Justice Withheld With Impunity
The Indian Judiciary, as a result of falling woefully short in fulfilling its commitment of providing timely justice to the nation’s seekers, has rightfully found itself at the receiving end of extensive ridicule from the public in recent times.
Ex-CJI Dipak Misra took cognizance of this fact in 2018 and declared that the Indian Judiciary is languishing with more than 3 crore court cases in pendency. The subordinate courts reigned supreme in this arena for inefficiency chalking up more than 2.84 crores pending cases while the high courts clocked in a massive 43 lakh cases in waiting. Even the apex institution of the country, the Supreme Court, shockingly parented a backlog of about 57,987 cases.
Another Ex-CJI, Ranjan Gogoi, who famously delivered the verdict on the centuries-old contentious Ram Temple issue in Ayodhya, alluded to yet another disconcerting fact about the state of the Indian Judiciary in 2019 wherein he declared that more than 1,000 cases throughout India have been pending for more than 50 years; more than 2 lakh cases have been hung out to dry for more than 25 years.
This problem of undelivered justice, as of today, appears to be insurmountable owing to the short-handedness of the judiciary. Around 21,000 sitting judges exist in India today which brings the judge-to-population ratio to a dispiriting total of 10.5 to 1 million. This falls well short of the recommendations made by the Law Commission in 1987 which had suggested a ratio of 50 to 1 million to ensure proper functionality. Putting the recommendations made by the Law Commission in accordance with the population of that time in context with 2020 and the massive rise in population of more than 35 crores from 1987 according to figures from the World Bank, we find ourselves looking down an abyss.
Every single government has failed to recognize the magnitude of this problem let alone take action on it. According to the findings made by the India Justice Report, the country spends less than 1% of its budgetary allocation on the judiciary despite it being in dire need of resuscitation from its comatose state.
The blame game has been and can continue to be played until the end of time when discussing this problem, from the public blaming the red-tapism of the judiciary to the judiciary blaming the apathetic approach of the executive to the executive having reservations about the inclinations of judges and implicitly citing that as the reason for delaying appointments of judges to higher courts resulting in an eternal finger-pointing game between different bodies and groups, none of which is bringing us any closer to getting out of this problem.
This state of suspended animation provides absolutely no favours to the common man tired of making the rounds of courts, police stations, and offices. The phrase, “I rest my case,” has garnered an altogether different connotation to it because of this, where the case is eternally put into rest by the judiciary instead of being acted upon.
It is these facts which unsurprisingly make the overwhelming majority of the people in the country cheer for the Telangana Police Encounter which prima-facie was labelled to be “extrajudicial” leading to the Supreme Court ordering a probe into it.
However, the labelling proved to have had no detrimental effect on the public’s perception of the city police, as the country all over lauded VC Sajjanar, Commissioner of Police of Cyberabad, also in-charge of law and order in the areas surrounding Hyderabad, for “delivering justice,” a duty which the people disbelieved the courts were capable of doing in due course of time.
It is baffling as to how the various authoritative bodies of the nation failed to read the pulse of the nation which was made evident by the aforementioned incident and took no steps to address it let alone work towards a goal that would nullify the cause for that to happen again.
If the measures essential for the swift revival of the judiciary are not undertaken in the near future by all bodies who have the wherewithal to make a difference, we could be looking at an India where the public rewards bodies of people who are not assigned by the Constitution to pass judgments on the innocence or guilt of an individual but who still do due to the inefficiency of the body whose job it originally is, which may inevitably lead to the formation of ‘Kangaroo Courts’ nationwide.
The country has been put through these testing conditions for a prolonged period of time now and the chinks in the armour of the people’s ability to endure and tolerate the virtual lawlessness is showing. It is imperative for the bodies in question to look at this and also hear the desperate clarion calls made by the common people of India for reviving the rule of justice or risk standing guilty in the people’s court.
(The author is in a Post Graduate Diploma Programme In Communication (PGDPC) and a Master Of Arts (M.A) from The Delhi School of Communication. The views expressed are his own.)