Thursday, April 28, 2005

Quickfix Courts?!

I’ve wondered quite a few times if there was any one magic switch that if turned on would quicken the way the common Indian is treated. I have now come to believe there is one such switch – though turning it on would be a rather difficult, if not impossible proposition. The one-step solution would be to improve our legal infrastructure.

It’s become a cliché to state that India is over-legislated. With all these laws in place, Indian legal system can probably be said to look good on paper. But quite like our cricket team, being good on paper is just that. In the actual sense, we are better only than minnows like Zimbabwe and Kenya in cricket – and I bet the position won’t be quite different in the legal system either.

We now have a judicial system that thrives on procrastination – and its not just lawyers asking for yet another adjournment. The Mumbai Blasts case has stretched for more than a year since the trial was completed. The honourable judge has been using this time to come up with his judgment. As pointed out here, in the Mumbai Blasts case there are around 150 suspects behind bars – some of whom will possibly be acquitted and released. So in effect, those innocent people are spending yet another year behind bars coz “Their Lord” hasn’t made up his mind yet.

I can recall at least one other such case – that was against Jayalalithaa in the Supreme Court. And the judge (or was it a bench, I don’t remember) sat on the case for more than a year. At least, the accused wasn’t spending time in jail then.

And then there’s of course the statistics on how poor the conviction rate is in India (and how it’s been worsening with time), and the number of undertrials behind bars who’ve overstayed the maximum possible sentence they can receive for their stated crimes.

The one single step that can help change the situation is to bring in judicial accountability. I propose that the following statistics be published regularly:

1. Number of cases handled per day(probably split into many categories based on the nature of crime)
2. Avg time taken to conduct the trial (prosecution and defense separately)
3. Avg time taken to pronounce judgment after the trial arguments are completed
4. Fraction of judgments delivered in the past that have been overturned by higher courts

These parameters should also be taken into consideration when the judges are to be promoted.

4 Value-adds:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

quickfix justice?

April 28, 2005 1:58 AM  
Blogger Harsha V. Madhyastha said...

I wonder how poor convinction rate is measured. If someone who is not convicted is known to be guilty, why the hell did the court decide otherwise!

April 30, 2005 11:36 PM  
Blogger Harsha V. Madhyastha said...

I'm assuming conviction rate is not just percentage of people who were convicted among those who were charged with some crime! That seems like a useless metric.

May 01, 2005 6:56 AM  
Blogger eV said...

Conviction rate is a measure of the effectiveness of the overall judicial system. A low conviction rate indicates either that the law enforcement agencies are picking up the wrong guys, the justice system doesnt convict the criminals or a combination of these two.

May 01, 2005 9:17 AM  

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