India Country Profile
According to Freedom House 2012, the judiciary, particularly at the lower levels, is reportedly rife with corruption, and most citizens have great difficulty securing effective and fair case resolution through the courts. Citizens report that court procedures are very slow and complicated and that the court system fuels the use of bribes and other kinds of influence peddling. People give bribes to obtain a favourable judgment, but bribes are also used to influence public prosecutors. This is illustrated by the Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer 2010, in which a substantial number of household respondents reported having paid a bribe to the judiciary in 2009. According to the US Department of State 2011, bribes are reportedly paid to move a case more rapidly through the system.
There are indications that when interacting with the judiciary, companies are faced with the same problems of cumbersome bureaucracy and corruption as ordinary citizens. The court system is severely backlogged and understaffed and, according to Freedom House 2012, there are currently millions of pending civil and criminal cases - many of these being disputes involving companies. Although computerisation has enhanced the efficiency of the courts, enforcing contracts is still so time-consuming that the World Bank & IFC Doing Business 2013 reports that India is among the worst economies in the world in terms of time taken to enforce commercial contracts. Despite government efforts to the contrary, companies continue to deal with a cumbersome judicial bureaucracy.
The higher judiciary in India is usually considered to be more clean and transparent than the lower levels of the judiciary. According to the Transparency International Global Corruption Report 2008, the Supreme Court is taking both political and general corruption seriously and bringing the issues of corruption into its judgments. However, there are only a few recent examples of corruption and political protection of High Court and Supreme Court judges involved in problematic cases of judicial favours. According to Freedom House 2012, judges have in recent years initiated several contempt-of-court cases against activists and journalists, raising questions about their misuse of the laws to intimidate those who expose the behaviour of corrupt judges or question verdicts. According to the Bertelsmann Foundation 2012, the courts remain institutionally autonomous, in spite of pressures by the executive, who interferes with judicial nominations and transfers politically unpopular judges.
In 2012, news reports revealed that the Central Bureau of Investigation was ordered to probe former customs tribunal judge, Gowri Shankar, after the U.S. government alerted the Indian ambassador of five cases of improper payments between Indian officials and U.S. firms in 2008-2009. Shankar allegedly accepted USD 500,000 from the American firm, Pride Foramer, to overturn a customs commissioner’s 2001 order where Pride Foramer was ordered to pay a penalty plus interests for understating the value of an imported oil rig. The investigation is still on-going.
Recently, the government has taken actions to reprimand corrupt judicial officers and rhetoric condemning such behaviour gives the impression that there is a real concern and desire to squash judicial corruption within the government. Justice Soumitra Sen, a High Court judge, allegedly received INR 4.2 million as a court-appointed receiver and depositing the amount in his personal account. According to a September 2011 article by BBC News, the Upper House of Parliament had voted to impeach Sen with the Lower House of Parliament scheduled to vote on the impeachment. However, Sen resigned from his position before the impeachment vote. According to the same article, if the Lower House had voted against Sen, he would have become the first senior judge to be impeached in India.
The World Bank & IFC: Doing Business 2013:
- Enforcing a commercial contract through Indian courts requires a company to go through an average of 46 administrative procedures, takes an average of 1,420 days and costs more than 39% of the claim.
World Economic Forum: The Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013:
- Business executives give the independence of the judiciary from influences of members of government, citizens, or companies a score of 4.5 on a 7-point scale (1 'heavily influenced' and 7 'entirely independent').
- Business executives give the efficiency of the legal system for private companies to settle disputes and to challenge the legality of government actions and/or regulations a score of 3.7 and 3.8 respectively on a 7-point scale (1 'extremely inefficient' and 7 'highly efficient').
Transparency International: Global Corruption Barometer 2010:
- Citizens give the judiciary a score of 3.1 on a 5-point scale (1 being 'not at all corrupt' and 5 'extremely corrupt').
- 45% of households who had contact with the judiciary in 2009 report to have paid a bribe.
Transparency International: Bribe Payers Index 2008:
- Business executives give the judiciary a score of 2.9 on a 5-point scale (1 'not at all corrupt' and 5 'extremely corrupt').