The Supreme Court of India | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
The Supreme Court of India | Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
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Dear Honourable Chief Justice of India,

I write to you as a believer in the extraordinary moral enterprise that is the Republic of India. I have always believed that our republic presents the best hope for the well-being and development of all its citizens. I have always argued that “frequently imperfect application, repeated attempts at its perversion and creeping cynicism about its effectiveness must not prevent us from recognising that the Constitution of India offers an enlightened way for us to organise our society and ensure the greatest welfare of all citizens.”

Sir, the custodial killing of accused rapist-murderers by the Hyderabad police suggests that the Republic itself is in crisis. Not only because of what the police officers did, but because of the widespread public approval of their action. From Parliament to casual conversations, from national celebrities to auto-rickshaw drivers, we found open calls for the accused to be put to death. There was no mention, no patience, no faith in due process of law.

To me, this suggests that a large number of Indians have lost faith in the judicial system. They had started developing a creeping cynicism towards the police and the law enforcement machinery of the state a long time ago. But now, their cynicism extends to the judiciary, including the highest courts of the land. If people could expect that criminals would be apprehended, prosecuted and punished in a reasonable period of time, they would not so readily approve of rough and ready measures in the name of justice. By demanding the killing of the accused, and applauding the police after the deed was done, people have revealed what they really think of our formal judicial system.

They do not think it works.


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Sir, the Preamble of our Constitution declares that justice is the first thing that the state seeks to secure. Yet, it appears now that power is all that matters. The poor and the weak cannot even get an FIR registered at a police station while the rich and powerful can occupy high public office. The weak can be bumped off by the state while the privileged can set up independent states on private islands. The rich can avoid arrest but the poor languish in prisons for years as undertrials. Cases can be withdrawn when criminals acquire power, so acquiring power seems to be the best defence against legal charges of any kind. To any neutral observer, sir, it is clear that we are ruled by power, not by the rule of law.

It is unfair to blame the judiciary for all this mess. The police force in most states lacks the capacity to conduct reliable investigations and the prosecution is both under-resourced and overstretched. Yet, a part of it is indeed the fault of the higher judiciary. We know that you and your colleagues on the bench are overstretched, under massive workloads, and work under severe constraints.

But by entertaining absurd petitions, legislating from the bench, intervening in the executive domain, and succumbing to popular opinion, you have not been able to stand as the unflinching upholder of the Constitution. Despite being aware of the judicial backlog in the higher judiciary and the reasons for it, you have not initiated any reform to make justice delivery speedier and more efficient. There are civil society groups with the expertise and resources who are ready to help you with this, but you are too preoccupied to utilise their services.

When politicians promise “fast track” courts and order the police to ensure ‘fast track’ justice, they are merely strengthening the public perception that the judiciary is not credible. Justice abhors a vacuum, which is filled by local thugs, khap panchayats, mobs, political leaders and a police force acting outside the law. All these are not only challenging the majesty of the law, they are directly challenging your authority.

It is within your power, sir, to restore public faith in the judiciary, the Constitution and the Indian republic. There are many things that the Supreme Court of India could do. But if you initiate a process to reduce the backlog and set reasonable time limits for the conclusion of new cases, it will send a signal that the judiciary shares the people’s concern. It can galvanise the police, prosecution and the legal community to get their acts together. The process might take a few years, but it is important to take the first step. You, along with the Chief Justices of the various high courts, can help rescue the republic.

Your speech at Jodhpur, sir, makes it amply clear that you are concerned about the problem. The solutions are also known. The Hyderabad police encounter injects an almost existential urgency for action. For the republic’s sake, sir, please act now.

The author is the director of the Takshashila Institution, an independent centre for research and education in public policy. Views are personal.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. India judicial system encourage criminals as most of them openly challenge judiciary that it will never punish them to death instead send for years of hearing . Decision of court is so time taking that one can easily distort the evidence . Oh my nation when will we change . I’m patriotic but don’t want to be nationalist

  2. Tbis is the most important and most urgent need of the hour to restore faith of even discriminating educated cross section of the coutry to restore faith in faith in our great democracy. As of now the message from every source of information is that political power and money power are ‘Suptreme’ and the country’s Supreme court itself has become helpless to administer justice .
    Let us hope that the turn of events will empower our judiciary to restore its lost eminence and time will install the right individual at this great institution’s seat of glory and faith.

