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Events > Summary of the panel-discussion

“IS INDIA’S LEGAL SYSTEM HAMPERING ITS ECONOMY AND DEMOCRACY?”

13th December
11 AM to 1 PM
Ahmedabad Management Association


(L to R: Prof. Dileep Mavalankar, Mr. Sunil Parekh, Mr. Girish Patel, Ms. Kanan Dhru)

On Sunday December 13th 2009, the Research Foundation for Governance in India (RFGI) held a panel discussion at the Ahmedabad Management Association. The topic being discussed was “Is India’s legal system is hampering its economy and democracy”. Founder of RFGI, Kanan Dhru, opened the event by introducing the Foundation and explaining its objectives; to help create strong processes of governance and an aware citizenry, primarily through seeking reforms in the legal and political arena. RFGI was privileged to have Mr Sunil Parekh, Professor Dileep Mavalankar and Mr Girish Patel as panellists for the discussion.

A short documentary made by RFGI interns Curtis Riep (Canada), Ramiro Gomes Monteiro (Netherlands) and Catherine See (Malyasia) in partnership with Ahmedabad-based film production company Social Canvas, was shown. The documentary highlighted the injustice and inequality within the legal system in India, focusing on issues such as the inaccessibility of justice to the ordinary people of India and the huge backlog of cases at the Indian courts. Mr Sunil Parekh then opened the panel discussion.

Mr. Parekh stated that the legal system is “crying for reforms”, as the laws in India do not reflect the change in society today. He briefly discussed the need to unify old and new laws to make them more relevant, and the need to make the legal system far more transparent in order to fight corruption. Mr Parekh also addressed the issue of delayed justice in India and the huge problem of backlog of cases. He emphasised the importance of addressing pending cases faster so that people are not jailed for unreasonable lengths of time.

Specifically referring to the debate topic, Mr. Parekh pointed out that we are experiencing very good growth in India’s economy, therefore it is not immediately apparent that the legal system is hampering the economy. However he argued that without justice, the economy is unpredictable and a vicious cycle begins, where eventually lack of trust and stability will lead to investment stalling and economic progression slowing down. In conclusion Mr. Parekh posed the interesting question of whether India’s current judicial system is the only reliable way that we can bring justice? He argued that perhaps Indians should explore other ways, seeking guidance from India’s rich history – there is no solution in ending the problem unless people look back to the basics.

Professor Mavalankar continued the discussion, using his expertise in health care to make comparisons between the Indian public health system and the Indian legal system. He first emphasised the need for legal recourse because of social changes (population increase, urbanisation, increase in trade and industry). Like Mr. Parekh, he then discussed the problem of people no longer fearing the law, as they do not perceive the risk of being caught or being tried in the courts as very high. This can be blamed on the lack of faith in police and other government departments, and the undeniable delays in the courts.

Mr. Mavalankar also discussed possible solutions to the problems. He argued that principles of the queuing theory should be applied to the legal system, increasing the supply and decreasing the demand. A discipline similar to public health or preventative and social medicine could be developed for the legal system if lawyers and judges think of the underlying factors that lead to litigation and how those factors can be improved. Education he argued, is crucial so that people know how to get maximum benefits out of the law. Professor Mavalankar concluded that although India’s economy is growing, the fundamentals of democracy are becoming shaky, which is resulting in misdirected growth where the fundamentals of democracy, public safety and human rights are in question.

Mr. Girish Patel was the final panellist to speak. Referring to the knowledge of the other two panellists (neither of whom are experts in law), he questioned why, given that people know how atrocious the legal system in India is, no changes taking place? Mr. Patel said that though India’s economy is growing we should not be proud of the changes, given the circumstances that they are taking place in. He stressed that India’s legal system and its democracy are inextricably linked, so perhaps India’s democracy and economy are hampering its legal system too?

Mr. Patel suggested that if India is to be truly democratic, then the legal system itself must be a democratic system. Currently, India’s entire legal system is working in a way that does not reflect the people’s views and priorities. The whole system is currently non-transparent, with Judges not being accountable to anybody. The people have a right to know who will be their judges and these judges must be accountable for justice to be delivered. Thus, he proposed that the Constitution should be amended so that the Supreme Court is itself a democratic institution, enabling people to be involved in the appointment of judges in India.

Following the arguments by the panellists, the audience had an opportunity to ask the panellists questions in order to further the debate. The audience asked many interesting questions and many valid points were made by people from all sectors of society – students, elder members of the audience and lawyers. A magistrate also joined the debate, speaking on behalf of the legal system.

This event was very successful and has certainly encouraged discussion about India’s legal system and the effects it has or may have on our economy and democracy. The feedback from both the panellists and members of the audience has been very positive. The organisation plans to continue its research on this topic, in the hope of further educating the public on the impact India’s legal system is having on its economy and democracy. Many thanks to the panellists who kindly gave up their own time to participate in the event and also to the members of the public who attended the event.



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