Case for the prosecution
- Supreme Court strikes down Section 66A, says it violates right to speech
- Pakistan Day: PM greets, MoS VK Singh tweets #disgust
- DK Ravi's death: Govt calls in CBI, tells court he had a ‘relationship’ with batchmate
- Mufti Mohammad Sayeed says will take Army into confidence on AFSPA
- 1987 Hashimpura massacre: The photographs that stand witness
Does India have too few lawyers? Well, that's certainly debatable, but it could probably benefit from some more prosecutors. Despite India's rising global prominence, there is a startling and continuing gap between the laws passed by Parliament and the law that is enforced. Ration shops that are supposed to be open six days a week are open barely one. Untreated sewage is dumped into rivers, flouting environmental rules. Criminal and anti-corruption laws seem to roll off the back of the politically connected. Ordinary Indians can be excused if they think the law often seems more like a vision statement for the country than a reliable indicator of what will actually be implemented.
Under-enforcement of the law is often blamed on a lack of political will, but this misses a key point. There are too few prosecutors with the power and independence to
enforce the law not just against citizens, but against the government itself, no matter the political winds.
This has not gone unnoticed by the courts. At its base, most public interest litigation simply allows the public-spirited to prosecute the government to enforce its own laws. This legal innovation is an important recourse of last resort, but what is needed are stronger prosecutorial mechanisms. The law is as dependent on its prosecutors as on its judges, yet despite the hard work of many committed government servants, prosecutorial agencies in India are in disarray and frequently undermined. For example, even though the prime minister has reportedly proposed creating an independent directorate of prosecution, the CBI still acts as both investigator and prosecutor in its cases, reducing accountability and the ability to limit political interference.
Frequently there is no clear prosecutor to act as a watchdog. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme's success in different states varies widely; but given its beneficiaries' limited means, almost no legal cases have challenged these shortcomings. Strides towards enforcement are being made through the political process and civil society, but there is no independent prosecutor to act in the worst cases.