Infamous for its distinct record of pending cases, the Indian Judiciary has been struggling to dispose of a colossal number of cases which are estimated to be around 30 million. The ratio of judges per citizens is alarmingly low with 17 judges per 1 million citizens. Even after 70 years of independence, India is still under the grasp of delayed decisions and denied justice.
The time taken in disposing of a case, many times results in the violation of a person’s fundamental right to speedy justice and fair trial. Not only the victim, but the accused as well spend a notable amount of time for pronouncement of the court’s decision. Most cases that are pending in various courts across India are unsolved for more than a decade and more cases are added to this pile, with the courts unable to deal with the number of litigations filed every year.
One of the most obtrusive cases of delayed justice is the Uphaar Cinema case! It took 18 years for the court to furnish justice to 59 people who lost their lives and more than 100 others who got injured in a fire that broke out in the cinema hall on June 13, 1997. Gopal and Sushil Ansal got away with a fine of Rs. 60 crores without serving any jail sentence. Amidst protests, reduced compensation and equal to none punishment, Uphaar cinema case is one ill-famed precedent of delay and disproportion injustice.
Another detestable instance of gross delay by the judiciary is the Bhopal Gas Tragedy case. The Union Carbide Factory devastated more than 5 lakh people and after-effects of the tragedy continue to disrupt the lives of people that reside in the area. The case protracted for years in the court, only 7 employees of the company were sentenced to jail for a period of 2 years and the company dodged its liability by paying compensation of $470 million. However, numerous victims are yet to receive any compensation for the undeniable damage that the adversity caused to them.
On similar lines, the right to a fair trial is a fundamental right. However, in cases like Aarushi murder case, this right is often forgotten. Lack of evidence, witness statements, and even narco analysis didn’t change the court’s views that Aarushi’s parents Rajesh and Nupur Talwar were guilty of the dual murders. Since 2008, there haven’t been any developments in the case that is stuck in a Catch-22 situation, causing an inextricable delay in justice to the victims.
Another case that has eluded justice is the Pallavi Purkayastha murder case. The Sessions Court failed to abide by the Supreme Court’s guidelines on “rarest of rare cases” for awarding capital punishment to Sajjad Mogul and instead, sentenced him to life imprisonment. Mogul has still not been found after he jumped his parole granted to him in February 2016 and the police authorities are oblivious to his whereabouts. A small omission in heeding to the prescribed regulations has allowed the culprit in evading justice.
One of the most heinous crimes that shook everyone, was the Nirbhaya gang-rape case. Out of the 6 persons held guilty, one escaped from the clutches of justice owing to the Juvenile Justice laws, one committed suicide in his jail cell and the death sentence of the remaining four is yet to be executed.
Undoubtedly, the Indian legal system urgently requires to multiply the number of judges and fast-track courts, primarily at the district level. Cases that are pending for more than a decade must be dealt with, on a priority basis. Mobile courts and more Lok Adalats are required, to reduce the burden of higher courts and resolve complex cases speedily.
The lacunas in present laws and regulations, lack of awareness about fundamental rights, unequal access to legal services and imbalance in the number of judges to deal with pending cases are the real reasons for the delay caused in providing justice. A technically-abled Judiciary is required that can work transparently and respond expeditiously to provide justice rapidly and equally to all.
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