The original title of the play is SHANTATA! COURT CHALU AHE. The words of the title are very common in law courts where the honourable judges pronounce the words to bring back order and decorum if the parties concerned or the mob present in the court become unruly or create chaos and commotion. In other words the very words SILENCE THE COURT IS IN SESSION indicate the absolute authority of the judge in the court room to decide upon the manners of others. The judge has also the final authority to pronounce contempt of court in case of breach of discipline.
In a civilized society the court system is in vogue for the sake of justice. The judiciary is considered to be one of the four main pillars of democracy. In the present play Vijay Tendulkar chooses a term of judicial register as the title of his play to make a powerful comment on a society with a heavy patriarchal bias that makes justice impossible and that converts the august judicial system into an instrument of oppression of women and the vulnerable. Ideally justice can be provided only if the judge and the judicial system are objectively detached.
But the same objective detachment can become the face of a very repressive and dehumanized system if the persons involved in the process of justice are themselves devoid of human value and compassion. In the present play we find how Benare becomes the victim of sadism of his male counterparts. The audience is made to witness a mere enactment of what is a rehearsal of sorts of a mock-trial to be staged later in the day. But what begins as a harmless game begins to assume a grim aspect before long. At first all the characters vie to be the accused in the mock-trial.
Then, on Sukhatme’s suggestion they decide to make Benare the accused. It is notable that Benare is allotted the role of accused in her absence. As soon as Benare enters the room singing, and wiping her face on the towel, she is caught unaware by Ponkshe,”Miss Leela Benare , you have been arrested on suspicion of a crime of an extremely grave nature, and brought as a prisoner before the bar of this court. ” Kashikar, assuming the role of the judge accuses Benare of the crime of infanticide. The way Benare is made the accused without her consent shows the functioning of the patriarchal system.
It is as if a woman is perpetually on the dock, under the judicious gaze of a patriarchal society. The accusations against Benare are based partly on conjecture, partly on hearsay. It is suspected that she is a coquette and that she has an illicit love affair with Prof. Damle, whose son she is bearing. Even Samante who is innocent and ignorant reads out a passage from a novel and the details seem to fit Benare’s case. What begins as a game evolves into a hunt. Benare is the quarry and the group, accuser and judge rolled into one. Kashikar, the judge, comes down to the witness-box to participate vigorously in this woman-hunt.
Mrs. Kashikar, despite being a woman takes side with the sadist and hypocrite men. It is indeed an irony that a woman becomes the enemy of woman. All present with the exception of Samante bring out their personal equations like fangs. They defend their evil in the name of social justice, ideologies and tradition. The sentence meted out to her is savage. The infant in her womb must be destroyed and she must be dismissed from her job all in the name of purifying the society and glorifying the lofty ideals of motherhood. There is no mention of the ? intellectual’ who abandoned her, the absent Damle.
When Benare wants to protest she is ordered to be silent because the court is in session. Again when she keeps silent she is ordered to break the silence in the name of law and threatened with contempt of court. When she wants to leave Ponkshe blocks her way Mrs. Kashikar, catching hold of her drags her to the dock. Everyone relishes her victimization. She is driven to despair and attempts suicide. In such a grim scenario, every word of the title SILENCE THE COURT IS IN SESSION assumes symbolic significance. The word “silence’ symbolizes the patriarchal conspiracy to silence the voice of woman in the name of social justice and ideology.
The word ? court’ symbolizes a repressive system sanctioned by the state. The “court” is perhaps also the symbol of an attitude to judge, that pretends to be concerned of the greatest benefit of mankind, yet terribly lacks in humanitarian value and has a typical patriarchal mindset. The phrase ? in session’ represents the prevalent social structure which is biased against women. The title evokes legal sense. The writer, perhaps, uses it in an ironic sense to show how dry law devoid of any humane feelings is not adequate protection for vulnerable citizens to provide justice.