The organs of the government on which the economy rides is the executive, legislative and judiciary. The constitution of India delineates these organs with separate powers vested within each one of them. The powers vested in the judiciary intents to interpret, apply and enforce laws to specific cases in order to resolve disputes. A nations legal system is integral to how its citizens look upon issues that concern the country in general and their individual lives in particular. Despite having the world’s longest constitution - one that has gone through numerous amendments and that many directives by the Supreme Court that have secured the stature of De Facto law. However, the load of being archaic becomes heavier on our legal system and unfortunately, the Indian judicial system is on the verge of decline according to the judgements passed and prevailing situation regarding the judicial integrity. The status quo was envisaged many decades ago by CJI Y.V. Chandrachud, in 1985, when he remarked indubitably, “There is greater threat to the independence of the judiciary from within than without.”
WHY IS INDIA WITNESSING THE DOWNFALL IN THE POLITICAL AND LEGAL FRAMEWORK, AS UNABRIDGED “THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM”?
Nirbhaya rape case, Hathras gang rape and Unnao case which took place in Uttar Pradesh testifies that women are not safeguarded under our judicial system and that the legal pillars are crumbling and we the people of India are not far away from a fascist regime. These cases do bare testimony to the fact that there is caste discrimination in our country which is considered to be a secular republic. In Unnao rape case, the accused, a former MP in Rajya Sabha out on bail allegedly conspired and assassinated the victim’s father even though such heinous offences are non-bailable/ cognizable in nature. In Hathras gang rape, the authorities cremated the victim’s body in the dead of the night without the consent of the family and their participation. Our judicial system is the key pillar to dispense justice. However, their functioning and judgement contradicts the above statement. In the Nirbhaya rape case, after denial of various hearings, the court passed the judgement after 13 years of the macabre incident which shook our conscience.
Unfortunately, one of the paramount predicament facing the legal framework is PENDING CASES, straining the country’s already overburdened judicial system. According to a report released by the Ministry of Law and Justice in 2020, 4 crore cases were pending before the Supreme Court, High court, District court and Subordinate courts. Disclosing a total of 63,146 cases pending before the Supreme Court and 56,42,567 before High court on December 31,2020 and 7,73,408 in Allahabad
High court. However, the least number of cases pending were 241 before the Sikkim High Court. Almost 70% of the cases pending in the high court were civil cases whereas one third of the total cases were criminal cases, a reply to a query in Lok Sabha showed. However, on the contrary in the district and subordinate courts 2.5 crore out of 3.4 crore cases impending were criminal cases.
To resolve this issue of pending cases, the strength of the judges needs to be escalated and incredible knowledge about the Rule of Law is indispensable.
“EQUITY POSTPONED IS EQUITY DENIED” - thereby it should be dealt promptly for the nation to burgeon, attain solidity and reach soaring heights.
Following cases elucidate the disintegration and slackening of the judicial framework of India;
◆ THE L.N MISHRA MURDER CASE;
L.N Mishra, a railway minister under Indira Gandhi era was assassinated in a bomb blast in Bihar in 1975. A suit was instituted against the accused by the plaintiff in 1977 and after repeated adjournments and hearings, the final judgement was passed in 2014, 39 years after the macabre incident.
◆ SALMAN KHAN HIT AND RUN CASE;
A renowned Bollywood actor and goodwill ambassador was trialed for rash and drunken driving. He ran over pavement dwellers killing one and wounding other three. He was convicted, sentenced to 5 year imprisonment after 13 years. However, with the power of money and battery of advocates at his command he managed to get bail on the very same day. It’s been 14 years that no justice has been dispensed to the victims.
▪ UNION CARBIDE CORPORATION VS UNION OF INDIA;
A mass horrendous disaster that took place on December 2/3, 1984 also popularly known as the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster was caused by the leakage of Methyl Isocyanate(MIC) and other toxic gases released from the plant set up by Union Carbide India Ltd for the manufacture of pesticides in Bhopal. As a result ,the death toll rose to 3000 people and around 6 lakh people were severely injured. A settlement between the Union of India and Union Carbide Corporation was struck after 4 years of the macabre incident. The Court in its order allowed Rs 750 crore as compensation to the victims. According to the various reports, the interim relief to the gas victims was discontinued from April 1,1993, for which demand arose in Lok Sabha on April 2 for the restoration of the same [ The Tribune, Chandigarh, dated 23rd April,1993]. According to another report, 74% of the claims were even rejected and many were not able to claim any substantial reimbursements, medical facilities, and rehabilitation for over 8 years after the accident which is an indubitable testimony to the inefficiency of the administrative and the legal system in catering to the enormous problem.
Ladling peace and justice in the society is why laws are established and our constitution of India remarks, democracy is “of the people, for the people and by the people”. So here is the voice of millions of people, is it appropriate for the government to misuse or misinterpret the laws?
One of our fundamental rights i.e., FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION under ARTICLE 19 of the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS which imparts the freedom to express opinions and notions without reluctance which in recent scenarios has been infringed fortuitously and amounted to SEDITION under SECTION 124A, THE SEDITION ACT,1870 and few convicted through coercion under offences they did not commit. However, Sedition laws were introduced by the British authority to scramble and put an end to the freedom struggle movement and for those who would “wage a war” against the government. It never intended to obliterate clear, dissent criticism and fair comments. Unfortunately, apathy and ineffective governance have created barriers in accessing justice, which has resulted in granting certain sections of society only limited access to full range of socio-economic and civil-political rights available.
