A good legal system represents good governance in the Country. We may say that India is a vibrant democracy and we may further proudly say that Indian society reflects ‘Unity in Diversity’. There are critics of democracy and they show caste politics, purchasing votes in elections, leaders looting billions of public money and criminals getting elected in the elections. Whatever may be the achievements of India and the criticism, the fact remains that India is a complex nation and issues are so complex. There is no alternative for democracy and we need to improve it if there are problems. The only way to improve our democratic system is to ensure that every citizen in this country gets educated well, every citizen gets employment and ensuring the reduction in caste disparities. In any democracy, a citizen should be able to get justice. Unfortunately, in this country, citizens encounter problems with the legal system day-in and day-out. It is not exaggeration to say that the judiciary or the judicial activism has played a significant role in keeping the right kind of focus on ‘Human Rights’ or ‘Fundamental Rights’. It need not be explicitly stated in any document that ‘Right to Justice or Legal Aid’ is a precious fundamental right. If a person is not able to get justice, it is really horrible. We may talk about many things like 9% GDP growth, lesser dependence on Agriculture, our export exposure to developed countries like USA and Europe especially in Service Sector, Foreign Exchange Reserves etc. But, the fact remains that a citizen is afraid to go to Police Station in this country and a citizen is also afraid to approach Courts except the Constitutional Courts as justice is quickly delivered still by the Constitutional Courts. Unless he has an issue with any Public Authority or the Government, a citizen may not be able to directly approach the High Court or the Supreme Court. A citizen may have to approach local police, Local Court and Local Magistrate Courts for getting justice.
We need not talk about rich and commercial litigation as they can opt for settlement of their disputes through ‘Arbitration Mechanism’; and they are capable to engage big lawyers paying good fees and influential. Even the industry has lot of problems and our legal system is also a cause of concern for the foreign investors. Whatever may be the problems of rich, industry and investors with the legal system in India; they can face them and can get their work done. But, it is not the case with the common-man barring the entitlement of giving a complaint with the Consumer Courts under the Consumer Protection Act and taking-up public interest issues or petitions under Article 226 to the High Court directly.
While the rich and the people making thousands of crores illegally are treated specially by the system, we all know as to how the common-man is treated by the Police Officials. There may be very good officials, but, generally, everyone is afraid of our Police Authorities. Our police people can solve any problem if they are paid, can give security to anyone, can close any case without FIR, can dilute the charges in the Charge-sheet, can delay the filing of Charge-sheet in order to deny the Bail, can implicate anyone and can weaken the case by not prosecuting the case well. Rich people and people making thousands of crores are treated differently in this country, they are given special protection and special treatment in Jail if they are arrested and they are interrogated only in the presence of their Lawyers. But, we know what happens to common-man with the system. These issues are brought-out very frequently by the Human Rights activists and if we associate with them and their issues and ideology, we tend to agree with their anger and as to why they choose to support even the extremists at times.
Rich only gets justice in our system and if we have money, then, police can solve any problem in the Station itself and there is no need to go to courts even in a simple property or Civil Dispute. Examples are plenty.
Even the people are forced to settle their disputes illegally as our system has failed to provide speedy and quick justice. It is very difficult to find competent lawyers available to the common-man though we have many lawyers and produce many law graduates annually. We have lawyers who can not advocate their case properly in the Court, but, are competent to get the relief through the methods only known to them. We know how Bails are granted by many Magistrate Courts in this Country. We have some judges who can not understand the case, can not understand the legal principles pleaded and believe that he is competent to pass any order irrespective of what law says. We have judges who can not dictate a judgment in an open court. There are many problems for the common-man if he has to approach the Court and get justice. Justice delivery mechanism has become very costly and citizen is not sure as to whether he can get justice or not if he approaches the court though he is absolutely convinced that justice is in his side. It takes lot of time in Civil Courts to get justice. No one can force the ‘Lokadhat Settlements’ and the litigation will get settled only when the parties agree for a settlement through ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism’. Years will take for getting a civil case disposed of in this country. No one knows as to what happens in Court and as to what the judge dictates on a particular date. While we have money for big infrastructure projects, we do not have money for fully computerizing the Courts in this country and so that the Citizen can view the status of his case on-line and can know the orders passed by the Court himself. It is also difficult for the lawyers to pursue a civil case now-a-days and it gives an impression that even the legal fraternity is not available for the citizen.
