There was a time when the Judiciary was a place of solace for the troubled, hope for the despaired, a place of fear for wrongdoers and of respite for the law-abiding, home for the wise and sensible; a refuge where rich or poor equally had easy access to justice and a seat of pride, of respect for those who executed it. Today the poor have little access to the Judiciary, the wicked do not care for it, the cunning have made it a joke and the law-abiding are scared of it. The situation is such that courts are easily being used by the devious as a weapon against respectable people of society. All it takes is for a case to be filed, whether right or wrong, and the defendant keeps struggling to prove their innocence. In the past, you were innocent until proven guilty. Today you are guilty till proved innocent and the whole process of proving one’s innocence has become extremely long and very expensive.
Whether you have done something or not, mere accusation is enough to tarnish your name. Take the example of Kanchi Shankaracharya. The news of his arrest on the day of Diwali was portrayed quite sensationally. Though acquitted after nine long years, his side of the story has remained unheard to this day. This is how the justice system is being used as a weapon to destroy people’s reputation. Another frivolous misuse of this legal mechanism is by people who file a case on a well-known figure so that their own name becomes known in the media.
According to a former Chief Justice of India, there are several judgments by the Supreme Court that have not been implemented by state and central governments. When governments themselves are not able to honor judgments of the Supreme Court, how can the common man be inspired to honor them?
On top of that there is a fear of favoritism. Instead of merits of the case, these days the discussion centers on the personalities of judges. The most shocking thing is the open discussion of the proximity of judges and lawyers – who is close to whom. This unfortunate situation has caused corruption in the Judiciary and an erosion of faith in the system. At the same time, India has produced some of the greatest judges in the world – men of integrity, wisdom, clarity of thought and perception with a compassionate heart. The Art of Living has been fortunate to have on its board of founding trustees eminent judges like Justice VR Krishna Iyer, Justice PN Bhagwati and others.
However, today, just the fact that a huge number of cases are pending in courts is causing a lot of heartburn in people. Justice served after a ridiculous delay amounts to injustice only. As a result, good people are afraid of getting involved with courts in any way. Looking at the hefty legal fees they have to pay and the long-drawn legal process they have to go through, they prefer to get rid of the issue by other means even if they have to forfeit their rightful claims sometimes.
Today, our justice system, to some degree, is being exploited to halt progress and bring blemish to the character of sincere people. One reason for this, as the Honorable Chief Justice of India has pointed out, is the paucity of judges. The government must take steps to address this need and strengthen the Judiciary. At the same time, the Judiciary also has to evaluate if it maintains its image as an incorruptible place in the minds of the people. For society to function harmoniously, the house of Justice must be a place of honor, that honest people regard as sacred, where they feel secured instead of scared.
While India takes pride in its Judiciary and media being very free, there are instances when the Judiciary is concerned about public perception more than the facts of the case. The media ends up indirectly influencing the judicial system. What is factually correct can be very different from how it is made to be perceived and nobody wants to be seen going against public perception. Similarly, other factors also influence the Judiciary as judicial appointments, recommendations and promotions can all be done with a political angle. It is a very complex situation between politics, economy, Judiciary, the media and the public. Solutions will not be easy to find in such a complex situation as it will need reforms on many fronts but most importantly, it will need an awakened society.