Research Paper: 20 Bitter Truths in the Indian Legal System

The President, Shri Ram Nath Kovind in a group photograph at the inauguration of the National Conference, organised by the Supreme Court Advocates-on-record Association (SCAORA), in New Delhi on September 01, 2018. The Chief Justice of India, Justice Shri Dipak Misra and other dignitaries are also seen. (file photo)
The President, Ram Nath Kovind, in a group photograph at the inauguration of the National Conference, organised by the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAORA), in New Delhi on September 01, 2018. The Chief Justice of India, Justice Dipak Misra and other dignitaries are also seen in the photograph. (file photo, courtesy: PIB)

Since Indian lawyers and judges are working in a casual, free-wheeling manner, the Indian legal system is plagued by random judgments and long delays.

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By Rakesh Raman

As a journalist and social activist, I run a free anti-corruption community court “Clean House” and publish Legal Directions newsletter to cover Indian and international legal affairs.

As part of my work, I keep interacting with dozens of lawyers, law officers, and law teachers. I also write frequently about global legal issues. I have made the following observations after my first-hand experience with the Indian law fraternity during the past about 3 years. Here it goes:

1. While the administrative systems in India have almost collapsed, the bureaucrats do not take any decisions to resolve public problems. As a result, the suffering people have no other option but to approach the courts. That’s why courts are always overcrowded and their decisions are either inordinately delayed or lack justice.

2. Most lawyers lack domain expertise and they are just providing template-based services to their clients. They pull out old court cases and change some sentences here and there to make legal documents for the clients. Such cases get defeated in the courts, but the lawyers take hefty fees from their clients while there is no accountability for them.

3. It is learnt that many so-called lawyers do not have proper law degrees to handle court cases. However, it is almost impossible for the courts to check degrees of all the lawyers. Such fake lawyers masquerade as real lawyers and cheat their clients as well as the courts.

4. The English communication skills of most legal professionals are pathetic. While the petitions and judgments that they write are full of syntax and semantics errors, their convoluted sentences in legal documents are so ambiguous that they can be interpreted in many different ways. The law institutes fail to provide proper communication skills to students.

5. Most law students, teachers, and lawyers cannot even write emails and social media messages properly. When they write emails or social media posts, their language is wrong.

6. While the government is trying to promote paperless digital courts, the lawyers continue to work in an archaic way and can’t even use the basic email tool properly. Instead of reading the documents delivered over email, they force the clients to meet them frequently with bundles of paper files.

7. The digital courts are not functioning at all because India is one of the most backward nations in terms of technology adoption.

8. The higher courts work on an ugly concept called “face value.” It is said that the judges see the face of the lawyer (instead of facts of the case) before they pronounce their judgments. That means if the lawyer is not known to the judge, the lawyer cannot expect the right judgment. Therefore, most lawyers act as mere marketing agents of senior lawyers who have the “face value” to stand in front of a particular judge.

9. Instead of fully understanding the case, the Indian courts take hasty decisions to accept or dismiss the petitions. In the advanced parts of the world, the judges do their own research to understand the finer nuances of a case before pronouncing their judgments so that full justice is delivered. They do not depend solely on the content written in the petitions and arguments in the courtrooms.

10. This type of research-based approach is urgently required in the Indian courts where lawyers and judges do not possess sufficient English language skills to write court documents and they lack domain expertise in the cases they handle.

11. Since Indian lawyers and judges are working in a casual, free-wheeling manner, the Indian legal system is plagued by random judgments and long delays. As a result, there is a backlog of 3.3 crore (33 million) cases in various courts of India. Of these, 2.84 crore (28.4 million) cases are in the subordinate courts, 43 lakh (4.3 million) are in the High Courts, and about 58,000 are in the Supreme Court.

12. The cases in which the judges are the accused are handled in a biased manner by holding superficial inquiries to protect the judges in an unscrupulous manner.

13. The judges even in the Supreme Court hesitate to open high-profile cases in which top politicians are involved. The judges are scared of the politicians.

14. There is hardly any law firm or lawyer who offers pro bono services to the deserving clients. Some of them claim that they do pro bono work, but when you go to them, they either refuse to take your case or demand money. This is sheer dishonesty.

15. The government’s legal aid departments do not work. When you approach them as a needy client, they either treat you rudely as if you are a beggar or they harass you to such an extent that you stop pursuing your case.

16. It is said that many lawyers prefer to lose a case than to win it because they accept bribes from the parties against whom the case is filed.

17. While all important cases should be live-streamed to ensure transparency, the Indian courts prefer to hold court proceedings in an opaque manner, and sometimes media is also not allowed to cover the cases.

18. When justice systems across the world are getting revamped with the use of advanced technology including artificial intelligence (AI), expert systems, and virtual lawyers, the Indian courts and law institutes are still dependent on traditional, obsolete systems.

19. As law teachers are not eager to learn modern techniques of justice delivery system, they are not willing to change the old syllabuses and pedagogical methods. As a result, the law field is crowded with unskilled and unprofessional people.

20. The arbitrariness in the Indian justice system is evident from the fact that senior Supreme Court judges have openly complained about it.

In the light of these facts, there is an urgent need to fix the accountability of lawyers as well as judges to protect the interests of the litigants. There is also a need to revamp the education system in law institutes with the aim to overhaul the entire legal ecosystem in the country.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of a humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society. He also creates and publishes a number of digital publications on different subjects.

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Rakesh Raman