Sunday, January 16, 2011

Has Indian Criminal Justice System Collapsed?

Recently a Bench of justices Aftab Alam and R M Lodha observed that criminal justice system of India is not working properly. The Supreme Court recommended urgent steps to stem the rot in the Indian criminal justice system.

The Court also recommended that the criminal cases relating to offences against the State, corruption, dowry death, domestic violence, sexual assault, financial fraud and cyber crimes are fast-tracked and decided in a fixed time frame, preferably, within three years.

This suggestion seems to be in line with the national litigation policy of India (NLPI) that has recommended a time frame of three years to dispose of any case. However, NLPI and other governmental polices are lacking upon at least two of the aspects mentioned in the recent observation of Supreme Court.

Firstly, neither the present legal and judicial system of India nor the NLPI are technology friendly and technology compliant. For instance, we do not have good video conferencing facilities in India. Similarly, till the month of January 2011 we are still waiting for the establishment of first e-courts of India. Further, India is also not interested in developing and using online dispute resolution (ODR).

The Supreme Court observed that the criminal trials in India are protracted because of non-appearance of official witnesses on time and the non-availability of the facilities for recording evidence by video conferencing. The courts remain over-burdened with the briefs listed on the day and they do not have adequate infrastructure. It is high time for law minister Veerappa Moily to consider establishment of e-courts in India and use of ODR for effective and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in India.

The Supreme Court also suggested that it is high time that immediate and urgent steps are taken in amending the procedural and other laws to achieve the above objectives. Surprisingly, instead of making the cyber law of India stronger, Indian government made it cyber criminals friendly due to pressure of industrial lobbying. The truth is that we need a new and better cyber law to deal with growing nuisance of cyber crimes in India.

The present information technology act 2000 is a piecemeal legislation that is serving the purpose of IT industries and limited segments of Indian government. It is not at all in the Interest of India. In fact, it is going against the interests of India by making almost all the cyber crimes bailable. It has made India a safe heaven for cyber criminals. There is an urgent need that a new cyber law must be enacted in India.

The Supreme Court also reiterated the need of good and effective techno legal trainings for law enforcement agencies of India. The Supreme Court observed that the investigators hardly have professional orientation. They do not have modern tools. Let us hope law ministry of India in general and Indian government in particular would consider these recommendations and act in the larger interest of India.