of public order has reached such proportions that we can
no longer maintain peace and enforce order through normal
laws. Mafias are pretty much in control of our lives and
businesses in many cities and towns. It is no longer uncommon
for a businessman to be abducted at the orders of a don
in Karachi or Dubai, and ransom being paid in London. Recently,
a relation of a Union minister is reported to have been
released by some extremists only after ransom was paid by
the family. Parents, businessmen, artistes, film producers,
and celebrities are increasingly worried about the prospect
of a ransom demand on their mobile phone.
Land encroachment often forces owners to pay off the encroachers
or sell it dirt cheap. Many such land grabbers have close
links with politicians and policemen, and the hapless citizen
has no realistic legal recourse. Often owners are compelled
to go to the same politicians, policemen or mafioso for
redressal. Rough and ready justice provided by hoodlums
is the only method of settlement of disputes. Violence is
the arbiter of justice.
are often held without a valid title. The state machinery
registers sale deeds without even a cursory verification.
As property titles are not properly established, banks are
demanding huge collateral for legitimate enterprises. Big
projects running to hundreds of crores get credit with political
patronage or the backing of a big business house. But legitimate
small and medium enterprises are cash-starved, and credit
and tax officials deal with businesses with unspeakable
rudeness and extort bribes with unfailing regularity. Entrepreneurial
energy which ought to be deployed for running businesses
is wasted on trivia. It becomes cheaper to pay the bribe
than argue or resist.
have no recourse to law courts or appellate authorities.
With over 25 million cases pending in courts, most litigants
would be lucky to get a verdict during their life time!
If a verdict is indeed delivered, 'the loser laments in
public, and the winner goes back home and sheds tears of
agony in private'. Even if the verdict is in one's favour,
executing the decree is another painful, excruciating operation!
quite some time economists held that in the long term India
had a comparative advantage over China on account of established
legal procedures and rule of law. But with the failure of
civil and criminal justice system, this advantage has largely
evaporated. Most people are scared to risk investing in
an enterprise. Scams in capital market, failure of a few
urban banks and real risk of failure of even commercial
banks are driving money to real estate and gold. We have
a lot of money in the economy, but genuine enterprises are
starved of resources. It is a classic illustration of "water,
water everywhere; but not a drop to drink"!
are practical and sensible answers to our difficulties.
Germany, with a population of 80 million, has 30,000 judges.
India, with its billion population, has only 15000! In an
average district some 20,000 criminal cases are pending.
Police receive about 20,000 new complaints each year, and
do not even bother to register them all. About 10,000 new
cases are charged every year and only about 5,000 are disposed
of, adding to the backlog. In their anxiety to dispose of
more cases, courts post 15-20 cases a day, and all accused
and witnesses are summoned. Police are mostly busy serving
summons and producing the accused and witnesses, which leaves
them little time for crime investigation! We have thus a
classic vicious cycle in operation. The case load and delays
in civil cases are infinitely worse.
we increase the trial courts' judge strength by four times,
all it costs is about Rs.200 crores per annum in each major
State, which is about two days' public expenditure! And
yet this vital task of governance is left unaddressed. There
are many such simple steps, which will promote rule of law
and accelerate economic growth. Parties and governments
would do well to focus on rule of law and justice. Our justice
system could soon grind our economy to a halt.