Saturday, July 11, 2009

Urgent need for judicial and legal reforms

That the Indian justice system is very slow is well known. There are very bad side-effects of this not only on the litigants /victims but society in general as well. For one, the slow justice system breeds incompetent lawyers. The reason for this is simple. People go to justice system in distress and without choice. In general, Indian people have in their mind a general contempt of courts (pun intended) in the sense that they do not hold courts to be place of justice but place of torture and to be avoided as much as possible. In such a system, the lawyers know the people approaching them are trapped because a normal person avoids courts as much as possible.

Now there are two ways for lawyer to make money, or earn a living in other words. He can do a good service for client and get him quick justice. That sounds good in a well-functioning justice system. However in our system where most people are into justice system because they feel trapped and helpless, the lawyers can also make money by taking advantage of their being trapped and helpless. By creating fear, by needless delaying hearings on flimsy grounds, and sometimes by colluding with the opposite party etc.

All these will not happen in a fast and efficient justice system. But in a slow system like ours, this is imminent. An average lawyer can delay hearings so he can frustrate a good lawyer who wants to win the case on his and case's merits. So people are trapped and lawyers also are trapped. A good lawyer is trapped because his full potential is not realized in such system. A bad lawyer is doing much better than he could have done in an efficient justice system.

Even chief justice of India betrays this feeling of being trapped in this system! Which is why he recently expressed opinion agsinst the law which would make it mandatory for judges to declare assets. His argument was that it will lead to frivolous cases. Now the right way would be for legislature to create laws which punish frivolous cases or throw them out quickly, and then also judicial system has to be made effective to deal with such frivolous cases. So we need to get out of this collective trap rather than trying to find a comfortable corner in a dysfunctional system!

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