The Chief Justice of India
Today, I could not add ‘Honorable’, ‘Respectable’, ‘Your Honor’, ‘Your Majesty’ or any other suitable salutation before your position, because today the judiciary and our justice system have lost importance to me. Yes, you may have the power but no respect, especially after the details of Dhanajoy Chatterjee death sentence is out.
I am a poor man of India who believed in fairness in the judiciary for a long time, only to be cheated multiple times by the same ‘Honorable’ pillar of our democracy. I was cheated when every death sentence receiver like Dhananjay was under-represented in our courts of law and hence were denied justice; I was cheated when another man like me who underwent violence in the hands of a woman, was denied justice; I was cheated when courts didn’t take any Suo Moto action when crimes against men or boys happened; I was cheated every time judges told open lies with our crime data and showed ‘Number of filed cases’ as ‘confirmed crimes’ in their judgements. The list is long and I am not here to complain, as I know that even you can’t do anything alone. This is only to inform you that we are losing faith in you, fast….very fast; and I no more care whether you are there or not.
Today, I am writing this letter to you with a bunch of suggestions on judicial reforms that may lead to restoring my confidence in the judiciary and will also solve judiciary burden of a huge number of pending cases in our courts, that I hope may bring justice to poor people like Dhananjoy and me.
All our courts today are heavily dependent on a hard copy of documents. Every document we submit is photocopied multiple times to be distributed to multiple stakeholders of a case. This is not only a huge waste of time and paper but also very inefficient as a process. India being a tech leader, is much more capable of digitization of entire documentation with minimum to no paperwork at all. With cutting edge technology, we manage global businesses in a highly secured environment in almost all sectors, then why not in our courts?
This can be achieved by building a secured intranet for each court. Access of such sites may be given only to authorized personnel like lawyers practicing in that court, judges, litigants (temporary login) and a few other interested parties (like session or high court/ Supreme Court judges when the case is transferred to those courts).
In this method, all documents except those that need the signature of the litigants on them (even digital thumb impression can make that part digitized as well) may be stored digitally without any security breach. If we look at today’s document storage system in our courts, we find that it is not only highly insecure, non-structured, untraceable but also prone to easy damage by rodents. When we maintain most of the documents digitally, not only document management becomes easy, but the papers that need to be handled by each court reduces substantially. This will not only ensure easy maintenance of records, and easy retrievability of case papers, it will also ensure that no case date is ever postponed for ‘non-availability of case papers’ as is found very frequently today. This way we will be able to achieve maximum productivity of our courts at minimum cost.
During court trials, these documents can be directly accessed from Intranet by the lawyers and the judges. Any acceptance or rejection of any document can also be done in the system. So lawyers attending courts will have laptops or tabs with a secured connection.
Intranet can also help the easy transfer of cases and documents to different courts. Very often we find delays in transferring case papers and we need to pay bribes to various people to get this done inefficiently (yes, inefficiently). Intranet and digitization will end that worry forever.
This efficient management of court space, will not only help us in creating more space inside each of our courtrooms but will also help the govt. in creating more courts, if needed.
Lawyer Panels in Courts
Today, advocates can practice in any court and I am not recommending to change that system altogether; but suggesting some changes in that system. In today’s system, very often we find advocates do not turn up in courts in time or simply don’t appear at all giving reasons that they are busy in other courts. This wastes a lot of valuable time and resources for our courts and huge money of the litigants (both sides). With many courts (including family courts) making lawyer presence almost mandatory for every date, the existing system is a huge burden on every litigant as the lawyers charge their full fees of the missed dates too. For poor people like us, it is not possible to bear their huge expenses without any service.
So, I suggest that every court have panels of lawyers, who will be like permanent employees of the court (like Bench Clerks, transferable to other courts). Only these empaneled lawyers will be authorized to handle any case tried in that court. So, these lawyers need to serve the court for the full duration of court hours, like our judges do. So, it will be a typical 10-5 job in normal working days. Since all lawyers will be attached to one court and only one court; their absence from court and subsequent delay or wastage of court’s time will not arise and the litigants will also get value service (?) for their money spent.
Litigants in this changed system pay litigation fees to the courts directly and not to any lawyer. Lawyers are paid by the court based on their services rendered (so, coming late to office, absence, day off, leaves everything is counted).
Empanelment of lawyers will also ensure the protection of the system from a large number of fake lawyers we have today that common people like me can’t find out.
Empaneled Advocate Groups to Handle Cases
As soon as, a case is filed in a court, each party will be assigned a team of 2/3 lawyers for their case. This is to ensure that absence of any particular lawyer doesn’t affect the court proceedings and other advocates of the team can continue. This team of advocates needs to be a healthy mix of senior and junior advocates to bring fairness to the system and give strength to each litigant.
