Several of the laws still valid in India date back a hundred or even a hundred and fifty years, because of the fact that the legal system in India is based on the colonial constructs created by the British in order to dominate and exploit the country. This may be why so many cases in India take so long to get settled, with some approaching the century mark. If a case gets finally disposed of in 10-15 years, that becomes a matter of satisfaction for the litigant. There was a property dispute involving two branches of a prominent family in South India where, after two decades, the Supreme Court finally decided in favour of the branch living in Kerala rather than that resident in Karnataka. Two decades after that judgment, a property case has once again been filed against the Kerala branch of the family by the Karnataka-based branch, involving bits of the same properties that had been the subject of a case already decided by the Supreme Court. Will it take another two decades before this matter gets decided a second time, and after that, will a third round of litigation ensue? The ongoing post-SC verdict round is itself likely to witness the passage of several members of a family in which most of the litigants are in the seventh and eighth decade of their lives. If even a Supreme Court verdict does not foreclose a fresh legal challenge to the same matter in a lower court in future, what is the hope that cases in India will get decided in the five years that ought to be the maximum length of time that a case should take in the legal system? While those with access to quality legal advice usually manage to escape penal consequences, hundreds of thousands of undertrials rot in jails, their lives and their families shattered. It was expected of those who underwent the rigours of prison owing to reasons of conscience that they would set right the many regressive and antediluvian features of the prison system once they got elected to national office in 1977, but neither has such a transformation taken place then nor subsequently, such as during 1998-2004, when Atal Behari Vajpayee was Prime Minister of India. Hopefully, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will use the final year of his five-year term in office to institute prison reforms. Hopefully, the next Chief Justice of India, the distinguished jurist Ranjan Gogoi, will make it his priority to drastically lower the number of cases clogging the courts from the present unbearable level of 33 crore.
Among the most attractive of the election promises made by Prime Minister Modi (apart from promising minimum government) was his call against corruption. “Na khaoonga na khane doonga” was his war cry. This was deciphered by the electorate in the context of the daily barrage of charges levied by Modi and his colleagues against UPA VVIPs. However, as yet not a single VVIP at the Central level of the period 2004-2014 has been proceeded against. There has been talk of a charge-sheet being filed against former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, whose son Karti has displayed an uncanny acumen to succeed in the world of finance that may not be entirely unconnected with the position of his parent. However, in place of Chidambaram facing a charge-sheet, the officer who was on the cusp of filing the charge-sheet has found himself diverted from this task, and he (rather than Chidambaram) is the focus of hostile attention by elements of the government. Should at least a few VVIPs from the UPA period not be proceeded against, the charge that the entire bag of allegations made by the BJP against the UPA leadership in 2014 was false would be difficult to refute. Prime Minister Modi has been kept busy by his party going from one election rally to the other. He would win ten times more votes if his many speeches about UPA corruption were matched by charge-sheets, prosecutions and prison terms against any Central level VVIP responsible for betraying the public trust to enrich himself or his friends and family. VVIP corruption is a cancer that must be fought rather than ignored.