Sunday, March 22, 2009

Chennai High Court reopens and back to "normal"

After the lawyer-police clash last month, followed by lawyer strike, the paralyzed Madras High Court has opened again. Now lawyers are back to work, apparently bringing relief to litigants (News). It looks as if the paralyzed courts were a big problem, and things are back to "normal". But, in my opinion, there are bigger problems that make it not so normal nor provides relief to litigants:
  • There is a statistic that says if a new case is filed today, it will take 300 years for it to get through the Indian judicial process! So much is the backlog and wait for justice (Link)
  • The laws are outdated for the most part, whether it is contract law, family law, criminal law or other, with no predictable outcomes or clear guidelines. The judges are trying to find ways to use them to come up with something close and fair. Check out my comparison of divorce laws for an example.
  • The judgments are not consistent. Two similar cases can result in very different judgments. Arun Shourie's book, "Courts and their Judgments: Promises, Requisites and Consequences" highlights this inconsistency and other problems.
  • Around 20% of judges are corrupt, according to the Chief Justice of Supreme Court (link), and one high court judge is still in office even after being recommended for impeachment by the Chief Justice.
Given all this, it is a fallacy to think courts are back to "normal" because the lawyer strike is over. A lot many legal reforms need to happen to provide litigants any relief. This will take several years or even decades!

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