In a Silicon Valley event hosted by the Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies USA-based policy studies and advocacy forum, Justice Santosh Hegde expressed concern that delays in justice is causing people to lose hope.
Hedge, a former judge of the Supreme Court of India, mentioned that speculative cases, adjournments, and appeals through layers of courts are some of the key causes of the delays. Recalling an oft-used phrase, “Justice delayed is justice denied,” he emphasized that the judicial system needs to be restructured in such a way that the appeal process does not always go through every layer of the judicial system and the Supreme Court of India look only at matters where the Constitution or prior judgments are not sufficient, a news release said.
This is also in line with the way the U.S. Supreme Court takes new cases, noted the release. Hegde emphasized that two levels of appeals are good enough for a fair judgment and that would limit the delays in justice. He mentioned that such reforms would require a constitutional change, it said.
The former Lokayukta (ombudsman) of the state of Karnataka emphasized the importance of always keeping empathy and the human element in view when adjudicating any case. A humanity- and consent-oriented view in society in general, and the judiciary in particular, are needed for reforms to provide fair judgment, the release said.
Without these elements any reform process would be insufficient in addressing society’s concerns, driving people to out-of-court settlements, in lieu of endlessly waiting for justice. While answering questions on arbitration, Hegde said he supported the system, but observed that arbitration often fails as the losing party goes back to the court which defeats the purpose of arbitration. Moreover, the arbitration process has also started taking years to close, it added.
While answering questions regarding the current Supreme Court's selection of cases where cases of VIPs, journalists and celebrities are heard on a priority basis rather than cases such as Sabarimala and Ram Janma Bhoomi, he said that the court can take out of turn select cases by giving a reason for transparency.
He mentioned that the selection should not be based on influence, power or biases, driving the need for transparency.
He further emphasized that the Supreme Court should be limited to cases related to interpretation of the constitution and of a broader implications to the people of India.
Hegde regretted the current state of the judiciary at the highest court where a judge presided over a case against himself and judges walked out to talk to the press, the release said.
The former Lokayukta also expressed concerns over corruption and criminalization in politics where corrupt and criminals get elected and get re-established as ministers or chief ministers. He criticized the punishment limit of seven years in mega-scams and corruption cases, it added.
For the larger and long term good, Hegde said that conscience, humanity and contentment should be a foundation of society, which should reform not only the judiciary but also politics and bureaucracy.