The country’s judiciary has just tended to be featured in the media to an unprecedented extent, mostly for all wrong reasons. While the cancer of corruption in the circle of judges from the lowest courts across the country to the highest court namely the Supreme Court of India is talked about publicly in hushed tones, the feature of inordinate delays in hearing the law suits and delivering judgements, even in criminal cases such as rape and cold-blooded murders seems to have robbed the land’s judiciary of its respectability, trust and impartiality, not to forget transparency in court proceedings. The number of law suits of all types pending in the system has reportedly crossed three crores and counting. In addition, the country’s prisons are hosting undertrials out-counting the convicts threefold or so. The saying Justice delayed is justice denied, attributed to the British Statesman and former Prime Minister of United Kingdom William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898) and the related view of British writer and advocate of democracy William Penn (1644-1718) namely To delay justice is injustice briefly yet comprehensively portrays the pitiable plight of the litigants, may not be of the criminals with charges proven.
The urban literati too suffers from illiteracy of both the laws of the country and the nuances of court procedures. Further, the rural sections of the country’s population, accounting for more than 60 percent of the total headcount face the obstacle of literacy in general, not to speak of literacy of law.
The land’s lawyer fraternity of yesteryears had earned a niche for themselves and the profession by setting highest standards of legal practice, apart from playing a stellar role in freedom movement taking the top brass of the colonial rulers head-on. India’s traditional Panchayats, excepting the caste Panchayats (Khap), too enjoyed the trust of people at large by their ways of ensuring social justice. These time-honoured features of delivering unalloyed justice to all doesn’t seem to have endured at present times: A Kannada proverb cautions people on the unwise attitude of approaching the court at the drop of a hat, given the exorbitant cost of getting disputes involving property resolved through the courts. Civil suits taking decades before the final judgement are the butt of ridicule, and now that seems to be bugging even criminal cases of serious nature.
A three-judge Bench of the land’s Apex Court has said that the cause of justice is paramount, adding that the basic ingredients of fairness must be borne in mind. Many would rate the view as mere platitude in the face of side-lining speed in expediting court trials, leaving the litigants and those facing criminal allegations in lurch.