REFORMS IN JUDICIAL SYSTEMS
The Indian judiciary has been repeatedly praised as one of the best in the world and dispenses justice in a fair manner. But it has been subjected to serious criticism of late.
What are the ills of the present system?
- The basic problem is many of the laws were framed by the British to meet their requirements. However many of them have withstood the test of time and have even catered to the modern day needs, some of the laws are even 150 years old.
- In contrast many of the laws, including our Constitution, have not been drafted perfectly necessitating many amendments as well as leading to lots of litigations.
- The numbers of court cases have gone up phenomenally and the number of courts, judicial personnel, and infrastructure requirements are woefully inadequate.
- The courts take unduly long time to even start hearing the cases and the verdicts still longer.
- Stays , adjournments, appeals against decisions are the order of the day
- Most of the time of the judges is taken up only to give fresh dates for one reason or the other.
- Judgments/ verdicts are given only on very few days of its functioning
- The lawyers/ advocates do not function as officers of court and are only interested in their fees and adjournments and do not help in speedy justice delivery.
- The hierarchy in the judicial system from the magisterial courts to the Supreme Court is hardly strictly followed. The Supreme Court takes up all sort of cases even before the trial courts give their decisions and permits stays, adjournments etc. and hence the Supreme Court itself has a huge backlog of cases which shows that the SC is taking up non constitutional and non serious cases on its board.
- Even the special courts constituted for specific purposes like trial of fraud cases, corruption etc do not complete their hearings and give decisions early due to stays, adjournments etc.
- The tax payer has to bear a huge burden due to the wastage of time and delays in the judicial system.
- Many tribunals like the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), Income Tax Tribunal , etc. Have been set up to reduce the work of the Courts, but even their decisions are challenged.
- The Government is one of the biggest litigant. There is a tendency not to accept the decisions and go on appeal to higher Courts even where there is no bonafide case.
What should be the remedies?
- The laws should be simplified and wherever the laws are not relevant to present day situation or where they have become redundant they should be deleted.
- Where monetary penalties are stipulated they should be made relevant to today’s values.
- Similarly the punishments stipulated should also be in keeping with the crime committed and should be reviewed periodically.
- Once a case is filed the court proceedings should take place as speedily as possible.
- Adjournments can be granted only for a maximum of 3 times once to the prosecutor/appellant, once to the defendant and once for the convenience of the judge.
- Written affidavits/statements and replies thereto should form the basis of the proceedings and oral submissions and arguments should be only for what has not already been submitted in writing.
- Witnesses should be produced on the dates of hearing and should be made the responsibility of the prosecution or defence. Wherever witnesses have made written submissions they should be taken as final except in exceptional situations. Witnesses retracting their submissions should be viewed seriously and severe punishments should be imposed for false and wrong evidence given.
- Wherever wrong statements or submissions have been made knowingly, the party as well as the lawyer should be punished with both fine as well as compulsory imprisonment. This will reduce the tendency to make false submissions and waste the time of the court.
- The trial courts should be allowed to hear the cases and pass their judgments without undue interference from the higher courts.
- Parties to a case should be allowed to go on appeal to a higher court only after the judgment is given and not for each and every decision of the trial court.
- The tendency to go on appeal to higher courts, including the Supreme Court, for each and every decision of the trial court has caused immense delay in the trial court proceedings as till such time the higher court gives its decision the trial cannot proceed.
- These delaying tactics are employed by the powerful and wealthy by utilizing the leading lawyers to stall the trial proceedings and delay the conclusion of the cases and get punished.
- In cases of fraud or embezzlement of public money the courts should immediately order seizure and confiscation of all the assets of the accused so that the loss caused could be recovered/ paid to whatever extent possible.
- The Central and State Governments are one of the leading litigants in the courts. Further they contest and go on appeal in most of the cases whether it is warranted or not merely for the sake of prestige. Appeals should be made by the government only in cases of substantive interpretation of laws and grave loss to exchequer.
- There exist several Appellate Boards/ Tribunals like the Income Tax Tribunal, and for service matters of Government employees the CAT. These bodies have been set up with experts in the relevant fields as members and also judicial members. Further they have been set up for speedy disposal of the cases as well as reduce the burden on the regular judicial system. However their decisions in most of the cases are not accepted by one party or the other and they go on appeal to the High Court or the Supreme Court. Thus the very purpose of setting up of these bodies gets defeated and also increases the pendency of the cases in the normal courts. Hence there should be finality about the decisions of these bodies as in most cases there are several tiers of the tribunals with a final Central Appellate authority and hence there is scope for appeals and revisions /scrutiny of the decisions made at the lower levels.