Your Honour, we the citizens of this great Nation welcome you to the august post with a lot of expectations. Your worthy predecessors have left you with an unenviable task of managing quite a mess and I, a samanya nagarik (ordinary citizen), who is scared of entering the temple of justice because there are no exit doors, am honestly scared of the courts. Justice is delayed beyond all reasonable limits of time and generations have perished without justice being delivered and guilty being punished. Government remains the main litigant in your courts and for lesser mortals like us you hardly have any time left.
Your Honour, while I am scared of annoying you, may I most respectfully ask you is our judiciary accountable to anybody? I know there is God up there, but let’s not bother Him with our business. The judicial tardiness has emboldened the goons, the thugs, the cheats, the corrupt politicians, the inefficient babus and the unprofessional police force. Justice is running so far behind them that there is no way it will catch up with them in this lifetime. With 30 million pending cases, over four million in the High Court and 65,000 Supreme Court, the poor are worst affected while the rich can afford expensive lawyers and change the course of dispensation of the law in their favour! Under such circumstances how can I be optimistic with your assuming the high office Your Honour?
Corruption in judiciary is no more a hush hush affair. The various recent scams like the CWG scam, 2G scam, Adarsh Society scam, including rapes and other atrocities in the society etc. have emphasized both the conduct of politicians and public dignitaries, including the common man, and also on the drawbacks in the functioning of Indian judiciary. Pointing fingers towards the halo however is not possible on account of the fear of contempt. There is no provision for registering an FIR against a judge taking bribes without taking permission from your office, So, Your Honour, those who are meant to uphold the law are way above the law!
There is a total lack of transparency in the functioning of your haloed office Your Honour. For some reasons best known to your brothers in the bar the legal mammoth system which you preside upon is totally out of the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Thus, in the functioning of the judiciary, the substantial issues like the quality of justice and accountability are not known properly. The Indian judicial system still incorporates certain features inherited from the British judicial system during their centuries of colonial rule in India. We have to do a major overhaul of "de-Britishising" of the system. Is there a continuing education programme for our judges? Are they upgrading themselves with the changing times? Laws that criminalize homosexuality, should they be staying in your books? Why has computerization and digitization not acted as the steroid shot, which the system so badly needs? Why is all this hushed in a conspiracy of silence?
The plight of the undertrials, who are denied justice for ages, is worse than pitiable in our jails. Often the expenses and pain and agony of defending themselves in courts is worse than serving the actual sentence. Why is there no committee constituted by those in the stratosphere of the legal system to act against the stalling tactics of the lawyers? The rich and powerful people can bring the police and the law to their sides, and the police can harass or silence inconvenient and poor persons, during the long ordeals in the courts. And I am not even willing to mention the plight and public humiliation of victims of rape and domestic violence when they stand in front of your brother judges pleading for justice!
Another big concern which I have is that the judiciary and the common man never interact and so fail to sensitize each other. We do not have the jury system and so the common man is invariably a litigant. He is never a part of the judicial decision making and so never considers the judiciary to be his own.
When information and communication technologies are rapidly changing the life of our countrymen dramatically, the India legal system still looks like a domineering and pretentious Imperial vestige appearing to belong to an elite class and far away from the common people and our country. Don’t you feel Your Honour your system of justice is totally out of place and out of time and tune with democratic procedures and norms, that please only a certain section of the society with vested interests.
I wish the Honourable Supreme Court gets down to the more serious task of reinventing itself, making itself more relevant to the society it is expected to serve and clearing its own backlog. It is very easy to point fingers at every Tom Dick and Harry, be a fortune teller and predict riots and arson after demonetization one day and serve judicial populism the next day admonishing political parties not to ask for votes along the lines of caste, creed and religion, but introspection is the need of the hour. Why should the courts run only one session and that too with a long lunch break? Why can't we have evening courts? If other professionals can work round the clock, why can't the legal profession do the same? The hospitals do not close their shutters at 5 PM. The Airlines, the Railway, and even the Metro construction goes on round the clock. If judges are less than optimum in numbers so are the doctors, but they never complain. The shoulder the extra burden and they deliver. When will the legal fraternity stop complaining and start delivering?
Am I asking for too much Your Honour?