combination of abject poverty, injustice and poor services
are undermining the legitimacy of the state, fueling Maoist
violence and anarchy in large pockets of the country. This
corridor of Maoist insurrection, backed by arms trafficking
condoned by a corrupt and inefficient administration, poses
a serious challenge to stability and economic growth.
large pendency of cases in our courts (30 million) is a
well-known symptom of failure of rule of law. Typically,
in most civilized countries civil disputes vastly out number
criminal cases. But in India, despite the relatively low
crime rate, the pending criminal cases are twice the number
of civil cases. This aberration is symptomatic of two dangerous
trends. First, most civil disputes no longer go to courts,
and people are either resorting to extra-legal means for
justice, or are swallowing injustice and suffering silently.
These "missing cases" are a manifestation of low
level of public confidence in formal institutions of justice.
in the absence of rule of law, increasingly might has become
right. People are taking recourse to violence and crime
readily. The failure of civil justice and the perception
of weak law enforcement are together accelerating criminalization
of our society. As political office gives ample opportunities
to subvert crime investigation, many criminals are increasingly
taking shelter under politics. This has further undermined
criminal justice system, and weakened the state's authority
is time we recognized the centrality of institutions of
rule of law in creating a climate conducive to fair competition
and rapid economic growth. Our investment on judiciary,
for instance, is abysmally low, at less than 0.2% of GDP,
according to the First National Judicial Pay Commission.
In contrast, Singapore (1.2% GDP), US (1.4%) and UK (4.3%)
recognize the economic importance of efficient judiciary.
Not surprisingly, we have only about 12 judges per million
population, whereas the OECD countries have ten times that
the problem is more complex than mere budgetary allocation
and number of judges. The quality of judges is less than
satisfactory, and bright lawyers are not generally inclined
to accept judicial appointments. Legal education itself
is of indifferent quality in most universities, with law
course often regarded as the easy means of prolonging college
education. Procedures are archaic, and are easily prone
to manipulation and endless delays. Even the hallowed judiciary
is besmirched by the taint of corruption. Perjury is very
common in our society, and even otherwise truthful and upright
people do not regard lying under oath as morally reprehensible.
Police functioning is often crude and unprofessional. Crime
investigation is increasingly influenced by political pressures
and corrupt motives. The litany of woes is endless.
there is increasing recognition among all sections that
rule of law needs to be strengthened in order to build a
strong economy and just society. Politicians are worried
about the public pressure and the declining legitimacy of
the state. Judiciary is concerned about diminishing public
confidence in our justice delivery system. Entrepreneurs
realize that wealth creation cannot be pursued without peace,
harmony, effective enforcement of contracts, and speedy
and efficient dispute resolution. Middle classes and media
are angry that might has become right, and the system is
becoming dysfunctional. We need to channelize these concerns
constructively and creatively to improve the climate of
rule of law.
do not have to go far to seek solutions. Several committees
and experts have identified practical and effective measures
to improve our justice delivery. First, a system of low-cost,
citizen-friendly local courts needs to be created to try
small cases - civil and criminal. They can adopt simple
procedures similar to small claims procedures in UK, and
guarantee time-bound justice and restore a culture of rule
of law in the community.
procedural laws are due for significant revision to suit
modern conditions, and to ensure speedy trial. Many archaic
provisions of civil and criminal procedures and evidence
law have been identified by experts. Third, a career in
judiciary must be made attractive and rewarding for bright
young lawyers. The Constitution provides for creation of
an all-India service similar to IAS and IPS for judiciary
to attract the finest talent and reward it with sufficient
stature and career prospects. Fourth, a National Judicial
Commission should be created to oversee both appointments
and removals in higher judiciary. While the quality of higher
judiciary is not guaranteed by current methods, impeachment
process has clearly failed to enforce accountability.
police functioning needs to be completely modernized, and
adequate resources, mobility and technology should be guaranteed.
Sixth, crime investigation should be separated from other
police functions, and it must be made independent and accountable.
Investigation and prosecution must work in close coordination.
Finally, strong, sustained, credible and effective measures
should be initiated to curb the growing menace of corruption
in police and judiciary. The examples set by High Courts
in Maharashtra, West Bengal and UP are worth emulating.
needs to be, and can be, done to restore the primacy of
rule of law. The current climate of public discontent provides
an ideal opportunity to act decisively.