Sunday, July 04, 2010
Bringing judgements to the public
George Johnson brings out two journals highlighting the latest Kerala High Court and Supreme Court judgements. He is also a publisher of law books
By Shevlin Sebastian
One day Justice S.S. Satheesachandran called George Johnson, the editor-owner of 'Complete Kerala High Court Cases' and 'Kerala Law Decision'. “He told me that I had not published the correct version of a recent judgement by him,” says Johnson.
Johnson replied that he had downloaded the judgement from the Kerala High Court website. Later, it was discovered that the judge’s stenographer had uploaded the uncorrected version.
“Because of this incident, I always check the online judgement with the printed copy that I get from the High Court,” says Johnson.
Johnson's two journals – a weekly and a fortnightly of 100 pages each -- are avidly read by lawyers, litigants, judges, district magistrates, munsifs, clerks, and members of law firms and legal cells of companies. The magazines publish the latest judgements of the Kerala High Court as well as the Supreme Court.
It is not an easy task. On an average, there are about 40 judgements every week. Some can be 600 pages long, while others are between 100 to 150 pages. “I go through every judgement and decide whether we should publish or not,” he says. "It can be a strain, at times, because I am simultaneously bringing out two journals. But some of the cases are very interesting."
Recently, there was a suit regarding the custody of the child, belonging to divorced parents, during the vacation. “No court had given a definition of a vacation, in the context of custody,” says Johnson. “Justice R. Basant said that if there is a holiday for seven or more days, it can be defined as a vacation.”
But Johnson says the most far-reaching judgement of recent times was the one by Justice V.K. Bali on the Professional Colleges Institutions Act, 2006.
Soon after the LDF government came into power, they made a law regulating the fees structure and admission procedures of self-financing colleges.
“The Act had many provisions which went against the Constitution,” says Johnson. “The legislators probably knew about this. But since they gave a promise to the people, they passed the law.”
Predictably enough, the private college managements filed a suit. Eventually, the Kerala High Court struck down the key provisions. “It created a lot of controversy,” says Johnson. “The LDF said that the judge was taking the side of the management and was against the people. But Judge Bali had made a great judgement.”
It is, indeed, a great judgement, but it takes so much time for cases to get settled, thanks to the huge backlog. “The main reason for this is because a large number of new cases are filed every year,” says Johnson.
In 2000, it was only 18,000. In 2009, it was 70,000. “Sadly, despite this, the number of judges and courts have not increased at all,” says Johnson.
In recent times, what has upset Johnson is the constant attacks on the judiciary by the people, especially when the judgement goes against them. “In the ruling on regulating roadside meetings, CPI(M) leader M.V. Jayarajan attacked the division bench of the Kerala High Court, calling the judges ‘idiots’, even before reading the judgement,” he says.
Meanwhile, when he is not bringing out his journals, Johnson is busy publishing law books.
“So far, my brother, Dominic and I have brought out 60 titles,” he says. They include books like ‘Manual of Electricity Laws in Kerala’, ‘Protection of Women from Domestic Violence’, and ‘Rent Control Laws’.
This is an inheritance. His father, the late M.V. Johnson, was a publisher who started three book shops in Kochi: Law Books Centre, Law Book Shop, and Law Books Avenue. “Advocates need to be up to date, because the laws keep changing,” says Johnson. “So, they have to keep reading all the time. Most of them express their appreciation to me.”
Once, Johnson had gone to meet Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer. He wanted the judge to write a forward for the book, ‘Code of Civil Procedure’. When the justice heard that Johnson was a qualified lawyer, he said, “There is no point in crowding the Bar. What you are doing is far more worthwhile.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi)