Safety & justice are basic needs, along with food, water & shelter. Successive governments over 6 decades have failed miserably, on all counts.
The entire rule of law supply chain in India is ridiculously dysfunctional. Starting with the laws, lawmakers, lawmaking, law enforcement, and the judiciary, the entire system has failed.
We have archaic & weak laws, complicated by ambiguities & contrary interpretations. Many of our elected lawmakers (MPs & MLAs) face criminal charges, which compromise lawmaking. Law enforcement & justice delivery are unmentionable.
Nothing new. We know this.
What’s shocking is the scale of incompetence & indifference at work, at the highest levels of government & the legal system.
Consider our police force. That they are understaffed, under trained, overworked, over controlled by politicians, corrupt etc. are well-known. Over the past decades, there have been many commissions to reform the police force. Many worthwhile recommendations, none implemented well. Public interest litigations have not helped. Police is a State subject and the State governments are directly responsible for implementation of reforms. But when State politicians wield their power by controlling the police force, how can we expect them to implement reforms? The Central Government has little control over what State Governments do or don’t do. Even the Supreme Court has not been able to get various states to implement its recommendations. The situation on the ground has worsened over time.
Our justice delivery & legal system are even worse. Our courts have more than 2 crore pending cases, many for over 10 years. We are running short of judges. The judicial service exams are riddled in controversy. Here again, there is no shortage of commissions, committees, recommendations, reform ideas etc. But no will and competence to implement. Consider the Vision Statement in 2009, which came out under the leadership of the then Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily, as part of ‘The National Consultation for Strengthening the Judiciary Towards Reducing Pendency & Delays’. A good start, though quite late.
Fast forward to 2016. The ninth meeting of the advisory council of the National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms was held recently. Union Law Minister Sadananda Gowda, who chaired the meeting, expressed almost the same hopes & intentions mentioned by Veerappa Moily 7 years back. I presume other previous Law Ministers also expressed similar hopes, with no demonstrable progress. Interestingly, one of the items still being debated by the advisory council in the 9th meeting is when a case should be considered delayed (should it be 1 year or more?). If the advisors are still undecided on such a basic question, perhaps they have to be replaced.
Any reform or systemic change has to start from the top, with visionary leaders who can also execute well.
Lets meet basic needs first. Other grand ambitions can wait.