Saturday, September 14, 2013

Many problems - One solution

There are many problems that we face every day – corruption at all levels, excessive and lethargic bureaucracy, apathy of the people in power, no system of readressal of the citizen’s grievances, lawlessness and increasing crime rates – most of these can be addressed in one stroke – by improving our judicial system. Sounds too simple, isn’t it? Let me explain.

Courts are meant to play a very important role in the society – that of the last arbitrator. Any person who has been wronged or thinks he has been wronged can approach the court to set things right. Currently only people who suffer grave injustice go to the courts for justice. And they normally suffer even more. Over 3 crore court cases are pending in the country today – most of them (2.7 cr) are in the lower courts and 40 lac pending cases in the 21 High courts of the country and about 60,000 cases in the Supreme Court (it also has the best track record in disposing cases).  

These high number of pending cases serve a triple whammy – on one hand the people who are wronged do not get justice and at the same time many suspects end up suffering more time in jails as the courts can’t decide if they are guilty or not. All this while their dependents spend their life in utter misery as a lot of money and productive time is spent in the visits to the courts amidst frequent adjournments and the wait for the hearings to get over. Companies or individuals who get into agreements are not sure if the terms of the agreement are not followed then whom to approach – courts are generally avoided for the delays involved. 

Famous movies have been made on the inordinate delays faced by the common man when they approach the courts for justice. Today the law abiding and fearing citizens are afraid of both the law enforcement agencies and the courts. Traditionally courts in India have delivered some landmark judgements and have kept our politicians and the corrupt in check. Look at all the scams which have troubled the UPA II government – almost all of them were brought to light by the Supreme Court The CAG and SC are the only two institutions who the government (rightfully) fears today. They are one of the few institutions of the country who are respected and seen to be fair and independent in their approach. Why then are so many cases pending. Maybe no one notices. Or people notice and don’t care. It is not too difficult to unclog the arteries of our judicial system by –

·         Filling up all the vacant posts of judges in the courts
·         Making a framework o a timeline within which a case needs to be decided – cases should not get dragged forever
·         Setting up of fast track courts for cases like cheque bounce and other such cases
·         Increasing the number of judges - India has only 18,000 judges at the subordinate level, which comes up to about 13 judges per million. This is against 50 judges per million in developed countries and 35-40 in some developing countries.

If the courts function properly deliver justice within an acceptable time frame, all the wrongs that i mentioned in the opening paragraph can get corrected. After all, the thought that all wrongdoing will be punished will work well as a preventive mechanism against crime in most cases. The law enforcement agencies who choose to bungle up cases of the powerful will be held to account and so will the politicians who make laws favouring them or the privileged few. Public service departments will be required to do their jobs. Contractors who cause death due to negligence will be held accountable. The land shark who commits fraud to grab more land will need to follow the law. The builders who construct more than allowed and sell the same to hapless citizens will not be allowed to go scot free. Adulteration will not be tolerated. Rapists and murderers will not be roaming free on the streets. Hooligans will have fear in their heart. Drivers who are convicted of killing people on the road will not be allowed to drive again. Promoters of companies who commit fraud will spend the rest of their lives in jail and not enjoy the fruits of their exploits. People will generally not take the law into their own hands as they will be sure of getting justice.

Everyone knows that justice delayed is justice denied – what I hope is that enough is done to ensure that the delayed (and hence denied) part is addressed immediately. Come to think of it – there is indeed a simple solution to many problems. In fact if this is taken up as a poll promise it will reap rich electoral dividends as this issue affects all citizens of this country – both directly and indirectly.

Next week – What can we learn from other religions

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