audience of the king. Having got frustrated and angry, the brahmanas cursed the king to turn into a lizard and the king had to suffer the ignominy for a long period of time for having committed a sin of delaying or denying justice.

In a related story involving Rama himself,a dog went to the royal palace and the king(Rama)instantly gave audience to the dog. The dog complained to Rama about a Brahmana who beat it up in a fit of anger provoked by extreme hunger. Apparently the Brahmana’s way was blocked by the dog as the former was out on his daily routine seeking alms. The Brahmana was irritated and beat it up as the appropriate time for begging was coming to an end. The injured dog wanted justice from the king. The assembled sages opined that a punishment could not be given to a Brahmana especially for such a trivial sin. But the dog insisted that he was only seeking a mild punishment – namely that the Brahmana be appointed as a KULAPATI(head of a ‘mutt’). Every one gathered in the assembly hall was surprised as they felt it was a boon and not a punishment. Rama,however,acceded to the demand of the dog. The dog then explained that he himself was a KULAPATI in his previous birth and elaborated on the evils associated with being a KULAPATI.

The stories above clearly establish the concept of accountability extending up to the highest level during the ancient times. No one was above law including the kings. Due to the built-in system of reward and punishment,kings were abundantly cautious and made sure that justice was not denied or delayed even to the lowliest of the lowly creatures inhabiting their kingdom. Since the modern societies don’t have a system of punishment for denying or delaying justice,we only talk eloquently about speedy delivery of justice without bothering about actual implementation!
The final twist in the story where the dog wanted that the Brahmana be appointed as KULAPATI also points to the same principle of accountability. Like all positions of power,a KULAPATI is also likely to commit sins in an unguarded moment and,of course, pay the price for the same!

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Published in: on May 8, 2010 at 10:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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