The Indian judiciary has a host of problems acting as hurdles in the speedy delivery of justice. Pendency of cases is one such problem that has been ailing the judiciary for a long time. In the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, the problem has increased three-fold. Recently, the Supreme Court of India observed that the pendency of cases “has gone out of control”, and said it will issue guidelines for the appointment of temporary judges to help address the backlog. This is not only the situation during the pandemic rather the backlog of pending cases in India has become a burning problem for a long time which denies the people the right to access timely justice. This impacts not just the administration of justice, but it has tremendous consequences for the economy and the functioning of businesses across India as well.
Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) questioned the government regarding the delay in approving Collegium recommendations for judicial appointments to several High Courts (HC).
Unbiased interpretation of judiciary of laws passed by the legislature is vital for ensuring sound democracy and inclusive society. Yet, the Indian Judiciary is plagued by patriarchal mindset, with interpretations being regressive and insensitive towards women. In this light, steps need to be taken to inculcate gender sensitivity in the Indian judiciary, so that it treats everyone as equal regardless of differences.
The Supreme Court has recently ruled against the protests at Shaheen Bagh by stating that the right to protest in a public place is not absolute and public places cannot be indefinitely occupied by such protests. While the protest ended in March, the verdict was given in October. This verdict is criticised for the apex court’s indifference towards the government’s ignorance of the voices of the people, which is the reason behind such lasting protest.
With the coronavirus pandemic roiling across the world, most of the government measures focus on containing the spread of the infection. In this situation, social issues, many of which are gender-related, are given lesser priority. This, along with the lockdown orders, has led to increased instances of violence against women, creating a new “shadow pandemic” amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Media is recognized as the fourth pillar of Democracy after Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. Therefore, to ensure democracy, there is a need for free and independent media. However, these days the role of media is often criticized, especially in reporting criminal matters. The media sometimes go beyond its domain and starts interfering with the functions of the court. Often the media have gone a step further and published information based on mere assumptions and suspicion about the line of investigation by the official agencies to vigorously report on the issue on a day to day basis and comment on the evidence without ascertaining the factual matrix. Such reporting has brought an undue pressure in the course of fair investigation and trial.
The Already burdened courts with a huge pile of cases to be heard along with the current COVID-19 induced break to the justice delivery system has made experts to renew the debate on having a robust alternate dispute resolution system in India. The Coming into force of the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation recently has given a shot in the arm to the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism worldwide.
Access to justice is a fundamental right, as well as a prerequisite for the protection of all other human rights. Norms and standards relating to access to justice for persons with disabilities are set out in a series of binding and non-binding instruments at international and regional levels. Across the world, persons with disabilities encounter considerable obstacles in terms of access to justice. Aiming to make it easier for disabled people around the world to access the justice system, The United Nations has released its first-ever guidelines on access to social justice for people with disabilities recently.
Recently Kesavananda Bharati, the seer of Edneer Mutt in Kasaragod district of Kerala, whose petition challenging the Kerala Land Reforms (Amendment) Act 1969 led to the landmark “basic structure” doctrine verdict delivered by the Supreme Court in 1973, passed away. The case of Kesavananda Bharati vs. State of Kerala was heard for 68 days and continues to hold the vertex spot for the longest proceedings ever to have taken place in the top court. The judgment is considered among the most significant and consequential decisions by the Supreme Court as it set out the “basic structure” of the Constitution that Parliament cannot amend.