Men may come and men may go, but court cases go on forever!

01 DEC 2014

court cases go on forever

   A murder took place in India in 1975. The charges were filed six years later, and the final arguments began after 37 years. The verdict was passed by the court in 2014, after almost 40 years. In the intervening period, one of the accused and several witnesses had passed away. The murder victim was Lalit Narayan Mishra, Minister of Railways in the government of India from 1973 to 1975. This is the justice delivery system in India.

Court cases outlive judges, lawyers and litigants. There is one property dispute which has been awaiting settlement since 1878!

Did you know that India, the world’s largest democracy, ranks 78th in civil justice administration? This low ranking in the ‘Rule of Law Index’, given by World Justice Project (a non-profit organization based in Washington), is considered to be due to court congestion, delay in processing cases and delayed enforcement of court verdicts.

However, people who have had even a small experience of actually being involved in litigation insist that the ranking of 78 is very much on the high side, and that it should really be closer to the very bottom!

The courts – and the election commission – are the pillars and the guardians of democracy. When people do not trust the election process, democracy cannot function. And when the courts are functioning in a way by which people shy away from courts, democracy cannot survive. As citizens we should be concerned, and gravely too, about a justice system that moves so slowly that it is no longer just. When justice is delayed, and therefore denied, the result is chaotic.

We only hope that this does not become a mass issue like corruption and people do not rise, as they did recently, as a mass in the streets to get a solution to this grave problem. We hope that all concerned with this issue and accountable for an effective delivery of justice to people do not keep quiet any longer. The periodic rhetoric that comes out from the people involved in and accountable for timely delivery of justice to the people, at some talk or seminar, is certainly not the solution to the problem. What is needed is Action- and urgent one at that.

Should we get the people concerned to act fast or let this critical system in a democracy to die a natural death at least in the minds of the people of India?

When the courts grind to a halt, a vital pillar of democracy begins to crumble, with disastrous consequences.

Some gloomy signs of these consequences are already visible:

Many people have stopped going to the courts to seek justice, which amounts to simply ignoring the existence of the justice delivery system. This is equivalent to people boycotting elections to the state and central legislatures in the country.

Some people find that the only workable option is to bribe their way to a speedy resolution of the cases they are involved in.

Some financially weak litigants accept unfair compromises to close cases.

Some people seek the intervention of underworld crooks to enforce one-sided out-of-court settlements.

Some people brazenly break the law, knowing all too well that the justice system will never catch up with them.

The courts can easily get back to delivering justice swiftly instead of stifling it slowly. What is needed is a little help from ‘out-of-the-box’

I am from out-of-the-box. I am not a lawyer, but I have interacted with many exceptional lawyers. I am not a judge, but I have had the privilege of hearing many exceptional judges. However, I have often been a litigant, but have seldom seen the closure of a case.

Like most citizens, I believe in this country and I have faith in the purpose of its institutions. I cannot watch idly as the pillars of these institutions decay. So, I have a few suggestions on how India’s justice delivery system can quickly deliver the justice that it has been constituted to deliver. My suggestions will be made in the articles that will follow shortly.

The courts must invite us, not frighten us. They are temples, of justice.

One affected indian Bakra/bakri in the service of the people of India.

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