Work like collecting case-specific details from the litigant (s) to draft various applications, can be done by clerks knowledgeable in such matters and can be reviewed later by the lawyer panel assigned to the party.
To safeguard litigants from any conflict of interest of the lawyers, the same advocate cannot be allocated for both sides’ litigants in any case.
Bringing Outside Lawyers
A litigant may bring his own lawyer from outside the empaneled lawyers for any particular hearing or the entire proceeding with certain conditions (can be decided by the Law Ministry as deemed appropriate) at his own risk and additional expenses. This way while our courts will ensure proper legal backup for every litigant, the system will also ensure that any rich person may choose to buy justice at a premium. These outside lawyers can have ‘read-Only’ access the case papers only through the litigant’s login credentials in order to maintain confidentiality and security of the system and avoiding unnecessary work for court’s support staff.
This system of bringing outside lawyers is however prone to misuse, as we may find that empaneled lawyers not serving the litigants properly or preferring to work as outside consultants for more money. This will lead to senior counsels empaneling their own juniors in the courts for getting a client, while seniors continue to work as outside consultant. So, the possibility of bringing outside consultants need to be minimized by a proper process.
Transfer of empaneled lawyers
It is also important that empaneled lawyers be transferred from time to time (to be determined as seems appropriate by the ministry) to minimize corruption in the system. Once transferred, the advocate’s access to that court’s systems needs to be revoked. This can be easily achieved by including access removal as a process in the transfer.
Holiday of judges
Today, if our judges go on leave or on training (these happen frequently) there is no alternative mechanism to address the cases or carry on with court proceedings. As a result, on each of these holidays, all cases pending with the court gets rescheduled to a later date, not only delaying justice but also in huge expenditure for poor people like us. Whereas this can be efficiently managed if each of such courts has a panel of senior advocates (or someone like a special judge) who will run these courts in the absence of the sitting judge. This way, except passing on judgments, every other court activity can be efficiently managed including leaves of the judges.
We already have open availability of judgments/orders for High Courts and Supreme Courts but not for the lower courts. If even lower court judgments are made available online, then all litigants may get them through their login without any hard work or bribing. Currently getting any document from courts is also a painful process for us and is designed to extort poor people like us.
Today, your judiciary is not for us. Justice is for the rich and powerful who can bring expensive lawyers, lawyer teams, buy media, create social media hype or gather a lot of people to demand my death sentence.
If we poor dare to hire some of these expensive lawyers by selling off all our assets, the same lawyers who perform well for the rich and powerful and do magic to give justice to them, in turn openly cheat us with no apparent remorse or punishment. Don’t tell me about the complex process of complaining to Bar Council; most of us can’t afford to do that as repercussion may also be huge for us. When almost every lawyer we find tries to extort us, who do we trust? Under these circumstances, if we lose our faith in the legal system, is that too much of a reaction?
Reference to a pictorial representation of future judicial processes – here
Now, who is responsible to ensure that lawyers give their best services to all their customers and bring value for money? Who will ensure that errant lawyers are punished by the system? I know, it is probably too much to expect at this point, so I have a simple process in mind. Why not each court put up a list of their empaneled lawyers on their website and litigants rate each lawyer with objective comments? That may act as performance appraisal for the lawyers as well and will bring some sort of reliability in their services. This can also be authenticated by giving access to rating and writing comments exclusively to those logging in from their litigant IDs.
I am a very ordinary person who has seen efficient forms of working. I am a slave to the capitalist world who needs to perform every single day to get a paycheck and if not performed well, I am thrown out of my job. Every penny I pay in your courts has my blood and sweat in them but none of our advocates or courts bother about that. Today, even for handing over a document to another party, both side lawyers need to be present in the court. For coming to the court even for taking the document, the lawyer charge us full fees, how will a poor and daily wage earner do that?
There is no dearth of Dhananjay in India today. We come from all parts of India, all remote villages where the society could not take the light of education or food security. It is society’s fault, not ours. We are forced to work like bonded laborers with meager wages and are also denied justice by making it very expensive. The Legal Aid and all is only a show-off. Those lawyers never appear in courts nor do they show any interest in our cases. Now that our honorable judges can’t see the truth themselves or raise valid questions themselves, how will the poor like me ever expect justice? Justice is now available in the costly closets of the rich and we are here to be slaughtered in the name of justice.
Today, I am writing this letter with a lot of hope that even though you can’t do anything alone, together we can do a lot. Hire some of our experts from IT industry and they can implement all that I have suggested in my letter. They are ruling the tech world today, bringing all cutting-edge changes, achieving these will be a cakewalk for them. Also, these changes will not be very costly for the government and in turn will bring down long-term cost and will yield judicial benefits. Not bringing these changes, however, may cost you a lot,,,,, yes, a lot. You will lose the faith of your countrymen, others like me.