The Judicial system is the backbone of the socio-economic and political structure of a society. An efficient judicial system is the foundation of an efficiently functioning judiciary which automatically tends to ensure efficiency in the functioning of all the other organs of government, important institutions and socio-economic groups and organisations in the country. More efficient the system, smaller will be the size of its judiciary because less elaborate and time consuming will be the process by which it will be able to deliver justice. This swiftness in delivering justice will in turn tend to reduce the number of cases that are brought before the courts because justice delayed is justice denied and serves as an open invitation to certain kinds of delinquency. In our case, some of the laws themselves have been psychologically unsound and so defectively framed, with loopholes and ambiguities, that prolonged litigation has become the norm rather than an exception.
A prolonged misrule of over six decades to which the country has been subjected to even after Independence has progressively brought the functioning of all the organs of government to such low (and perverse) levels that, at present, our politics and administrative machinery seems to be taking on, increasingly, the appearance of a real nemesis for the country. Under its shadow, we have forgotten that when everyone is trying to get somewhere by stepping on everyone else, no one really gets anywhere. In such a scenario, a tremendous and all comprehending effort on the part of the new nationalist government – something we may be having for the first time in Delhi after almost a millennium of rule alien to India and its culture – supported by the Divine Grace, will be necessary to pull the country out of its present acute and overwhelming tamasic state. The success of all the honest efforts of the new government that it seems resolved on making depends critically on what is done in this all important field.
The present state of our judiciary, like the functioning of the government machinery in general, is what it is because the principal actors in this field – the judges, lawyers and judicial staff – have become, in all the three instrumental parts of their nature (the mind, the life and the physical) utterly tamasic. In their normal poise, these three parts tend, respectively, to be predominately sattwic, rajasic and tamasic. But at present only the last dominates the mind, the heart and the physical functioning of all the actors in the field as must be well known to anyone who has had the misfortune of coming into even an indirect contact with any of them. The judges, in general, with their hearts and minds firmly set and concentrated on the satisfaction of their physical self and its animal appetites are not able to give either their full time or their full attention to their onerous and difficult work and tend to be procrastinatory, particularly when not dishonest in the popular and narrow sense of honesty. With the lawyers, the situation is ten times worse. It has become very very difficult to find a lawyer – especially in lower courts – who will not, if opportunity presents itself, betray his client for the sake of money or favours from the opposite party. Moreover, the lawyers also tend to be much more interested in having or at least making a show of having a ‘setting’ with judges or their agents than in honestly practicing law. Also, the lawyers, invariably, tend to be hugely procrastinatory unless they have an axe to grind or are under pressure for some reason or the other to have a speedy resolution of the litigation.
Although entirely moved by the same psychological forces, the story of the staff of the courts is something of its own kind. This organ of our judiciary is so entirely tamasic that it operates, almost entirely like a coin-operated machine. Every time one needs to get even the most trifling work done, i.e., every time one needs this machine to roll ever so little, fresh cash is needed, for these machines also tend to have such a short memory that even the most generous dealings or payments of the most recent past would not carry any weight with them. Each time fresh cash is needed.
According to Transparency International global survey (2007), as many as 77% of Indians believe the country’s judiciary is corrupt, and 36% paid bribes to the judiciary last year. According to the Global Corruption Report (GCR) 2007, an estimated Rs. 2,630 crore was the amount Indians coughed up as bribes to the judiciary, higher than the bribe paid out in any other sector. The lower rung of the judiciary is most prone to corruption, where, according to the Centre for Media Studies (CMS) study, a majority of the bribe money went to lawyers (61%) followed by court officials (29%) and middlemen (5%).
According to the above GCR report, as of February 2006, 33,635 cases were pending in the Supreme Court, with 26 judges; 3.34 lakh cases in the high courts, with 670 judges; 2.5 crore cases in 13,204 subordinate courts. According to the National Crime Research Bureau, the rates of convictions in crimes such as murder, kidnapping, robbery which were 53%, 48% and 47% respectively in 1953 have come down to the level of 35.6%, 20.8% and 28.6% in 2012. The GCR also points out that the ratio of judges (to people) is abysmally low in India, at 12-13 per 1 million people compared to 107 in United States, 75 in Canada and 51 in the United Kingdom.
Actually, the number 12-13 per million ought to be more than enough if the system were healthy and efficient. But if we are going to continue in India with a system based on occidental values – the British Judicial System – then it is most likely that we shall witness a judiciary ever growing in size and complexity and where the justice and the interests of those in need of it are increasingly subordinated to the greed and narrow self-interest of the principal actors in the field. The new government, judging by its actions and declared intentions, seems to be well aware of the need for a decisive and far-reaching action in the field before the country can be really put on a new footing. Basically, a twofold approach may be necessary to address the problem at its roots. The first and the most important is to set forces in action aimed at evolving a judicial system which is faithful to and expressly based on the values and genius of the spiritual culture of this country which is unlike any other in the whole world. The second pertains to the attempts at improving the functioning of the present system as long as it is in place during the period of transition. In the next article entitled, ‘Our Judicial System’ a very broad perspective is provided on the whole issue based on the writings of Sri Aurobindo.