Drawbacks in the Indian Judicial System
By: Anshuman Kar
As humans, we live in between the jaws of a crocodile every day. The crocodile metaphorically represents crime and injustice, marked by a sense of unpredictability about one’s safety.
Man is an unpredictable creature as per his necessity and desire, and it is plausible and in a way obvious that crimes cannot be eradicated.
This is where the Judiciary serves its purpose. Serving justice to the victim against whom a crime was committed, considering and hearing the contentions of both the parties. This hereby acts as absolute justice served to both the parties as per their acts and sufferings.
The Indian judiciary oversees a common law system in which the law of the country is codified via conventions, norms, and legislation.
Since the mid-nineteenth century, it has inherited the heritage of the legal system established by the then colonial powers and princely states and has preserved certain aspects of ancient and medieval customs. Unlike in the past, when civil service personnel were also part of the legal system, the Indian court system is entirely governed and administered by judicial officers.
The term “judicial service” refers to a group of people who are solely responsible for filling district judge and other civil judicial positions below that of the district judge. The Judges of the Subordinate Judiciary are appointed by the governor at the suggestion of the High Court.
With the advice of a collegium, the President of India appoints the Supreme Court and High Court Judges. India’s judicial system is divided into three tiers, each with its own set of subsystems.
These courts are- The Supreme Court or the Apex Court, the High Courts of the various states, and the District Courts at the lower levels.
India has a single, unified, and interconnected legal system, with the Supreme Court of India serving as the supreme court. As an organ of the government, the judiciary serves a critical function. It resolves disputes, interprets laws, safeguards basic rights, and serves as the Constitution’s protector.
Justice was closely tied to religion in ancient times, and it was ingrained in the ascriptive rules of socially stratified caste groups.
The majority of the Kings’ courts administered justice based on ‘dharma,’ an everlasting system of laws based on individual responsibility to be done in four stages of life (ashrama) and the individual’s position based on his status.
After the British assumed power, it changed the system in certain ways. The British East India Company brought the common law system to India, which is a legal system based on documented court precedents. In 1726, King George I awarded the corporation a license to construct “Mayor’s Courts” in Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta (now Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata respectively).
After the company’s triumph in the Battle of Plassey, its judicial duties grew significantly, and by 1772, the company’s courts had spread outside the three principal towns.
The firm gradually superseded the previous Mughal legal system in certain areas as a result of this approach, thus gradually doing away with the religious section.
Constitution and the Judiciary
The Judicial system in India might have its own drawbacks, but it is one of the oldest in the world, and one of the most reliable ones.
The Judiciary in India is free from any bias since it is not subjected to scrutiny by any political parties or governments, and instead has its own collegium to take its decisions. The Indian Judiciary is in short- the upholder of the Indian Constitution and its provisions since the Constitution is the law of the land.
The connection between the Judiciary and the Constitution is that the Constitution empowers the Judiciary to serve as the Law’s Guardian.
As a result, one may claim that the judiciary is a constitution in and of itself, but this does not imply that the courts have unrestricted authority, because the theory of Constitutionalism is also applied in India. However, there are a number of provisions that deal directly with the role, power, and function of the Indian judiciary, as well as the appointment of officers.
The Judiciary itself, is an organ of the Indian Constitution and hence, it becomes a necessity for it to uphold constitutional values since these values constitute the core order of the nation.
Despite the judiciary’s independence from the executive and legislative branches, the Indian judicial system has a number of issues. Such issues hold the courts back from efficiently functioning and handing over justice to citizens which is a fundamental right for them.
A famous quote even states how “justice delayed, is justice denied”, and such is the ordeal of the Indian Judiciary that one of the prime issues it faces is the delay in the provision of justice to the ordinary citizen. Some issues of the Judiciary are described hence:
Issues with the Indian judicial system
- The pendency of cases.
- Lack of transparency (particularly in the appointment of judges).
- Under trials of the accused.
- Lack of information and interaction among people and courts.
The pendency of cases is one of the most serious problems with the Indian court system. If the vacancies are filled, the backlog will be reduced, making the court system more efficient. According to a study from 2015, there were over 400 openings for judges in the country’s 24 High Courts.
The number of cases pending in the Supreme Court has just recently risen to over 60,000. In various courts, there are around 25-30 million cases.
The judge-to-population ratio is 10.5-11 per million, where it should be at least 50-55. The aim of the legal system has been undermined by a large number of cases pending in the Supreme Court and other subordinate courts.
To attract people with real talent to the judicial profession, the system must enhance their working circumstances, especially for trial court judges.
Lack of accountability
While it is good that the judiciary is free from any sort of executive and legislative bias, the Judiciary has too much freedom in certain cases, wherein there is an immense lack of transparency in the Judiciary.
Next to no officials are held accountable for their activities since the activities of the Judiciary are only monitored by the collegium.
This can be an easy escape in terms of accountability for actions, because with certain mere contacts, a judicial officer can easily commit offences and escape without any trace because of his/her position.
The judiciary, like the other pillars of democracy, the executive and legislative branches, has been shown to be corrupt in some circumstances. There hasn’t been any kind of accountability mechanism put in place. Even the media is unable to provide a complete and accurate picture of the corruption situation in court proceedings.
The media appears to be more concerned with uncovering corruption in other areas, particularly in the executive branch. A minister accepting a bribe or distributing money during an election may make the news, which is not the case with a judge.
As stated above, the Indian Judiciary is one of the most renowned and reliable Judiciaries in the world, and there is no question as to where the credibility of its officers stands.
Yet, we live in a democracy, which gives us the right to question in circumstances where we as citizens are supposed to know the happenings in the country. While there are provisions to file RTIs even against the governments for information, the same is not the case with Judiciary, since the RTI provision is not applicable to the Judiciary.
This creates a divide between the citizens and the Judiciary, which should not be the case. Alongside, the pendency of cases has pulled the Indian Judiciary a long way, which it needs to get done with. As a result, if the judicial system can clear these backlogs, India’s legal system may become the finest in the world.
Before it is entirely lost, the public’s trust in the courts should be restored by bringing in the required amendments in the Judiciary.