Millennium Post

Justice delayed is justice denied

Massive scams, election booth rigging through muscle power, murders in broad daylight and rapes of women on streets, in complete disregard of law and almost daring it... each of these is possible continuously and blatantly only due to one reason – the paralysed judiciary of our country. The average case takes about two decades to be solved and the person fighting for his rights is killed by our judicial system in any case unless he dies in reality as well.

As a media house, from the very beginning, we have been extremely vocal about the Indian judiciary – and that’s why we have also started our bimonthly supplement of Governance Watch with a special focus on the judiciary. We strongly believe that a poor justice delivery mechanism has been the root cause of most of our problems. It goes without saying that India has a weak, or rather a limping justice delivery system, which makes sure that justice is denied in most cases; and even if delivered, it does not hold any value, thanks to the time (read lifetime) it takes to be delivered. By the Centre’s own admission, there is a staggering number of nearly three crore court cases pending at several stages in different courts of India. This situation is a deliberate creation of our successive governments to make the rule of criminals, the corrupt and the rapists of all other varieties easy. And thanks to the years or decades that it takes to execute a case and to take it to its culmination, even the legal fraternity invariably ends up making a windfall profit.

Thus, though I totally empathise with the fury over the police, the chief minister, the home minister and the emotionally charged demand for castration and death, the real fact is that all that we must demand for – as activists against corruption (like Arvind Kejriwal) and as activists against rape – is a total overhaul of the existing judicial system. There are two key things that the government must address for this. The first is to increase the number of our judges to about ten times the current figure. If we are to try and achieve such standards, we need to have an additional 100,000 judges or so. The figure seems huge, but is surely achievable; and in a span of five years too. Therefore, to have 20,000 additional judges per year, we have to budget for approximately Rs.6,000 crores per year additionally, assuming that the expenses around a judge and his office assistants put together would be (and is actually definitely) not more than Rs. 30,00,000 per year. It’s a shame to see budgets being passed year after year with no focus on the judicial machinery and with no substantive budgets being allocated for improving the said system. The second thing the government must do is to pass a statutory law in the Parliament that would guarantee and typically force the delivery of justice in a timely manner. In developed countries like US, for petty cases, people filing cases in the morning get justice literally by the evening. And we’re not alien to such strictures – for example, income tax cases in India, at least at the assessing officer levels, must be adjudged within a stipulated predefined time by law.

Yes, while I am critical, I must admit that of late, to me personally, our Law Ministry has been doing relatively good and so has been our judiciary. The honorable Supreme Court of India has been displaying a proactive behavior with respect to burning social and political issues. The decisions taken by the Supreme Court since the last year or so are in the areas that largely come under the ambit of the executive and not the courts per se – almost akin to ethical hacking. The judiciary, for that matter, was designed to oversee incidents breaching the law and not to spearhead the law implementation operandi.

Actually, under our ex-Minister for Law and Justice, Veerappa Moily, the entire judicial machinery was being overhauled. By facilitating the release of 7.5 lakh petty offenders languishing in prison for years – their only crime being that they were poor – Moily at least did what no other Law Minister before him had done. His heart looked to be at the right place. His vision to take care of pending court cases was yet to be realised – and then he was shifted out of the Ministry. Salman Khurshid thereafter came and went. The situation remains quite a constant. I await a Law Minister or a Chief Justice similar to former Election Commissioner T N Seshan or current Comptroller and Auditor General of India Vinod Rai to come and take immediate actions on the lines proposed above and show that if one man wants, India can be a better place for its citizens and women on the streets. Else, the unfortunate truth will remain that in a fair trial of this rape case, the final verdict should indict the paralysed courts of India along with the rapists themselves – for it is they who are facilitating the blatant and shameless rape of India and its women.

Arindam Chaudhuri is a management guru and director of IIPM Think Tank
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