Open Letter To The Future PM Of India: How To Ensure Justice In 3 Years Instead Of 15

Posted on February 18, 2014 in Politics, Society

By Mayank Jain:

Respected Prime Minister,

Congratulations on your attempts to change India for better and now that you have assumed office, it will be helpful to take a look at the critical issues and revamp some processes to make sure there is nothing stopping us from achieving our rather ambitious goals of becoming the next superpower.

A superpower or any respectable country needs justice as its foundation pillar to counter crimes and dissent that rises with the rise in the potential of the country but in India, we are far from being a justice guaranteeing society. Undoubtedly, our laws are robust and more often than not, they cover good extent of cases. Also, our courts are rightly celebrated for their defense of principles of liberty and democracy but the time taken by our judicial system, is something that none of us can be proud of.

Youth Ki Awaaz, based on data and analyses supplied by “AskHow”, would like to ask a few questions to the leaders and politicians regarding the lack of fast track justice in the country and discuss the importance of a well-functioning judiciary for the country.


How slow is our judiciary?
The short answer is we don’t know, as the data on time taken by the judicial system is not easily available. However, in a sample study of cases in one anti-corruption branch of CBI for a period of 5 years, their appeals, convictions and imprisonment were tracked and the results were shocking. The conviction rate of 144 convictions out of 275 people who were charge sheeted is good. Unfortunately, only 8 of them had to undergo significant jail time after conviction and the rest were released on probation or their appeals were in the courts.

A bigger problem is the time it took. Average time taken for investigation was 13 months, for trial years and for appeal 13 years and the total time taken to bring an offender to punishment exceeded 20 years. Hence, a 35 year old individual might get retired from service by the time he is convicted.

Why do we need swift judiciary?
There is no denying in the fact that we need our judiciary to be much, much faster than it is as of now and its strength and efficiency directly affects the quality of life of the citizens and the development indicators of this country.

When justice isn’t delivered fast enough, many innocents rot in jail for doing nothing and offenders roam free on the roads because of the time of appeal and re appeals. Moreover, self-vigilantism and local goons sprout up as the answer to slow judiciary and people start breaking more laws to get their ‘justice’. The other effects of a slow justice system include rendering of the legal system as ineffective and there is no serious threat to criminals from the system. Also, businesses get hampered as the contracts aren’t honoured.

How can we speed up the judicial process?
The major hurdle in getting speedy justice is the number of adjournments a case goes through and adjournments often become the preferred weapon of some lawyers. The need to limit adjournments can’t be over emphasized and this can be achieved through the following means:

1. Judiciary’s commitment on the case end dates and using first in-first out method to dispose cases.
2. Setting time table for pre-determined events and making sure the case follows time table.
3. Limiting the number of adjournments per case.
4. Automation of standard processes.
5. Penal interest and punitive damages for frivolous delays and counselling the judges who frequently use adjournments.

One of the more important areas that need attention is clearing up the backlog. The 80:20 rule applies in the judiciary as well and most of the pending cases are related to few laws such as those relating to marital disputes, cheque bouncing, etc. and attempts should be made to turn courts into specific hearing houses tackling a narrow spectrum of cases and doing it fast enough with efficient staffing and automated processes.

The next step should be to free up judges’ mind off routine and mundane tasks like deciding the dates of hearing, affidavit filing etc. The processes can be automated instead and the tasks of paperwork should be done by Court Managers rather than by the judges themselves, freeing up their time for hearings.

Government also spends a lot of money, time and resources on numerous litigations on anything and everything and it is important for the government as well to exercise self-control and become reluctant litigator rather than a compulsive one.

We do suffer from a lack of talent in the judiciary as seen by the 31% vacancy of judge posts in the High Courts and faster hiring and selection of these judges can help to a substantial extent in speeding up the process.

In this age of technology, we need to move away from unnecessary red tape and start finding innovative solutions to the judicial needs like a central portal for tracking cases or an efficient system to manage dates of the hearings with full utilization of resources.

A report by the Supreme Court on their website emphasizes this need for innovation and efficiency in the following words: “If E-tickets of Railways can be booked in one part of the country and print generated in any other part of the country, generating information of statistics relating to Judiciary may not be difficult.”

Honourable Prime Minister, I hope you act fast on the above issues and take consideration of the ground realities of our judiciary because legal system is what largely differentiates a Mexico from a Canada. We need to decide what India would rather be.

Yours Warmly
A Common Man

 AskHow India is a group of Indian citizens that aims to raise the quality of debate before the 2014 elections. They believe that a simple way of improving public discussion is to ask the question ‘How’. They think that the citizens should ask political parties how their challenges would be tackled rather than request them to grant their wishes. For example, they think that “How can the next Prime Minister of India lower food prices?” is a superior question to “Can the next Prime Minister of India reduce food prices? Like AskHow India on Facebook here.