Daily Current Affairs – 17th May, 2016

Daily Current Affairs – 17th May, 2016

Unequal access to Justice

Supreme Court: Directed parties to an ongoing civil litigation to each pay a fixed sum of money to enable them to have their cases heard, and potentially disposed of, at an early date

  • Imposing costs on one of the parties at the end of a protracted litigation— A common method in practice to act as a deterrent against litigants abusing the process and the system of the law
  • Prioritisation of the case (over another) by granting early dates of hearing to those, who are capable of paying huge sums of money— A matter of shame as it reinforces a scheme of classism that has no place in any court of law

Imposition of a pre-deposit—A capitalist’s calculation

For rich corporates:

  • A sort of fast-tracked justice tailor-made for those corporates who are keener for the settlement of mundane issues of little public consequence
  • One of the steps which can be adopted to reduce pendency and discourage litigation
  • Transformation of the Court into a court that now stands to serve only for the benefit of a few Indians, or the “big clients


Justice—A luxury

For ordinary men: Serves to deeply burden— the price to be paid for an early hearing would simply be out of reach

The Constitution, wrote Justice S.N. Dwivedi in his separate judgment in the famous Kesavananda Bharati case, “is not intended to be the arena of legal quibbling for men with long purses”

Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees to all persons a right to equality before the law and the equal protection of the laws— the idea of providing equal access to justice inheres both in Article 14 and in any reasonable notion of the rule of law. To achieve a perfect model of equal access would require every person to be possessed of an equal ability to defend his or her rights—Difficult to achieve in a society as unequal as India’s

The same Court, in the 1980s, for expanding the right to legal access— had allowed claimants, whose rights were not directly affected by actions of the state, to approach the court on behalf of the larger public.

“The legal aid movement and public interest litigation seek to bring justice to these forgotten specimens of humanity who constitute the bulk of the citizens of India and who are really and truly the ‘People of India’ who gave to themselves this magnificent Constitution,” wrote Justice P.N. Bhagwati in People’s Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India (1982).

“It is true that there are large arrears pending in the courts, but that cannot be any reason for denying access to justice to the poor and weaker sections of the community. No state has a right to tell its citizens that because a large number of cases of the rich and the well-to-do are pending in our courts, we will not help the poor to come to the courts for seeking justice until the staggering load of cases of people who can afford is disposed of.”

Change in the court’s underlying philosophy—Almitra Patel v. Union of India

Public Interest Litigation filed to regulate solid waste disposal in the city of Delhi—Supreme Court wound up chastising the slum-dweller instead— “The promise of free land, at the taxpayers’ cost, in place of a jhuggi, is a proposal which attracts more land grabbers,” wrote Justice B.N. Kirpal. “Rewarding an encroacher on public land with free alternative site is like giving a reward to a pickpocket.”

Ensuring equal access to justice (United Nations Development Programme)

  • Means much more than improving an individual’s access to courts and the guarantee of proper legal representation— not only asks for a proper definition to emerge for the concept of ‘access to justice’ but also grant the concept the importance of it being the necessity for just and equitable legal and judicial outcomes
  • “When dealing with a question of court fee,” wrote Justice D.A. Desai in a 1978 judgment of the Supreme Court, “the perspective should be informed by the spirit of the Magna Carta and of equal access to justice which suggests that a heavy price tag on relief in Court should be regarded as unpalatable.”
  • There is a need for the Court to thus, change the path its treading upon as it just marks “an imposition of an inequality”, thereby making illusory some of the Constitution’s most cherished promises entrenched in the Preamble, of justice, social, economic and political, and of equality of status and of opportunity.

Connecting the Dots:

  • Critically examine if the recent decision taken by the Supreme Court w.r.t each paying a fixed sum of money to enable them to have their cases heard, and potentially disposed of, at an early date
  • An IP policy with no innovationBackground:
    • Intellectual property (IP) regimes suffer a classic paradox. While they attempt to encourage innovation and creativity, they have themselves been shielded from innovation experimentation.
    • For some years now, India has been attempting to break this mould and craft a regime to suit its own distinctive set of concerns. Section 3(d) of the Patents Act, 1970, was a bold attempt in this direction, aimed at eradicating “evergreen” drug patents.
    • At last count, a total of 2.37 lakh patent applications and over 5.44 lakh trademark registrations were deemed as pending, some of these hanging fire for years.
    • The main reason for these pendency figures (updated March 10, 2016) has been attributed to the shortage of manpower in the country’s intellectual property offices.
    • The unclogging of the pendency and quality examination are at the heart of improving the robustness of India’s Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) system, something that the government has moved towards by announcing the country’s first IPR policy.


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