A delayed verdict in the BMW hit-and-run case raises serious doubts over the efficiency of the criminal justice system that took almost a decade to convict the culprit.
Failure to take a trial to its logical conclusion within a reasonable timeframe can erode people’s faith in the system leading to social anarchy and lawlessness.
Apart from the victims, who suffered an agonising wait of 10 long years to see this day, the plight of the accused was no less. The right to speedy trial of the accused, read into right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution by the Supreme Court, went for a toss.
In fact, the Supreme Court had in 2006 said the Centre, states and all authorities concerned must take necessary steps immediately to enforce the right to speedy trial of an accused.
But most of the criminal trials take decades to conclude, thanks to the huge backlog of cases. About three crore cases are pending in various courts across the country, of which 2.54 crore are in subordinate courts. In the past, the judiciary and the government have blamed each other for the mammoth problem. But the fact is over 3,000 posts of judges in subordinate courts are lying vacant against the sanctioned 15,900 judges.
The Law Commission in its 120th report had recommended that the number of judges for every 10 lakh people should be increased from 10.5 at present to 50. A few months ago, Law Minister HR Bhardwaj told Parliament that the present judge-population ratio in India was 14 judges per 10 lakh population. But that obviously is not enough.
Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan has been rightly pointing out that lack of infrastructure and vacancies were the main reasons behind undue delay in disposal of cases.
India spends barely 0.2 per cent of its GNP on the judiciary. It is high time the government increased it to at least one per cent, as demanded by the CJI, otherwise the situation would only get worse.