Thursday, April 25, 2019

Judicial Pace and Violence

A cumbersome judicial process, as is there in India, leads to horrific crimes by ordinary people when they see no way out to resolve a civil dispute.

Every other day I read about "a woman and her paramour" killing "her husband" because divorce was not a possibility.  Similarly, there are husbands who want to separate from their wives but there being no way to do so legally (and also due to the gender-biased laws which are sympathetic to women),  remain married and are cruel to her.

One often reads of people resorting to stone-pelting, self-immolation and lynchings because they have no faith in the judiciary to deliver justice.  Even the police, the guardians of law, resort to torture, confessions and killings because they know the criminal will likely never be convicted.

There are millions of property disputes lingering in Indian courts.  Quite a few murders in India are because of dubious claims to being a heir, unsettled property disputes or ambiguities in someone's will.

Many of the lynchings are a form of "instant justice" by the mob because the mob, somewhat justifiably, has no faith in the police and the judiciary.

Millions of under-trials languish in jails because their cases are stuck, and they are not literate enough to know their rights to bail or to a speedy trial.  The latter right, of a speedy trial, is probably just a fiction and I have never seen a criminal case thrown out because it took too long.

Judicial fairness and agility is of fundamental importance in any civil society.  If the disputes and crimes are not fairly and promptly adjudicated, feelings of helplessness, frustration, anger, despondence, hysteria, are almost a certainty.

The despots of society are fearless of consequences, and the ordinary law-abiding citizen remains cowed in fear and frustration.  And often, very normal people are driven to criminality because they have run out of patience.

As I have written elsewhere, India suffers from not just judicial dysfunction, but dysfunction at all levels of jurisprudence:

1. The laws are horribly drafted, are ambiguous, and in many cases, archaic.
2. The law-enforcement machinery (the police) is over-worked, corrupt, and openly influenced by politicians and bureaucrats.
3. The public prosecutors are apathetic and either too lax on real criminals or too pedantic (grant-custody-your-honor, deny-the-bail-your-honor) and hence draconian on the innocents.
4. The judiciary is unprofessional, unpredictable and temperamental, glacially slow, unwilling to punish judges whose decisions are reversed in higher courts, and encouraging of the lawyer mafia, uncaring of the endless petitions and appeals process, and soft on the state.

There is no easy or quick solution, but each of these rotting pillars need to be fixed, and they can be fixed.  There are vested interests which want the state of affairs to continue, despite the fact or perhaps because of the fact, that this state of affairs is brutal

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