Friday, July 22, 2005


The Madras High Court is one of the oldest in India, but today it has other dubious distinctions to its credit. One of them is that it has the highest number of pending cases. Every year nearly one lakh cases are filed but bizarrely there are not enough judges to settle disputes!

(Ever noticed how the burgeoning population of the country never seems to spill into government vacancies!)

But getting back to the Madras High Court... it has a sanctioned strength of 49 judges but the system groans, stumbles and totters along at half strength with only 24 judges.

Now, you must be wondering - is it that difficult to find somebody to play judge?! No, its not very difficult. Its not very difficult to find someone qualified and erudite to arbitrate. But what is difficult is to find men and women who will not be partisan, who will be fair and who will uphold the loftiest ideals in the Indian constitution.

It would be stating the obvious to say that the independence of the judiciary is a myth. But what is less trite is the disturbing extent to which political parties are now able to extend their sphere of influence. That is why it has taken so long to fill these vacancies. Most lawyers in the Madras High Court will tell you that the public is suffering while the political parties play ping-pong.

This is how it works - any lawyer with a practice of 10 years behind him/her is eligible to become a judge. A collegium of three high court judges draws up a list of nominees. That list is then sent to the Law Ministry. The Intelligence Bureau gets into the act and does a background check on these men and women. If a stench has not started to emanate, the list is forwarded to a collegium of five supreme Court judges. They finalise the list and then it goes back to the law ministry and lastly onto the president after which the judges are finally appointed.
Political parties can throw a spanner into the works at any time during this process. Right now, both the DMK and the AIADMK are unhappy with some of the names on that list. Both sides want names of people on that list, who will toe their line. So they've been stalling it by raising objections.

Meanwhile, the system of justice delivery is slowing down drastically. It is groaning under the heavy burden of cases that are filed everyday. It is proving redundant. Jail sentences finish before bail applications are taken up for hearing. People move out of their homes before a property dispute can be settled with the landlord. More crimes are committed before a conviction can be given for the first one.

K R Tamizhmani, President of the Madras Bar Association, acknowledges that an already weak system has been made weaker. He says of the present crisis, "The system functions on the faith a common man has in it...that faith is now may be ruined shortly."


Revanta said...

Does it pay well to be a judge? Perhaps a young attorney would rather be with a private firm, than deal with the travails of being a high court judge, for little pay. I know little of all things judicial, but it would be interesting to know if the prestige of being a high court judge wins out despite a pay cut?

Vaibhav Arora said...

From what i know of some people who went to the prestigiuos NLS and other institutes of repute - The young lawyer of this day wants a corporate job. This is much the same as the CAs and the MBAs of the world.
Corporate law pays well right from the start (certainly not as well as an MBA degree) but better than being practicing on your own in the initial years.
Perhaps this has an effect down the line on numbers available to be a judge.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I came here via Kiruba's blog. Nice posts.

sathish said...

Hi, Came in thru Kribs blog...
Is it possible for you to cover a news item on Cycling in India. I have found that if you want to cycle around in your place, none of the shopping malls allow you to park your cycles. They are considered as if it is not an entity to be driven around.
Do check out my write up in my blogs..

Even my friends face the same problem. There should be some way that the govt understands there should be some space for people to park their cycles without worry of theft, nor fight for parking.

Alaphia Zoyab said...

Hi Sathish,
This story about cycling sounds extremely interesting. Why dont you mail me your number and we can discuss this to take it forward. Sounds unbelievable. you have china moving towards encouraging people to use cycles and here they do everything to discourage it!

Alaphia Zoyab said...

Hi Suresh Kumar,

Thanks a lot.

Vaibhav Arora said...

Indians typically tend to associate anything involving manual labour as something not worth doing.
Thus cycling has come to be associated with those who have not rather than those making a choice to do it.
Londoners recently took to cycling after the london bombings in a big way - it was safe. Netherlands has a cycling monarchy. And we dont have service lanes -leave alone dedicated bicycling lanes! In some ways, riding a bicycle is worse than walking - you are so prone to accident - and simply looked down upon !
Can go on and on .. its something i feel strongly about ...
I shall await your story.

Alaphia Zoyab said...

Hi Puddlefrog and Rb,

Yeah its probably true that they'll make a lot more money as advocates rather than judges, but there are lots of people who want to be judges... However, with these political parties interfering with the process of appointing them, we really end up with a bunch of guys whos integrity is quite suspect.

Alaphia Zoyab said...

Hi puddlefrog,

People may associate cycling with manual labour, but not to be provided parking space is shocking! Parking contracts are given out to ex-servicemen... perhaps they dont make any money on cycles which is why they drive them out... no idea, just speculating, but it will be interesting to find out.

Alaphia Zoyab said...

Hi puddlefrog,

People may associate cycling with manual labour, but not to be provided parking space is shocking! Parking contracts are given out to ex-servicemen... perhaps they dont make any money on cycles which is why they drive them out... no idea, just speculating, but it will be interesting to find out.

Kiruba Shankar said...

I cycle to work everyday and totally understand the difficulties and sentiments that Satish has stated.

Tidel Park, which is Chennai's best IT park hardly has space for cycle parking. The cycles go unguarded while the motobikes and cars are taken really good care of. If your cycle gets stolen, well, its just your bad luck!!

I hear that the new IT corridor highway being built right now (the one that runs outside Tidel) has a separate lane for cyclists. That would be fantastic, if its for real.

Satish and his brother, Shyam, also cycle regularly. Though it can be a bigger nightmare in Bangalore!! :)

Vaibhav Arora said...

But Bangalore has nicer weather for cycling :)
Trafficwise - same shade of scare in bangalore and here!

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FlirtinFelicity said...

i certainly agree puddlefrog.

VHS said...

'If a stench has not started to emanate...' -these words talk a lot about the state of affairs prevalent. Even the good tend to be vulnerable and become an easy prey of the wicked. Yet, there is a ray of hope that the dedicated ones retain their loyalty to their principles.