Critical factor

The Supreme Court has a campaign section to look into complaints about delay in the judicial process. Set up some six months ago, the section is reported to have been investigating the cases pending for the past 10 years or more with the apex court. The backlog of cases in the Supreme Court now exceeds 25,000. According to an offcial concerned, the apex court has disposed of 233 cases as forwarded by this section. But the opening of a new section by itself can hardly be expected to make a difference. Ever during the Panchayat days, steps were announced from time to time to make the judicial administration efficient and delivery of justice quicker. Despite all these, the general people have been unable to feel the difference.

The judicial process of the country is known for its painfully slow pace. But even this is no guarantee that justice is actually delivered in the end. A legal principle often cited is that justice delayed is justice denied. The prevalence of corruption in the judiciary, admitted even by its leading lights, has presumably served to distort justice in many cases. Frequent commitments by law enforcement authorities, office-bearers of anti-corruption bodies and government leaders for years and years that they would not show any mercy while dealing with allegations of corruption are not taken by the people to be more than something for public consumption. Before the restoration of democracy, the judiciary and the anti-corruption bodies were far from independent. Afterward, they have become independent of the executive and legislature and in a position to set an example to society and guide even those in power towards proper behaviour by using their constituional powers fearlessly and judiciously.

But instead of doing so, they have often found one excuse after another for their failure to perform well. They find inadequate legal provisions, shortage of manpower or funds or some other excuse amid public complaints to hide their lacklustre performance. This does not, however, mean that they are free from such inadequacies. But the question arises about what they have done within those constraints; it is generally, and rightly, felt that they leave much to be desired. As for the apex court, its failure to prevent the breakdown of the constitutional process is a case in point and it will not be able to live down this fact for a long time to come. Certainly, the court would not have required more staff or funds to come out of it gloriously. Courage was a critical factor. A Special Court was set up 14 months ago to hear corruption cases better and more quickly. Since then, the CIAA has filed some 300 corruption cases. Only few of them have been disposed of so far. The problem goes much deeper.