Clearing The 3 Crore Backlog Cases By 2012 Is Fine, But Then It Should Come Along With Other Administrative Reforms


As a media house, from the very beginning we have been extremely vocal about the Indian judiciary. For we strongly believe that a poor justice delivery 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, does not hold any value, thanks to the time (read lifetime) it takes. In the given scenario, the decision of the Centre to clear all the pending cases in the Indian judicial system is indeed a bold and welcome move.

By its (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. While in many cases, the petitions have been pending in most of the lower courts, on many other occasions, even after getting a favourable verdict, the common Indian has to again fight it out at a higher level court. And the saga goes on. Sometimes the defendant wins, while at other times the prosecution wins; and this unending trauma continues till the time the case finally (if at all) reaches the Supreme Court and final justice is delivered. Thanks to the years or decades that it takes to execute a case and take it to its culmination, the legal fraternity invariably ends up making a windfall profit. And thanks to the absence of a time bound justice delivery mechanism, making moolah is not at all a challenge for our legal fraternity, as they are quite adept at purposefully making cases hang on for years. The reason is simple. The more the cases lingering on, the better are the chances to squeeze money from the common man. Expediting a case fast would be akin to killing the golden goose!

That’s one side of the injustice. If one has to go by the announcement of the government, by 2012, all the pending cases would be cleared. Liquidating nearly three crore cases in just a matter of three years is going to be a daunting challenge, knowing how the machinery is made to work currently. One fear that would always remain is that in the quest for speeding up the justice delivery, India should not end up delivering injustice. And if that happens, then the chaos that it would create would be more dangerous than the issue of having to deal with three crore pending cases. Indeed, one has to take care of the fact that the rot, which has been purposefully created in the system since years, has to be eliminated in a time bound manner rather than in haste. Yet, even if the Centre ends up in making the impossible possible, there is no guarantee that the predicament of pending court cases would not start spreading again. The only way to solve this issue is by passing statutory laws in the Parliament that would guarantee and typically force the delivery of justice in a timely manner. In developed countries like the US, for petty cases, people filing cases in the morning get justice literally by the evening. Even if India doesn’t end up being so fast, still the concept of having a law that enforces that a case be solved within a stipulated time would be good enough.

Incidentally, the issue of quick delivery of justice is one thing, the fear of law quite another. In India, the prosecution is in most cases very weak, which reduces the chances of getting fair justice for the common man. So, unless several other issues – like witness protection, the freedom to have a prosecutor other than the designated public prosecutor, the corruption in the judicial system and similar such nuances – are taken care of, merely speeding up the delivery of justice would only go on to create a bigger monster rather than a panacea. Another important reform that the judicial system in India needs is that of opening up of the Indian legal service industry to foreign competition. If the Indian consumer can have access to world class technology and medicines, why can’t he have the right to have access to the best legal firms of the world? Such a move would invariably end up making the Indian legal fraternity far more professional than what it is now. Beyond this, it is a fact that judicial reform will have to go hand in hand with administrative reforms. For example, unless the police is given the right kind of legal power, manpower and time to investigate a case, prosecution would continue to end up being weak and succumbing to the pressures of the defence; speedy delivery of justice would surely then become a farce.

All in all, over the years, the judiciary has been engineered to be slow to create a convenient ground to criminalize every aspect of our democracy. As a result, justice delivery has been made so scarce and painful that a majority of citizens have lost faith in it. So the Centre would face two challenges. The first challenge would be to counter those criminals who would try their best to keep the machinery as slow and corrupt as possible. The second challenge for the Centre would be to restore the faith of the common Indian in the judiciary. It goes without saying that both of these have become national imperatives now! So though it has started late, the Centre should still chase this deadline without any compromises, along with making necessary reforms to strengthen the whole judicial system – it could well mark the dawn of a new judicial future...

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