The Indian judicial system, a part of world’s largest democracy, is very old to follow. Right from the monarchical rule to the British era and the modern system of the independent India, the Indian judicial system has always tried to seek justice for the innocent and punishment for the guilty. The modern day judicial system administers a common law system of legal jurisdiction. The laws are codified, and different types of punishment are given depending upon the crime of the culprit.
Let’s take a look at how the Indian judiciary works. There are various levels of judicial bodies in India. If we look at the hierarchy, it is as follows:
- The Supreme Court.
- The High Courts.
- The District Courts.
- The Village Courts/Panchayats.
All these courts have their jurisdictions and are to follow the laws according to the Constitution of India. It is their duty, as mandated by the Constitution, to be its watchdog. They do so by calling into scrutiny any act of the legislature or the executive, who otherwise, are free to enact or implement these, from overstepping the boundaries set for them by the Constitution. The Indian judicial system is independent from legislative and executive bodies in India.
Challenges faced by Indian judicial system
- Corruption in judiciary: Like any other institution of the Government, the Indian judicial system is equally corrupted. The various recent scams like the CWG scam, 2G scam, Adarsh Society scam, including rapes and other atrocities in the society etc. have emphasised both the conduct of politicians and public dignitaries, including the common man, and also on the drawbacks in the functioning of Indian judiciary. There is no system of accountability. The media also do not give a clear picture on account of the fear of contempt. There is no provision for registering an FIR against a judge taking bribes without taking the permission of the Chief Justice of India.
- Backlog of pending cases: India’s legal system has the largest backlog of pending cases in the world – as many as 30 million pending cases. Of them, over four million are High Court cases, 65,000 Supreme Court cases. This number is continuously increasing and this itself shows the inadequacy of the legal system. It has always been discussed to increase the number of judges, creating more courts, but implementation is always late or inadequate. The victims are the ordinary or poor people, while the rich can afford expensive lawyers and change the course of dispensation of the law in their favour. This also creates a big blockade for international investors and corporations to do business in India. And also due to this backlog, most of the prisoners in India’s prisons are detainees awaiting trial. It is also reported that in Mumbai, India’s financial hub, the courts are burdened with age-old land disputes, which act as a hurdle in the city’s industrial development.
- Lack of transparency: Another problem facing the Indian judicial system is the lack of transparency. It is seen that the Right to Information (RTI) Act is totally out of the ambit of the legal system. Thus, in the functioning of the judiciary, the substantial issues like the quality of justice and accountability are not known properly.
- Hardships of the undertrials: In Indian jails, most of the prisoners are undertrials, who are confined to the jails till their case comes to a definite conclusion. In most of the cases, they end up spending more time in the jail than the actual term that might have had been awarded to them had the case been decided on time and, assuming, against them. Plus, the expenses and pain and agony of defending themselves in courts is worse than serving the actual sentence. Undertrials are not guilty till convicted. On the other hand, the rich and powerful people can bring the police to their sides, and the police can harass or silence inconvenient and poor persons, during the long ordeals in the courts.
- No interaction with the society: It is very essential that the judiciary of any country should be an integral part of the society and its interactions with the society must be made regular and relevant. It is also seen that there is involvement of common citizens in judicial decision-making in several countries. However, in India, the Indian judicial system has no connection with the society, something which it had inherited from the British judicial set-up. But, things should have changed over the last 60 years. Even today, the law officers have not been able to come closer to the ground to meet the common people.
We see that in spite of all the advancements in information and communication technologies changing the life of the people of the country dramatically, the India legal system still looks like a domineering and pretentious British vestige appearing to belong to an elite class away from the people and the country. As a matter of fact, the present system of justice is totally out of place and out of time and tune with democratic procedures and norms, that please only a certain section of the society with vested interests. Therefore, there is an immediate need to restructure the entire judicial system to make it answerable to the needs of a democratic, progressive society.