Courts, delayed justice

As Chief Justice of India, Justice NV Ramana, held forth before a gathering of Indian diaspora, his main stress was that the Judiciary is answerable only to the Constitution. What he meant, and rightly so, was that politicians – or the executive manifested in government or the Opposition – need not expect the Judiciary to toe its line. Rightly so, yet fact is, as long as the judiciary takes strong positions based on Constitutional tenets, the executive and the politicians hardly ever questioned it except in a situation related to Emergency. Backroom manipulations might be attempted at, and it is up to the judiciary to draw a line. The Indian judiciary is given sufficient freedom to conduct itself in a dignified manner. But if judges opt to allow themselves to be manipulated, the fault lies with them; not with the executive. At the same time, no pillar of democracy should expect to be a law unto itself. A sense of understanding of the ground realities is a must. The people are watching; and this by itself is a guarantee against any interference.
Curiously, it is a practice for CJIs, one after another, to keep pontificating but conveniently skirting the central issues. Justice Ramana in his long speech failed to touch upon the most pressing need of the hour in the dispensation of justice. Cases in courts and even the investigations go on for unending years before the final verdict is given. Justice delayed is justice denied. Our courts dispense with justice with the speed of a snail. This is the most painful aspect of our judicial system and there seems no commitment to rectify this malaise. Neither the CJIs nor the successive governments ever bothered much.
It is worth a thought how many of the litigants can afford to fight a case through the judiciary’s layers for 20 years or more. As per a recent reckoning, over five crore cases were clogging the system; and judges are still not throwing their hands up. Delaying a case for longer terms suits everyone, but bleeds those who approach courts with a grievance. This situation however helps India’s corrupt bureaucrats and politicians. Investigating agencies keep probing and courts keep postponing hearings. Many verdicts come after one dies – as had famously happened also in the corruption case involving J Jayalalitha that ran through courts for many years. The merry-go-round should end if justice dispensation has to be meaningful. Judicial reforms is the way forward. What it requires is the will on the part of the executive and those heading the judiciary. Empty rhetoric takes us nowhere.

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