Whether the umpteen trials against terrorist groups, cases of citizen crimes and murder, pending litigation over business disputes or worse, corruption charges on judges themselves, Indian judiciary has been found guilty of glaring inaction and dismal unaccountability. India is believed to be sitting on a pile of over 3.5 crore pending cases. And there’s great action in needless areas - especially the incessant flow of Public Interest Litigations (PILs) that get filed without rhyme or reason. PILs have become more of a joke than a weapon in the hands of the common man.
From a business and industry perspective alone, the judicial failures have been most detrimental to the prospects of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The Vodafone and Vedanta cases or the 3G and Commonwealth scams - these are only a few instances of intermittent inordinate delays, political nuisance, cabinet ping pongs and intermittent verdicts. The absence of competent ministerial authorities at the top coupled with an inept bureaucracy has invariably affected the quality of judgment in each of these cases.
Apart from quality, quantity is also an issue. India is believed to have only around 10 judges for a million people in stark contrast to the 150 that United States has for the million of its population. There are glaring vacancies too that India yet fights to fill. Lack of adequate salaries is only one of the reasons why Indian legal system cannot retain the cream of the talent that goes westwards or works for private players in search of greener pastures.
At the grassroots, judicial services are still not accessible and cost-effective to the common man. With lack of direct access, the huge middlemen involvement - the main culprit for rampant disorder and corruption - gets a big boost. The result is for all of us to see.
While the hue and cry over the proposed Lokpal bill continues, the Government of India needs to take immediate positive action to reinstate the common man’s losing faith in the judicial system. While the uphill task is easier said than done, some measures seem only logical like the unprejudiced appointment of judges through neutral bodies, imposing penalties for inordinate judgment delays and the use of technology in case tracking and redressal (taking a cue from the gainful use of technology in making decision on contentious issues in the world of Sport)
It’s only the clichéd question of ‘will’ finding its way. Till such time, we continue to hear the judicial hammer forcibly demanding order in an environment of disorder.