INDIA’S RAMSHACKLE JUDICIARY
There can be no democracy and welfare state in a country with a ramshackle justice system. That is precisely the plight of India that is Bharat.
Going by an editorial, for a population of about 1.2 billion India has only 12,000 judges. On an earlier occasion the Chief Justice of India mentioned that India has about 27 million pending cases. Prior to this a Parliamentary Committee had drawn attention to the frustratingly slow pace of Indian justice system, with cases pending for as long as 30 to 40 years.
Add to this the fact that the average jail today holds 400 per cent more than their stated capacity. Also add that India today has as many as 200,000 undertrials.
In 1999, the Supreme Court sought to make a case study of Ajay Ghosh, who remained an undertrial for 38 years. As an undertrial he had in fact served the maximum term he was liable to serve if had been found guilty twice over, and with a decade to spare.
Though the court saw Ghosh’s incarceration as a violation of his constitutional right to life, its observation was unjustifiably late; for Ghosh was already over-punished. The National Human Rights Commission reported subsequently that 70 per cent of those in Indian jails were undertrials.
It took as long as 11 years to even modestly reform the Code of Criminal Procedure to allow the release, on personal bonds, of those serving one-half of the maximum period of imprisonment they are liable to serve if convicted. That in itself is a telltale of the callousness and the shortsightedness of the Indian justice system. It costs four billion rupees every year to keep this inept system going.
If the judiciary, the principal guardian of the working of the Indian democracy is in such a sorry state, that too despite its awesome powers, what faith citizens can have in it and in the working of Indian democracy?
Strange are the ways of justice dispensation under the Indian justice system.