Sunday, August 7, 2016

Whose interests are best served when justice isn't?
CJI TS Thakur highlights low judge-to-population ratio in India
Flagging the huge backlog of cases and abysmal judge-to-population ratio, Chief Justice of India T S Thakur has appealed to the law graduates to join the bar or the judiciary.
... The target of having no case older than five years pending was found to be "very difficult" because there are "lakhs and lakhs of cases which are today ten years old, 15 years old, and may be 20 years old", said Justice TS Thakur.

>> just FYI.. In 2014 elections, AAP's manifesto was the only one that took this up as an issue and promised immediate measures for expansion in judge population, including setting up of new institutes and increasing the seats and more training for judges... and resolution of the backlogs.

During his time in Tihar jail, Arvind Kejriwal when getting a chance to interact with media, chose to raise the issue of the 1 lakh+ undertrials languishing in India's jails who have been kept there for way longer than even the maximum punishment for which they have been accused, and who are in for simply not being able to furnish bail amounts of a few hundred or thousand rupees. Need I remind you that we spend more taxpayer money than that on keeping these people in our overcrowded and inhuman-condition prisons. Just this makes a simple financial argument for govt to fund bails for those whose time 'in' has exceeded the maximum sentence for the accusation that they've been charged with (charged with, mind, not convicted. Techically they're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty but hey ours is a democracy right?) This is happening because their cases are part of the severe national legal backlog.

The other parties have been silent.. a peculiar characteristic about the BJP manifesto was that the single answer to many of these issues, including that of corruption, was something along the lines of "the problems will all go away once there is good governance" .. which amounts to an amorphous promise sans any solid action points or guarantees, and reminds me of Obama's equally vague promise of "Change" in his 2008 campaign, which people blindly assumed to mean a whole lot of things whose opposite happened. It should be noted that the same PR company has handled critical parts of both Obama's and Modi's election campaigns.

In the last two years of BJP rule, while never sparing an opportunity to blame past Congress admins for the glaring situation of the present, we don't see any major initiatives taken or announced by the Modi govt in this sector to remedy the situation. Setting up of new law institutes and judges training would definitely have made it to the headlines.. instead what did make it is the Centre's repeated attempts to get control over appointment of SC judges and other examples of friction between executive and judiciary that's been lethal to democracy in other countries.

In fact, it's during this time that the gravest calls have been made in public by the very top rungs of the judiciary. Why did a group that typically frowns on media trials have to go public with this? This stage would have been reached only after complete frustration at the judiciary's end in getting the word across through proper admin channels to the executive (ie, the Central govt ministries in charge of this and the PMO)

This also provokes a more controversial question : Is there an agenda of both past and present Central govts to 'reign in' and control one of the most critical pillars of democracy through structural starvation? Is India's low judge-to-population ratio the output of deliberate policy by the ruling powers and not mere incompetence? Whose interests are best served when justice isn't?

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