Recently, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, TS Thakur, became visibly emotional before the Prime Minister, bemoaning the fact that there was a serious lack of judges to handle the burden of the judiciary. This is the lament of every Indian who knocks on the doors of justice, which in an ideal world would be light and easy to open so that anyone could enter and exit easily. Instead, what the Indian litigant usually discovers is that legal doors are heavy and jammed tight and once you enter it's difficult, if not impossible, to exit. The courts are clogged with a high number of cases -- at last count there were more than 3 crore cases pending in India.
Our judiciary is one of the best in the world and sometimes the wordings and the thoughts behind the judgements make you feel like the wheels of justice are like poetry in motion. It also makes you realise the calibre of the judges delivering the judgements - it's not rare to find quotes from Shakespeare and other literary greats to underline a legal point.
What the Indian litigant usually discovers is that legal doors are heavy and jammed tight and once you enter it's difficult, if not impossible, to exit.
But all this comes to a huge nought when the time taken for justice is disproportionately high. It's not uncommon to hear of litigants misusing and twisting the system and filing litigation not for the sake of justice but for harassment. This is all the more so in respect of property, so in this instance the courts are used as a method of negotiation, not for justice in real terms. What is heartbreaking is that so many times whilst fighting property cases the litigants die and then the case is "inherited" by the next generation. A backbreaking, expensive, cumbersome litigation -- that's not a legacy you want to leave for anyone.
I wouldn't wish litigation even upon my worst enemies (um, some relatives are an exception), because in the end due to a glut of cases which flood the system the purpose of justice is defeated. This seems to get exacerbated with the bureaucratic insistence of paperwork and the penchant for filing everything in triplicate. So not only do you have a jammed system but it's further slowed down with piles of unnecessary paperwork. So justice appears like a mirage in the desert - each time you get closer to it, it moves further away.
What is heartbreaking is that so many times whilst fighting property cases the litigants die and then the case is "inherited" by the next generation.
The solutions at times seem so simple. A greater reliance on alternative dispute resolution methods like arbitration and mediation which speed up justice could decrease the burden of the court. The imposition of heavy costs by courts on frivolous litigation could also deter litigation filed with malafide intent. But these are simplistic solutions to a much more complex problem -- Indians rely so heavily on the courts because all other methods seem to have failed. We can't turn to the police as we are scared of them and their tales of corruption are part of folklore. The politicians... what can I even say? Even if we were dropped on our heads as infants, we all know that no one can turn to a politician for help unless one is part of their "family" (which makes the mafia looks like kindergarten children singing nursery rhymes).
So all that the common person has is the judiciary to turn to. Only if the legal mechanisms in this country become effective will we pull ourselves free of the quagmire of delayed and hence denied justice.
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