Today, everyone seeks justice, but not everyone receives it. While one cannot buy happiness in today’s world, one can definitely buy justice. On witnessing scams and frauds where the criminals roam around casually without any fear of getting caught, the question that arises is that is the lady of justice really blindfolded? Justice has become a fancy product and the so-called ‘protectors of justice’, our own black-robed men, have become its salesmen. The bulkier your bundle, the speedier your case. Under the liberalization, globalization, privatization era, what crimes should receive is effective action but all they get are quick reactions which spread like wildfire on social media.
“The independence and impartiality of the judiciary are the hallmarks of the democratic system of the government.”
Judiciary is the reflection of absolute honesty, reliability, and unbiasedness but today this system has been mired in a variety of problems. It has become excruciatingly slow, understaffed and ponderous. Corruption has been successful in penetrating through all the levels of bureaucracy, and it would not be wrong to say that our judiciary has been affected by it. Our judiciary is also periled with low resource allocation. Bribery and perjury have become two poles on which justice tries to balance itself. Where would the common people go, if the people who are responsible for maintaining justice themselves are corrupted and land up doing injustice? False affidavits are submitted, true facts are not disclosed, witnesses get disappeared, the rule of law is not followed, and FIRs filed are not acknowledged.
India has the largest backlog of pending cases. We have 19-21 judges for every 1 million Indians in comparison to an average of 50 judges in developed countries and 35-40 in some other developing countries. The severity of this problem is increasing day by day and the only solution to it is by establishing effective Fast Track Courts, Arbitration proceedings, Tribunals, Mobile courts, Lok Adalats, and Family courts.
Next comes the problem of obsolete laws which possess no relevance in today’s era and have to be amended so that the legal system remains flexible and speedy. Steps are being taken in this aspect – the Modi government is making sure that it is time for these dinosaurs to go extinct. The present government has managed to weed out more than 1200 acts in just four years while all the previous governments since independence were able to remove only 1301 laws combined.
“When Injustice becomes law, rebellion becomes a duty.”
The judicial system has to consider and take proper actions regarding undertrials. An undertrial is a person who is on trial in a court of law. We have seen in many cases that the pleas of these people are ignored and they are kept in prison without necessary evidence. They often end up spending more time in prison as an undertrial than what the punishment of their crime would have required them to IF proven guilty. Undertrials are sandwiched amongst the non-coordinating, non-effective and non-uniform levels of the judiciary. We often forget that these people are accused and not convicted.
Judiciary alongside media should work towards the progress of the country. Judgments should be read thoroughly. Transparency should prevail in the working of the Indian judiciary because some important decisions do require the attention of the common man. The Indian Judiciary has started taking small steps towards this reformation. The idea of bringing transparency and accountability to the judicial proceedings have been acknowledged by the landmark judgment where the Supreme Court allowed the live-streaming of its proceedings, observing it to be manifestly in “public interest”. The court will have copyright over the broadcasted content and there will also be a reasonable time gap between the proceedings and streaming to ensure that anything which ought not to be made public can be edited.
There are more reasons to be optimistic. A step was taken in modernizing our laws by decriminalizing homosexuality by declaring Section 377 of The Indian Penal Code, which criminalized gay sex, as “manifestly arbitrary”. The case that started in the year 2009 in the Delhi High Court finally got justice in 2018. The Supreme Court expressly stated that all the sections of people who have the right to exercise their choice should never be in a state of fear.
Similarly, judiciary took the initiative of empowering women by squashing one of the most contested segments of Indian Penal code, section 497. The court underlined that this section treats women as properties of their husbands and is hence manifestly discriminatory. Chief Justice Dipak Mishra called the adultery law “anti-women”.The court should also be credited for banning a controversial Islamic practice of instant divorce known as Triple Talaq as arbitrary and unconstitutional. The mindset and support of the common people are of utmost importance for consensus on such sensitive issues and for any judiciary to move forward with such bold judgments.
The government can also improve the ease of living of common man and that can be done by ensuring that justice should reach the masses, remaining unaffected by geographical difficulties. Legal aid should be easily accessible to rural people. For this purpose, the government has launched the ‘Tele-Law’ scheme across 500 Common Service Centre (CSC) network in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. It aims at facilitating delivering legal advice by an expert panel of lawyers, stationed at the State Legal Service Authorities (SLSA). It will help clients connect lawyers through video conferencing facilities at CSCs operated by paralegal volunteers. The Bharat Net project having the underlying objective of providing high-speed broadband to rural India at an affordable price will serve the purpose undertaken by the Indian Judiciary.
The government should give the judicial system the status of an emergency service. There are many services which are available round the clock, why can’t the same be true in the case of the judiciary? Why can’t the courts remain open 365 days a year? Isn’t it better to have a “lady justice” with her eyes open 24 hours a day? A vibrant democracy needs the pillar of justice to be strongest, and capable of imbibing the faith in the institution of democracy amongst every individual of the country. This will take time, and till then, God Save the Honorable Supreme Court!
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice everywhere”
-Martin Luther King Jr
By Sailesh Buchasia