Vol. 4 Num 36 Wed. July 02, 2003  

Errant traffic police behaviour
Our judges must be given the highest respect
The incident in which a judge of the High Court found himself at odds with a gross violation of behavioural norms on the part of on-duty traffic sergeants has to be viewed in the broader perspective of a culture of disrespect. What is at stake is the dignity of the judiciary.

The judge himself complained that his car at a busy intersection in the city was stopped by a traffic sergeant to allow the vehicle of a police officer to pass by. The traffic sergeants not only violated the official warrant of precedence but also waxed arrogant not to apologise to the judge even after he pointed at the flag that spoke his identity. That was objectionable behaviour at its worst, for the flag symbolised the highest judiciary, a time-honoured, sacrosanct public institution. The errant traffic sergeants, through their failure to show due respect to the judge, undermined the judiciary in public eye.

Clearly, the norms and decorum that once formed the basis of the behaviour insofar as government functionaries were thrown to the four winds in this particular case. When it comes to the law enforcers, adherence to set behavioural standards, should be a matter of paramount importance and necessity.

Two of the five traffic police officers have been exonerated of the charges, but legal proceedings are on against three. Obviously, the law has to take stand against those undermining the high institution of judiciary.

The dignity and importance attached to the judiciary and the judges have evolved over time. The righteous assertion of the judge on an issue that undermined the position of the judiciary must be taken note of, because it has brought into focus how the standing of the judiciary was lowered by none other than the law enforcers themselves.

The lesson to be learned here is that society cannot afford to compromise on the position of an exalted institution.