It is an open secret that penitent law and delayed justice are the nastiest sorts of tyranny. The India Justice Report recently released provides an extensive exploration of India’s justice system. The report enumerates various interruptions and impediments that prevent the judiciary from reaching its true potential.
Tata Trusts have prepared the report in alliance with the Centre for Social Justice, Common Cause, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, DAKSH, TISS Prayas, and Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy. The encouraging foreword has decorated it by the former Chief Justice of India, Justice M.N.Venkatachaliah.
The report lucidly signposts the obstacles stopping lower courts from delivering their decree. Although Lok Adalats have helped in lowering the workload of courts of law, roughly speaking, 30 million cases are pending in subordinate courts in India.
Unfortunately, the police are understaffed and underequipped. Many women do not reveal their problems to their paralegals, which made legal aid unreachable. Prisons are overcrowded because a large number of convicts are undertrials. Therefore, the report urges that four cogs of the wheels, namely police, judiciary, prisons, and legal assistance, are significant and crucial for the justice system to work in harmony and synchronization.
As per the report, the police department has a vacancy up to 23 percent of capacity. There is a clear indication of regression in filling vacancies even in the reserved category. There is no recognizable tendency in the ratio of emptiness between the constabulary and higher officials.
Even though in the year 2000, the report of the Padmanabhaiah Committee on Police Reforms recommended a 1:4 ratio between higher officers and the constabulary, twenty years later, state governments are nowhere near to that target. Besides, wide variations between states in the police-to-population ratio rub salt on the wound.
The depressing and dismaying fact is that in India, the average jail occupancy is 114 percent of the total capacity of prisons. The statistic clearly expresses volumes about the pendency of cases in our law courts.
Primarily state governments are not placing prisons in their primacy catalog. And prison expenditure remains motionless. Approximately 75 percent of the prison populace consisted of undertrials lodged in jails. The governments also completely failed to execute the plan of the Justice Mulla Committee on jail reforms, which suggested an All India Prison Service improve one of the four ‘pillars’ of the justice system.
The saddening reality is that the judiciary is not yet considered as an elemental public service, unlike health, education, or housing. The governments nosedived to realize that rule of law, and viable expansion largely depends upon the well-performing judiciary.
The many States of India have not embraced assenting action for women judges in its High Courts. The judiciary also does not form a vital part of the budget, and nationally India spends only 0.08 percent of its budget on the judiciary. Due to unfilled jurisdictional posts, the pendency ratio has been augmented in all the States and Union territories.
It is a well-known point that because of the absence of proper training and supervising of legal aid providers, the superiority of legal assistance in India is below the benchmark. It is upsetting that only 15 million people have accessed the legal aid since 1995, although 80 percent of the total population of India is eligible for legal aid.
Several states have not yet established District Legal Services Authorities (DLSAs) in all their judicial districts. And on average, the majority of the States have less than ten Paralegal Volunteers (PLVs) per lakh population. There is also the issue of allocating funds and their optimal utilization.
Overall, the report assembled various particulars and analyzed and paints a grim picture of justice in the nation. It has perfectly highlighted the government’s lack of efficiency and enthusiasm to eradicate chronic issues such as vacancies, outdated legal structures, poor infrastructure, etc. Indeed this has given birth to shortfalls in the judiciary system of India.
Therefore, there is an urgent requirement of an appropriate and apposite authority to tackle these chronic facts. Each pillar must have open systems to scrutinize performance constantly. The government has to resort to the consultative process to handle serious issues, which will help to fabricate short-term and long-term plans of action.
This will also improve the transparency in the system. Otherwise, the statement of Winston Churchill, “the mood and temper of the public regarding the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilization of any country,” will remain true forever.
To conclude, the government cannot take shelter under the reality of ‘justice cannot be instant’ and act lethargically. As we all know that justice delayed is justice denied.
The author is Finance and Tax Adviser, Apex Financial Advisory Services. Views expressed are personal