One of the most frequently used words in India, corruption signifies a range of things. In 2005, Transparency International and Delhi based Centre for Media Studies, a research firm, undertook the India Corruption Study. The survey covered 14,405 respondents over 20 states and included interviews with service providers and users (of these services). The results, published the same year said Indians pay out around Rs 21,068 crore as bribes while availing one of 11 public services. While some of the results of the survey were published, many of the details were not. The study, however, remains the most recent and the most comprehensive report on corruption in India. Apart from calculating the extent of corruption, in Rs crore, it explains the mechanics of it.
Over the week, Mint will present details of the CMS study. On Monday we featured India’s public distribution system. On Tuesday, we did the education system. Today, we look at the judicial system. Reader’s are welcome to send in their feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The sheer number of cases pending in the Indian judicial system (26 million at last count) says it all. Given that, and the number of judges across various states (per lakh of population), the system is rife with delays and inefficiencies -- ideal conditions for middlemen to step in. In the year preceding the survey, 59% of respondents paid bribes to lawyers, 5% to judges, and 30% to court officials.
The judicial system is highly dilatory, expensive, and beyond the reach of the common man. Ordinary citizens find it hard to seek redress, as litigation is expensive and extra money is often required to oil the wheels of the system
2. Misuse of power
There are instances of Metropolitan Magistrates issuing bailable arrest warrants against individuals of whose identitites he has no idea, in return for an inducement.
Some time back, a Metropolitan Magistrate in Ahmedabad issued bailable arrest warrants against the President of India in return for an inducement of Rs 40,000.
In some cases, judges offer a favour in exchange for personal gain or favours. In Rajasthan, some time back, there were reports of a judge who offered judicial favour in exchange for sexual favours from a litigant. Some of these instances have been reported by the media, but no action has resulted.
Today, under existing rules, any person making any allegation of corruption or other things against a sitting judge can be charged and punished for contempt of court. This is a deterrent against more such instances coming to light.
3. A difficult impeachment process
The Supreme Court of India has ruled that no first information report (FIR) can be registered against a judge, nor, a criminal investigation initiated without prior approval of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Once appointed, a judge of the High Court or Supreme Court cannot be sacked except by a complicated impeachment process, done by members of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, the two houses of Indian parliament. Their immunity is reinforced by the fact that the procedure isn’t just cumbersome but also susceptible to political influence. In the 1990s, when the Congress was in power, a motion seeking to impeach Justice V Ramaswami could not be passed by parliament as Congress members of parliament abstained from voting. There have been no other attempts at impeachment in India.
4. Slow and inefficient
Many cases drag on for years. SAn oft cited excuse is the lack of staff, but the judicial process itself is unnecessarily complicated and inefficient, making cases drag on for a long time. Bribes are sometimes ought to davance the judgement or bend it. At last count, some 26 million cases were pending in Indian courts.
Why People Pay Bribes
1. Favourable judgement
Recent media reports have shown that it is possible to secure a favourable judegement in a lower court by bribing the judiciary, although the situation radically improves when it comes to the higher courts.
2. Speeding up judgement
There is a huge backlog of cases in Indian courts which results in delayed judgements. It is quite common for a case to drag on for years. People often have to pay bribes to speed up the process.
3. Other activities
A llot of non case related work also falls under the purview of the judiciary. This includes the issual of affidavits, registrations, etc. People often pay bribes to get this work done by a middleman.
4. Obtaining bail
The judge has a lot of discretion in issuing bail; the guidelines governing this are fairly basic. It is possible to secure bail by influencing the judge in some cases.
5. Manipulating witnesses
As some recent high-profile cases have shown, witnesses are manipulated through money or force into giving favourable testimony.
1. Use of technology
* A review of how court records are handled and the introduction of modern tracking methods can eliminate much of petty corruption existing in lower courts
* Websites and CDs can explain basic law to laymen
* Court files can be computerized
* Video recordings of cout procedings should be maintained
2. Reduce the gap
* Provide alternative methods of dispute redressal to lighten burden on courts
* Increase number of judicial officers and number of fast track courts
* Create a vigilance cell for redressal of public grievances
3. Making the judiciary accountable
* Judges must be subject to judicial review
* Judges must follow a code of conduct
* Bar associations must act against corrupt members
* A public body must keep an eye on the judicial system
* An Indian judicial service must be created
* The proposed National Judicial Commission should have powers to fire judges
* Judges should declare their assets and those of their family