Prolonged Legal Proceedings in India: The Root of Judicial Apathy?

Shivendra Pratap Singh

Advocate

High Court Lucknow

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India’s legal system, often touted for its detailed jurisprudence and commitment to justice, has been under the scanner for its prolonged legal proceedings. With millions of cases pending in courts across the country, delays have been a chronic problem. This has not only led to justice being denied or delayed but has also allegedly caused an increasing sense of apathy within the judiciary. But is the prolongation of legal processes the key reason for this perceived indifference? Let’s dissect this issue.

1. The Magnitude of the Problem

To put things into perspective, India’s courts, from district level to the Supreme Court, have a backlog that runs into millions. These cases range from civil disputes to criminal proceedings, and the time they take varies widely.

  • Lack of Infrastructure and Manpower: Many courts in India lack the requisite infrastructure and manpower to deal with the volume of cases presented.
  • Frequent Adjournments: Often sought by lawyers, sometimes due to genuine reasons and sometimes as a tactic to prolong a case.
  • Complexity of Laws: With numerous laws, amendments, and by-laws, the complexity sometimes adds to the duration a case takes.
  • Inefficient Procedures: From the filing of an FIR in a police station to the final judgment in court, bureaucratic red tape often leads to unnecessary delays.

3. The Emergence of Judicial Apathy

  • Burnout: The constant churning of cases without resolution can lead to fatigue and burnout among judges, leading to a perceived sense of apathy.
  • Cynicism: When justice is constantly delayed, it can breed a sense of cynicism even among the most committed legal professionals.
  • Lack of Accountability: Without stringent accountability measures, there’s little motivation for the system to reform and deliver timely verdicts.

4. The Implications of Prolonged Proceedings

  • Loss of Faith: For the common citizen, justice delayed can often feel like justice denied, leading to a lack of faith in the judiciary.
  • Economic Implications: Prolonged court cases can tie up significant financial resources, both for the state and the individuals involved.
  • Societal Stress: Long court battles can have severe psychological and social impacts on litigants, especially in cases related to personal relationships or heinous crimes.

5. The Way Forward

  • Judicial Reforms: This includes streamlining processes, updating outdated laws, and leveraging technology for case management.
  • Increasing Manpower: Filling up vacant positions, and even creating new ones, can help in addressing the backlog.
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): Encouraging mechanisms like mediation and arbitration can provide relief to the formal court system.
  • Judicial Training: Continuous training can ensure that judges are well-equipped to handle the pressures of their roles without succumbing to apathy.

Conclusion

While prolonged legal proceedings in India are undeniably a significant concern, attributing them as the sole reason for judicial apathy might be an oversimplification. Apathy, if it exists, is an outcome of multiple factors – systemic, procedural, and human. For a vibrant democracy like India, it is imperative to address these challenges head-on, ensuring that its judiciary remains a pillar of hope and justice for its billion-plus citizens.