In this blog post, Pranav Rudresh, a student of Lloyd Law College, Greater Noida, tries to look into the various factors that contribute to the inefficiency of the judicial system in India.
The Indian judicial system, a part of world’s largest democracy, is very old to follow. Right from the monarchical rule to the British era and the modern system of the independent India, the Indian judicial system has always tried to seek justice for the innocent and punishment for the guilty. The modern day judicial system administers a common law system of legal jurisdiction. The laws are codified, and different types of punishment are given depending upon the crime of the culprit.
Let’s take a look at how the Indian judiciary works. There are various levels of judicial bodies in India. If we look at the hierarchy, it is as follows:
- The Supreme Court.
- The High Courts.
- The District Courts.
- The Village Courts/Panchayats.
All these courts have their jurisdictions and are to follow the laws according to the Constitution of India. It is their duty, as mandated by the Constitution, to be its watchdog. They do so by calling into scrutiny any act of the legislature or the executive, who otherwise, are free to enact or implement these, from overstepping the boundaries set for them by the Constitution. The Indian judicial system is independent from legislative and executive bodies in India.
Let’s now take a look at the functions of the courts as mentioned above and their jurisdictions:
The Supreme Court of India
The Supreme Court of India is the highest judicial body in India, having jurisdiction all over India. It has been established under Part V Chapter VI of the Indian Constitution. It comprises of one Chief Justice and 30 Judges, the selection of whom is done through the collegium system. Article 124-147 of the Indian Constitution describes the working and functions of the Supreme Court of India. The main function of Supreme Court is to review the judgment given by the High Courts; however one can directly file a petition in the Supreme Court, as stated in Article 32 of the Constitution.
The High Court
At present, there are 24 High Courts situated in different states and union territories. The High Courts have their jurisdictions limited to their related states or union territories. According to Article 141 of the Indian Constitution, the High Courts are bound to follow the orders of the Supreme Court and their guidelines. A petitioner can appeal to a High Court as per article 226 of the Constitution. The oldest High Court in India is the Calcutta High Court.
The District Courts of India
The district courts are established by the state governments in a different district of the states depending on the population and number of cases. The high courts act as the watchdog for the functions of district courts in India. The district courts are provided with one district judge and also numerous assistant judges depending upon the workload of the particular court.
Issues with the Indian judicial system
Despite the independence of the judiciary from the executive and legislative bodies, the Indian judicial system faces a lot of problems. We will now discuss a few problems that the Indian judicial system faces.
The major issues that the Indian judicial system faces are:
- The pendency of cases.
- Lack of transparency (particularly in the appointment of judges).
- Under trials of the accused.
- Lack of information and interaction among people and courts.
Let’s now try to elaborate the following points.
The pendency of Cases:
One of the primary issues with the Indian judicial system is the pendency of cases. If the vacancies are filled, pendency would go down and make the justice delivery system efficient. According to a report of 2015, there were close to 400 vacancies for the post of judges in the 24 High Courts of the country. The pending number of cases in the Supreme Court has mounted to around 60,000. There are some 25-30 million cases in various courts. Budget allocation for the judiciary is just 0.2 percent of the GDP. The judge-population ratio is 10.5-11 to one million, which should be at least 50-55 to one million.
A Large number of cases that are pending in the Supreme Court as well as the other lower courts has defeated the purpose of the judicial system. A famous proverb says, ‘justice delayed is justice denied’. Judiciary is no longer attracting the best legal talent because of disparity in the income of bright young lawyers and the emoluments of judicial officers. To attract persons of true potential to the judicial cadre, the system must improve their service conditions, particularly the conditions of the trial court judges.
In general, when the victim is not economically well off, they need to suffer as they are financially weak and hence cannot afford high profile lawyers who can win the case in a limited span of time. Meanwhile, the rich can easily afford expensive lawyers and change the course of dispensation of the justice in their favour (not necessarily true if the lawyer follows ethical standards). This also creates a big blockade for international investors and corporations who want to conduct business operations in India. According to a report, in Mumbai, India’s financial hub, the courts are burdened with age-old land disputes which act as a hurdle to the city’s industrial development. Thus, the pendency of cases and lack of lawyers and judges is a big challenge to the Indian judicial system.