These are problems being faced by the citizen and even industry at times with the Indian Legal System and I don’t think that these things will change soon. It may take lot of time.
We need to improve standards in our legal education, should ensure that good lawyers do not leave court practice and join corporate houses, should ensure the selection of able judges’ at-least as it is very difficult to find ones integrity and comment on ones integrity. If we bring transparency in our legal system, and effective redressel mechanism within the system, then, we may be able to reduce the corruption in the legal system. We need to bring in many reforms in our ‘Police Department’ and the Government should effectively pursue Police Reforms by engaging the experts having enough experience and passion for bringing change in the system. We need legal reforms and we need to go a very long way in this direction.
We don’t know as to who thinks about the system and how the things can be improved in the society. But, it is a fact that we can never claim that we are a developed country unless we are able to provide quality education to every child in this country, quality medical aid to the citizen, unless we concentrate on good governance and unless we reduce the caste or community disparities. Certain issues can certainly be developed with economic development. But, there is a possibility that all the money generated through economic development can be used for political advantages and the Government may have money to give lap-taps, televisions etc. We have spoiled the system and it is very difficult to repair the system now. Our educational system is in a pathetic situation and we can not be happy seeing at many Private Schools, Private Colleges, IITs and IIMs. Every Government school in this country should be in a position to give quality education and should compete with any school in the world. Education has become a big business in this Country and same with the Medical.
Though there are good and honest judges, good lawyers doing their best in the system, we need to go a very long way in reforming our legal system. Our law-makers do not have time to focus on these important issues and they have all the time for flimsy political issues. India has planned well in 70’s and 80’s than India in 2012 with 7% GDP growth and being one of the fastest growing economy in the World. Income disparities have widened and basic amenities have become very costly for the citizen. We can not blame any particular party or the person or persons for the problems being faced in India. It’s a collective failure and society or enlightened or privileged society is responsible for this. Privileged and enlightened should have social responsibility and should think about the society also. It is true that law-making is not the only business a Government does, but, it is the prime responsibility of law-makers. A bad law leads to disastrous consequences and there is a need to bring in new laws and amend old laws suiting to the present day requirements. It seems that law-making is being ignored in this country. Rather discussing and debating as to what WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has revealed, rather discussing on the TIME MAGAZINES cover page and rather obstructing the Parliament and Assembly very often, our law-makers are supposed to focus on society and societal issues. India has all the talent and potential to lead the world and we need to focus and channel our energies and abilities in the right direction. Everyone should think that it is not enough only for us to grow and make millions and there are millions of people suffering with hunger and lack of basic amenities.
Again bringing change in our legal system is not easy. State Governments should focus more on it rather the Central Government. It is the collective responsibility of the Central Government and also State Government to focus on bringing the right of kind of changes. We have the atmosphere where the State Governments oppose even the good moves by the Central Governments with political motives and agenda. No one knows as to how and when the change will come and as to when we will be able to see a good legal system in this country.
We have reached a situation where is it very difficult to turn the clock back. For example, Bar Council of India has taken certain measures to ensure that really qualified people gets into profession and even that move was supposed by Bar Councils. There was an occasion where Civil Procedure Code was sought to be amended in order to speed-up the justice delivery. Even those moves were opposed by the legal fraternity. We have reached a stage where we have spoiled the system completely and it is really difficult to turn the clock back. If we don’t concentrate on basics, then, there is no meaning to 9% GDP growth. Growth is important and at the same time, it should be inclusive and the focus should always be providing basic amenities to the common-man. It may not require funds, but, a focus towards reforms.
On Indian legal system and required legal reforms, a committee headed by Shri M.C.Setalwad, Attorney General of India was responsible for the 14th Law Commission Report to review the judicial administration in India and the report was finally submitted to the Law Ministry headed by Shri Shri Ashok Kumar Sen at that time. It was in the year 1958 and our system has certainly not moved forward. It was a very wonderful report prepared by top legal minds and now-a- days, it may be difficult to find great people like M.C.Setalwad spending time and doing a great job in the interests of the society. 14th Law Commission report was a wonderful report and any can access and read the report and the reference link is as follows:
It is very important to have a comprehensive study of judicial administration and the legal system in India and we should take concrete measures to bring needed reforms.
Note: 1. the views expressed are my personal and do not represent anyone or organization.
2. The views expressed are only with public interest and no disrespect to the court or any judge or anyone.
V.DURGA RAO, Advocate, Madras High Court.