Incidents such as the gangrape and murder of the 23-year-old student in Delhi could have been averted had the government taken timely steps to carry out legal and judicial reforms in the country, said Justice Dalveer Bhandari, the Indian member at the International Court of Justice.
In an exclusive interview to HT, Justice Bhandari, who served as a Supreme Court judge for over six years before his election to ICJ in May 2012, said: "Judicial reforms are a priority if democracy in India has to work."
He said a re-look at the outdated Indian Penal Code was imminent. But, at the same time he also cautioned the executive from taking "emotional" decisions, including making death penalty a punishment for rape.
"Death penalty requires serious deliberations as several countries have opposed it. In India itself it hasn't been given in too many cases except for in rarest of the rare," said Justice Bhandari whose appointment to ICJ came 30 years after Justice RS Pathak's tenure ended.
He blamed the executive for not providing adequate infrastructure in courts to ensure speedy trial of heinous cases such as rape. "It was the executive that withdrew fast-track courts. Punishment can be deterrence if a guilty person is sent to jail. However, inadequate infrastructure is leading to delayed criminals trials. As a result a convict despite conviction walks free," Justice Bhandari said, expressing concern at the flak faced by the Indian judiciary during the recent protests following the brutal gangrape.
"Public has demanded speedy trial in this case. But, has anybody questioned the causes for delays. Today in India for a million cases there are only 10 judges. In America there are 107 and in Australia 87. One cannot expect miracles from a judge who faces the burden of deciding 100 cases, three times more than he can humanly adjudicate," he added.
On conflicting judgments, related to the term of punishment in criminal cases, by Supreme Court benches Justice Bhandari felt it was the duty of the Chief Justice of India to resolve it. "SC judgments are cited by subordinate courts to deliver verdicts. It's the duty of the CJI to refer conflicting orders to a larger bench to enable subordinate courts decide with clarity."