The ghastly murder of Swathi at a suburban railway station in Chennai cannot be counted as just another case of crime. It shows how law abiding citizens remain vulnerable to criminals and how every cog in the wheel of law and order and the judicial system remains callous on either preventing and/or punishing the culprits in a time-bound manner. Why it is so?
The speed of the judiciary in disposing cases in India is well known. Part of the delay has always been attributed to vacancies. But the Indian judicial system has not utilised the database of verdicts delivered by the Supreme Court in the last 65 years or development of information and communications technology to its full potential for faster delivery of justice. The judiciary rarely uses its powers to question the delaying tactics of lawyers. Even the national mission for delivery of justice and legal reforms, initiated in 2011, has not shown any palpable results. Moreover, the judicial process will culminate only when the SC delivers its judgement, and by that time at least a decade might have passed. The delay in the delivery of justice is a great injustice to the victim and society as a whole.
Even if the legal process comes to an end, there is no guarantee that the judgement will be executed in letter and spirit. In 2008, the DMK-led government released many convicted prisoners who completed seven years of imprisonment, irrespective of their actual imprisonment time, on the eve of Anna Durai’s birthday. Many other state governments follow such a pattern. The SC clarified in 2012 that life imprisonment means imprisonment for one’s entire life and not 14 years, as interpreted by some state governments and it banned the en masse release of prisoners on occasions. However, it allowed the state government to remit sentences on a case by case basis. But, will this stop the state governments from continuing this?
There are other fringe elements who want their pound of flesh in ensuring that justice is not done. This includes news channels, which capitalise on every detail associated with the crime, others want to attribute the crime to everyone other than the perpetrators while some never want the sentencing as they think it amounts to retributive justice. The pulls and pressures from these elements may not directly contribute to the delay, but they provide a public discourse that questions the justice delivery system. Due to these the delivery of justice remains elusive. In the absence of speedy justice, the claim that the rule of law prevails in our society does not seems to be completely correct.