In an article entitled “Recent Court Rulings in India suggest Justice Is Improving” the Economist refers to “famously slow and wobbly” justice and highlights the ten year delay in trying and convicting a self-styled guru-come-action-star. However, it goes on to applaud some recent Supreme Court rulings, particularly one that resoundingly rejected the Indian state’s contention that privacy is not a fundamental right.
For me as a mediator, what makes this article interesting is the closing paragraph which states that in a country of 4.6 billion (IE 4,600,000,000) people there are only 20,000 local court judges whom might expect to do the vast bulk of the judicial work. Roughly speaking, this equates very approximately one of these judges local judge to 230,000 people.
The article does not give the numbers of cases disposed of in recent years or of those currently outstanding. However, even without taking into consideration that many people may not be able to go to law in the first place, the clear implication is that the Indian justice system cannot cope and that in many instances, timely justice will never be dispensed.
What is the solution? Should India simply appoint more judges? Judges do not do their work in a vacuum. They need to be supported by a well-trained clerking/administrative system. Even in a country as technically sophisticated as India, the cost implications of appointing anything approaching the number of judges needed are staggering. In practice, judicial appointments and making the necessary administrative arrangements would take time and it has to be said that more judges does not necessarily mean better justice.
Given that many Indians can access relatively cheap, quite sophisticated technology and that mediation lends itself very well to working online, we at Albert Square Mediation suggest that this is the way forward. Without there being any sort of fudge or compromise, the Indian judicial authorities should be able to start addressing the joint problems of delay and backlog without too much difficulty. There is no shortage of internationally based very able trainers. Given that online communication systems such as Skype allow multiple party participation, there is ample scope for using interpreters and allowing for input from lawyers.
In accordance with quite standard mediation practice, all parties would be advised in advance of the need to seek legal advice. They would of course have the opportunity to consult during individual mediations and at least in the interim, there are significant numbers of non-Indian mediators with the requisite know-how and experience who would be perfectly able to offer their online services at very reasonable rates.
However……………let us not confine ourselves to complacently considering how to help resolve an “Indian problem”. In practice, justice systems all over the world are beset with delay, expense and complexity. Even in so-called “sophisticated” jurisdictions such as England and Wales and the US, litigants commonly experience costly, very stressful, delays of months, sometimes even years before their cases can be determined and disposed of. In these two supposedly advanced jurisdictions, online dispute resolution and mediation systems are still in their infancy and in reality are blighted by stultifying levels of political indifference and ignorance and in some instances opposition from lawyers who really should know better.
With these “non-Indian” considerations in mind, perhaps the Indian government and judiciary would like to think about grasping the mettle showing “us” how it should be done and what can be achieved.
Principal Director of ASM PLUS, civil/commercial, workplace, employment, family and educational mediator and trainer with a judicial/legal background. He has knowledge and expertise in dispute resolution in a wide range of areas and disciplines and mediates online.