Like the other pillars of democracy, the executive and the legislative, the judiciary too (in some instances) has been found to engage in corruption. There has not been established any system of accountability. In the case of judicial processes, even the media is unable to give a proper and clear picture of the corruption scenario. The media seems to be more focused on exposing corruption in other fields, especially the executive. A minister taking a bribe or distributing money during elections may become a headline, but a courtroom clerk taking a bribe and altering the date of the trial remains unnoticed.
As per the constitutional provision, there is no provision yet for registering an FIR against a judge who has taken bribe without taking the permission of the Chief Justice of India. Obviously, visiting the CJI, seeking his permission, and then registering an FIR is not what a poor man will prefer to do. This will prove to be more expensive and time consuming for him, besides the court and lawyer’s expenses.
The Professional arrogance of the judges whereby judges do not do their homework and arrive at decisions of grave importance while ignoring precedent or judicial principle delays justice and adds to trial’s spam. In 2011, Soumitra Sen, a former judge at the Calcutta High Court became the first judge in the India to be impeached by the Rajya Sabha alleged for misappropriation of funds.
Lack of transparency (particularly in the appointment of judges):
In the recent past, there have been many debates around all over the nation regarding the Collegium system and the new system that the government wants to introduce for the appointment of judges, the NJAC. Well, be it the collegium system or the NJAC, none seem to be transparent enough to make the selection process of judges clear and understandable to the common public. All democracies are swiftly moving toward an open government and a citizen’s right to know — an international trend increasingly being supported by judicial decisions. Further, the right to know is a part of the freedom of speech and expression and the present secretive system, as implemented by the collegium system, violates this fundamental right. The principle of open trials and justice is highly essential for the fair administration of justice.
The current government led by Prime Minister Modi states that the introduction of NJAC shall be more transparency in appointment of judges. The supreme court of India, however, denied the fact and said there is a need for the even higher level of law for the appointment of judges as NJAC is not “perfect.” According to the SC, the bar council was invited to amend the NJAC saying that the committee must comprise of the Chief Justice of India and four senior judges of the supreme court.
Well, let’s say on this matter the government and the supreme court stand face to face, but the fact is still unanswered whether the stated amendment or even the current proposal bring transparency in the selection of judges and make the framework clear to the common public?
Accused under trial:
Another drawback that arises from the above-stated drawbacks is the under trials of the accused. Precisely, for those who have committed a crime, it is OK, but is it fair for an innocent to spend more time in jail just for waiting for his trial? The Indian jails are full of people under trials; they are confined to the jails till their case comes to a definite conclusion. Mostly, they end up spending more time in the jail than the actual term that might have had been awarded to them had the case been decided on a time and, assuming it was decided against them. Moreover, all the expenses, pain and agony that are used by them to defend themselves in courts are worse than serving the actual sentence. Under trials are not guilty till convicted. On the other hand, the rich and powerful people can bring the police to their sides, and the police can harass or silence inconvenienced and poor persons, during the long ordeals in the courts.
Lack of interaction among people and courts:
For any Judiciary to be successful, it is necessary that the general public must know the mechanics of judiciary. The society must participate in the court proceedings. However, it is the duty of public as well to make sure that they are participative enough to have the knowledge related to the judiciary. The law officer and makers must be close to the public and seek their opinion on a particular law or judgments.
There is no doubt upon the credibility of the Indian judiciary system. It is one of the largest judicial systems around the world having a law for almost all sorts of criminal activities. If we look at the history, the Supreme Court, since its inaugural sitting on 28th of January 1950 has delivered over 25000 reported judgments. But the issues of corruption, pending cases, lack of transparency in the judiciary cannot be avoided. Thus if the judicial system removes these backlogs, we might see Indian judicial system as the best judicial system in the world. Also, the faith of the common person in judiciary may be restored before it’s completely lost.
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