CAN WE CONTEMPLATE THAT OUR FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM IS IN PERIL? During Citizenship Amendment Act protests, UP CM Yogi Adityanath promulgated without reluctance; “pro-azadi slogans are raised in the state in the name of protests then it will come in the category of sedition and stringent action will be taken by the government.
Reminiscing 2020, Prashant Bhushan, a proverbial public interest lawyer and human rights activist was mulcted with Rupees 1Cr for the “contempt of court” and “scandalising the court” with his “scurrilous” tweets.
In September 2017, Gauri Lankesh, an outspoken left wing journalist and activist working in an india that has become the world’s most horrendous countries to be a reporter since the rule of the modi government in the year 2014. She was assassinated by two bike borne assailants outside her residence in Bengaluru. Bhartiya Janta Party is the face of the right wing and the body of hindu nationalism in india. Together, they all subscribe to the virulent brand of hindu nationalism known as ‘Hindutva’ Vanguard. Kanhaiya Kumar, the Communist Party of India candidate, remarked “Gauri will get justice when the idea of justice and equality has been protected” in an event to commemorate Lankesh. According to the 2017 Press Freedom Index, India ranked 136 out of 180, a position quite out of keeping with India’s image as the world’s most populous democracy.
The another important factor leading to the decline of the Indian judicial framework is ‘the appointment of judges’ the appointment of Mr K.R Srivastava as the judge of the Guwahati high court testifies the inappropriate and illegitimate appointment as his appointment was challenged by Mr Padma Prasad on the grounds that he not only lacked required qualifications but was also charged with misusing of public funds.
Anand Teldumbde, one of the India’s proverbial scholar, his bail petition was quashed by the Supreme Court last year and was indubitably asked to surrender to the police in second week of April. He was the target of the left wing leaders and mainly Prime Minister Narendra Modi as Teldumbde was an Advocate for the India’s most disadvantaged and discriminated community i.e., DALITS also known as ‘untouchables’. He fought against the caste system and discrimination in India which unfortunately fails to contemplate India as a ‘socialist, secular, democratic, republic’. He has been on the forefront strongly condemning the communal politics unleashed by Modi postulating him to be Hitler. He has accused Modi of being complicit in the anti- muslim carnage in 2002, leaving more than 1000 people dead in the state of Gujarat, when he was the Chief Minister. Teldumbde was falsely accused of supporting the banned moist militant group called ’Naxalites’ who conspires to overthrow the government, charges which he of course denies. Teldumbde’s unfair treatment by the courts of justice testifies the waning judicial independence. The Supreme Court’s refusal to grant him bail came soon before Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was appointed to the Parliament by the Modi government. He made crucial judgements in various cases such as Babri Masjid case etc, leading to fulfilment of Modi governments majoritarian agenda. Ranjan Gogoi was accused of sexual harassment which raised due questions about justice in the era of hyper nationalism that Modi promotes. Similarly, Justice Arun Mishra favoured Modi government in its verdict refusing grant compensation to teldumbde even though suffice evidence was presented before the court.
The hall of fame of the Indian judicial system in recent times have been sullied by brazen cases of human rights violations. In February,2020 in Delhi, when a horrendous communal carnage broke out leaving hundreds injured and 53 dead and arson, in this regard Delhi government ruled out that stringent action be taken against the ministers of the BJP government, a fair judgement indeed, however the authoritarian rule came up sooner or later quashing the judicial independence as the judge who delivered the order was transferred overnight.
The abrogation of Article 370 in the valley of Kashmir critically squashed the pillars on which our country subsisted since independence i.e.,democracy. It was promulgated as the ‘catastrophic step’ which would have serious consequences, by P.Chidambaram, a senior leader in the opposition congress party. According to the constitution of India Article 370(2), the abrogation could have not been done without the agreement of the ‘state government’. Thus, the record testifies that there were no consultations held by the President or Governor with the general public or the members of the legislative assembly. According to senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, Jammu and Kashmir was under President’s rule from December 19,2020 to October 31 and ‘will of the people’ was not there in the concurrence given by state for abrogation of Article 370. The impugned act was illegally brought into force and the state of emergency imposed leading to the infringement of Article 14 of the Indian constitution. Various petitions were instituted challenging the act but however reducing the judiciary to a mere puppet of the government.
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit(EIU) in the Global Democracy Index 2020, India slipped two positions to 53rd position. They remarked, ‘democratic backsliding’ of the authority and ‘crackdowns’ in civil liberties further lead to the decline in the country’s ranking. According to India Justice Report 2019, paints a grim picture of the state of India’s Judicial System inaccessible to most, a poorly functioning justice system costs India 9% of its GDP each year, according to the estimate. This report ranks the state by their performance in four aspects; police, the state judiciary, prisons and legal aid.
The integrity of the judges and the character of judiciary has been challenged and attacked simultaneously.The independence of the judicial authority under attack would erode the moral consciousness of the nation and its citizens endangering the idea of India forever. India’s vibrant democracy rests on its shoulders which is responsible for preserving and enforcing the integrity of the Indian constitution. Therefore, the situation needs to be dealt promptly which is the need of the hour; a momentous matter of contention.
1. Book: Law of Torts By Dr. RK Bangia
2. Washingtonpost.com - Global Opinion.
3. Business-standard.com - Abrogation[Article 370]
4. Columbia Journalism Review; cjr.org [ killing of Gauri Lankesh]
5. Bloombergquint.com - Statistics [ Pending cases]