To The Sermon of The PM All Gas and No Substance

Joginder Singh Ji
Former Director – CBI

Our powers that be have invented a unique system of sermons, without either meaning them or as a substitute for action. There is an old saying which has been forgotten that in democracy, “ You can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time”.

The PRIME Minister of India, while addressing the legal frater­nity at the Golden Jubilee cel­ebrations of the Bar Council of India, in the third week of February, 2013, urged the lawyers and judiciary to work together to provide speedy justice to the people. As a post script, he added that the government was aware of its responsibility in working with the judiciary and other stakeholders to build a “strong and effective” justice delivery system.

“It is of critical importance that the bench and the bar

in furthering our Constitu­tional objectives, unless this happens, we can­not succeed substantially in providing speedy and afford­able justice to millions of our countrymen, especially those who belong to poor and weaker sections of society.”

As if, the Government was not aware, of how to go about solving this problem, despite clear and unequivocal recommendations of the Law Commissions, about the self created challenges be overcome and many bottlenecks removed , the PM said that an obvious area of concern is the large number of cases pending in courts espe­cially in trial courts. I would urge the whole of the legal fra­ternity to pool their knowledge, wisdom and experience to find ways and means to tackle this problem,”

The Centre and states together account for 70% of the 3 crore cases pending in various courts in India — or over 2.1 crore cases, making government the largest litigant in India.

Now, the Centre has formulated a National Litigation Policy (NLP), which will help both it and the states — which are only too eager to adopt it — shed this shameful tag in the next four years and decongest the dockets of the courts. One only hopes that the Prime Minister is aware of it as he himself has admitted that in 90 percent cases, in the first instance, no Government appeal should have been filed and out of this 95 % cases end in failure.

When the two third time of the court cases is hogged by the Government, then where is the time left for the Courts to attend to the Common Man’s grievances

. At present with the sanc­tioned strength of 17,945 judges, the lower judiciary is struggling to clear a backlog of about 3.32 crore cases pending across the country. Over 3,650 posts of judges are lying vacant.

India’s judges-to-population ratio is grossly lower than many developed economies. In 1987, the Law Commission noted the low Indian ratio

of 10.5 judges per million people and recommended increasing it to 50 with immediate effect and to over 100

by 2000. This recommendation was reiterated by a Parliamentary Standing Committee in February 2002. It current sanctioned but actually much lower judge-to-population ratio stands at approx. 9.5 judges per million people8, compared to 104 for the US (1999). The standard excuse not increasing the strength of the lower judiciary is that it is a State Subject. There are a lot of Ministries and schemes, which centre is implementing though they fall under the ambit of the State Governments. Some current examples are as under, where heaven would not fall, if the Centre could abolish them and spend the money so saved in improving the criminal justice system, as well as the infrastructure required for the same.

The Government needs to scrap some Ministries, which have no relevance, as all the schemes are implemented by the State Governments and there are specific Departments for handling the same. My suggestion is Department of agriculture & Cooperation, Animal husbandry dairying & Fisheries, chemicals & petrochemicals, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, civil s aviation coal food & public distribution culture development of north eastern region environment & forests disinvestment, food processing industries, heavy industries, Labour & employment minority affairs overseas Indian affairs panchayati raj planning rural development, tourism women & child development youth affairs & sport, do not serve any needs except to provide jobs to the bureaucrats and politicians of various parties

Even our neighbour. Bangladesh, has n 12/13 judges per million population.

Government of India, has got into the habit of reacting only to the crisis and not acting on its own, so that no crisis occurs.

It bowed to the demands of the public for death penalty to the rapists, only after there were country wide protests and people came out to the streets, after candle march after 16th December, 2012 ghastly rape case. It knows very well, that the laws passed by the British Government in 1863 are not only archaic¸ but are obsolete, but it would not raise a little finger to junk them

Laws are not the only problem in our country. The biggest problem is working efficiently when there are no people to man the jobs. 22 High Courts in the country have 895 judges. Out of it, tere are as many 282 vacancies, which comes roughly to 31% vacancies. Pray, if there are no judges who will the justice be done.

The Government knows the dates of the entry and retirement of the judges. Why can’t it can start the process of recruitment three years in advance or even earlier? There are millions of lawyers, who are fit to adorn the benches of the High Court.

It is a shame that it cannot locate well in advance such persons.

Similar is the position of the lower judiciary, where there are 17945 judicial officials, and there are of over 3,650 vacancies, which is well over 20%. If the present system is incapable of filling the posts, then it is best to discard and devise out of the box thinking. It is time ,to create a set up which will deliver the results. Unfortunately, there is no premium on thinking in the Government as most civil servants follow only the letter of law or rules and do not focus on delivering the results.

I once asked an influential Minister, as to why the Central Government, which is responsible for making the laws, not simplify the entire system. His standard response was that criminal justice system is the responsibility of the State . I asked him as why there are Ministries, covering purely State Subjects, to which he had no answer.

One reason I can devise is that improving the criminal justice is clearly put on the back burner, as all our State Assemblies and Central Parliament have a high percentage of criminals, adoring such houses. As per their own affidavits, filed at the time of contesting the elections 153 members of Parliament at present have criminal records . The present Uttar Pradesh Assembly has 189 tainted MLAs, out of the total 403 M:LA’s and they belong to all political parties.

Uttar Pradesh is followed by Maharashtra where 146 out of 287 MLAs and Bihar (139 out of 241 MLAs votes . However, in terms of percentage of ‘tainted’ votes., for Presidential Elections, among state assemblies, Jharkhand had the highest tainted votes with 74% followed by Bihar with 58% and Maharashtra – 51%.

In all fairness, we cannot always lay all our blame on the Democracy and the politicians. In my views, every citizens need to pull his weight for good governance. We must bear in mind that we cannot escape history.

Good governance never depends upon laws, but up on the personal qualities of those who govern. The machinery of government is always subordinate to the will of those who administer that machinery. However the History does not forgive those, who ignore it.