  3. Still today we have full faith in Indian Judiciary . As constituents made clear cut from government. In so many cases Our Judiciary from time to time, given very excellent judgements in somany cases. But even though the above article is fact we can’t deny, we support the same. Pl. do the needful. Our optimism is Judiciary, not to delay justice.

  4. Sir, Unfortunately the faith in judiciary has gone as rightly pointed out that the people in political power, richest ones although getting accused in serious criminal cases simply not bothered and able to get bails at their will. The poor ones just suspected to be criminals are languishing. But invariably justice getting delayed means loss of faith in judiciary. No limit fixed for the adjournments,bails and finishing the court proceedings to finality. In spite of huge number of cases pending in Courts it is a fun to continue the British practice of summer and vacation holidays. Either there should be supervision strong enough to clear the pendency or there should be strict time limit for the quick disposal under check and supervision. Above all there should not be even an iota of doubt in the minds of people in this Country that judiciary also got corrupted.

  5. The courts ,could do better gate keeping at admission stage and remove cases which are repetitive or meant to delay the process. Lawyers, senior or otherwise could work on a tighter timeline. Sad to say, when a senior lawyers was asked in supreme Court not to repeat himself he got wild. Better sense, preparation and most of all respect the finality of any judgement. The unsavoury review petitions erode the beliefs all round

  6. Judiciary is harping only on lack of infrastructure for the cause of delay. That is only one of the causes and not in their domain. Why not concentrate on other issue which is very much in their domain They are not bothered what is happening in the lower courts and high courts where the judges are not able to take a firm decision for many reasons like the powerful law firm, powerful petitioner/ defendant When big incidents happens then only the judiciary. speak otherwise the top court is least bothered. What about civil suits which are going on for 25 years? The judiciary is worst than politicians because of their mastery of the language.

  7. Justice delayed is justice denied. Why yhe repeated offenders gets the bail to commit crime again and again. This is not justice and therefore the anger get place in the society against court of law and criminals.

    • Americans use baseball terminology and say three strikes and you are out–be it for speeding, drunken driving, beating up the wife…… That is a must for all repeaters of any crime.

  8. This is one of the best and a very balanced article. I think Coutts should work all the 6 days and no summer/winter holidays till becklog is cleared. Further best legal brains work for the accused, use loop holes in the system – bail out the accused with full knowledge of their crime/offences including DP, civil cases should equally be held responsible and punished. They actually derail justice delivery, some mechanism should be put in place to arrest this menase

  9. The author is plead deaf and blind justice system in India. CJI is more interested in maintaining superficial independence rather than working jointly to improve justice system. The mentality of judges loves being treated as lord rather than servant of people.

  10. Judiciary is also a power centre. Rule by law is mostly wishful thinking. Law itself is also subject to interpretation and abuse. Powerful vested interests will always have their way.

  11. Dear Author , please stop sharing your point of views as india’s point of view… You may have lost faith…

  12. Some recent judgments do shake one’s faith. The apex court could slice through the dense fog of CAB like a laser beam.

  13. The fear of losing faith in the system can only be quickly corrected, if the Government and Judiciary can come up with a way to investigate the crimes of Murder, Rape and Political Corruption in a time bound manner, run the trails without any delay and pronounce the judgement. Let the entire process be under the direct supervision of the SC. No challenging the FIR no challenging the chargesheeting. Only appeal in SC.
    If the cases are genuine go to jail if the cases are false/ fabricated go home honourably.
    Sir, put a cost to this process which will probably be a fraction of the fees charged by the super lawyers, who may have to go on the bench as they say in IT industry so expect a resistance from them.

    .

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