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Indian Judicial System – What’s wrong with it ?

Recently there was chief justices conference where CJI Tirath Singh Thakur burst into tears while speaking on the current condition of the Indian judicial system.  He was requesting to PM Mr. Narendra Modi, to fill up vacancies in the high courts and the Supreme Court. So you can easily imagine the condition of the judicial system of our country, where chief justice is crying upon its poor condition.

So what impact do these things put on the judicial systems?

Huge List of Pending Court Cases – Due to the over Burdon of judges, it can be easily seen that the pressure is putting a toil on the working ability of the judges. Judges are in huge pressure to deliver the results and to do so they have to hear around 40 Cases each Day. It means that each case will get approximately 15 minutes for each case. Imagine how much details one can give & take in 15 minutes. In India, there are 400,000 inmates, only about a third of who have ever been convicted of a crime. And more than 1,000 have spent five years in jail without ever seeing the inside of a court.   A trip through the Indian legal system is as near to experiencing eternity as a living soul can get. But it’s not just slow. Despite well-written laws and legions of well-intentioned cops, lawyers, judges, and activists, the Indian justice system is abusive, arbitrary, and above all ineffective. The Indian legal system is poorly broken.  The most suitable option available to gain any traction is to make it tougher, or more arbitrary.

The current opinion runs that the death penalty to be made compulsory to rapists, or that juvenile should be tried as adults, the police must be freed from petty concerns about human rights & political influence to strike the fear of law and order into the hearts of criminals.
But, just see the other side of the coin, the picture is not good, actually, it is very bad. According to the National Crime Records Bureau’s annual report Crime in India 2007, between 2003 and 2007 citizens filed 282, 384 complaints of human rights abuses against the police. Of these only 79,000 were investigated; only 1,070 policemen were brought to trial and only 264 — less than one in a thousand — were convicted. All but a handful stayed on at their posts, free to inflict revenge on those who had dared to complain against them.

Judge to Citizen Ratio:  One of the Major reasons for the alarming rates of pendency and delays that are connected with the judiciary is the poor Judge: Citizen Ratio. The ratio currently stands at roughly 13 Judges per million citizens; the global average is about 100. Admittedly, this is not the only contributory factor, but it is a critical one nevertheless.

A 2007 judicial report says that in the last two Five-Year Plans, the budget & resource allocation was 0.071%, 0.078% and in the present Plan it is 0.07 %. With such small allocations for the judiciary, it is not clear how the situation can be improved.

In the meanwhile, the situation keeps deteriorating – not only is pendency rising, roughly 9% of the total cases have been pending for over 10 years and a further 24% cases have been pending for more than 5 years, notes a judicial report.

Efficiency: Another aspect one could consider is using technology and adopting best practices from across the globe, to improve efficiencies & accountability. For instance, there have been multiple recommendations in various judicial panel reports along the following lines:

– Video conferencing facilities to expedite trials and a speedier roll-out of the Information & Communication Technology upgrade measures. This is a very time-saving technique and some of the courts have started to use this facility frequently.

– Examining the merits of Oral vs. Written arguments and other such measures.

– Penalizing defense lawyers who abuse the system and delay proceedings deliberately.

– Laws once instituted, need to be revisited periodically –Most of the IPC laws are in the channel since British’s were in the rule & most of them are irrelevant today and needs to be changed or updated. Loopholes need to be plugged, gray areas addressed and the wording modified.

Manpower pipeline: The situation looks terrible when one ponders a tad on the following:

– It is estimated that India has about 1.2 million registered lawyers. A closer examination reveals that this seemingly large number is completely out of whack with what is needed.  Most of the pass out & fresher lawyers are not ready to start their practice immediately because there is a huge difference between academics and practical knowledge.

– An estimated 70-75% of the law graduates are gravitating towards corporate jobs on account of the higher salaries, perks & lavish lifestyle leading to a situation where, of the nearly 70,000 graduates that India produce annually, a majority end up as solicitors/corporate lawyers while only a handful end up as advocates who practice litigation. Justice

The majority of lawyers in India is lawyers in name alone & do not have quality education & have a big question, about their law degree. Huge no of law colleges does not have qualified & experienced faculties to give valuable educational information to upcoming layers. Most of the fresh law graduates effectively operate as fixers, making their living as affidavit stampers hawking for work outside small claims courts or as notaries.

– What steps has the Bar Council taken to address these issues? What is the Ministry of Law & Justice doing to reverse the trend? What is happening to the recommendations that have been made on multiple occasions by various committees & panels on setting up an Indian Judicial Service along the lines of IAS?

There is a direct correlation between how the legal systems operate and the investor confidence in that country. When law & order situations are good, investors automatically come to the place to put their money &, it impacts the overall economic freedom and human freedom indices.

It is the time for the government to view spends on the Judiciary as an investment, rather than as expenditure? Once we have a more strong judicial system, we can brand ourselves as a human-friendly nation.

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