The Indian court system consists of a supreme court, high courts at state level and subordinate courts at district and local level.
According to the Global Corruption Report 2007, the upper judiciary is considered relatively clean, with open court proceedings and free access to prosecution documents authenticated orders, etc. In the lower justice institutions, corruption is reportedly rampant and systemic.
The Global Corruption Barometer 2007 gives the judiciary a score of 3.8 on a 5 point scale, while 80% of the 2005 Tl India CMS study’s respondents perceive the judiciary as corrupt. 47% claim to have 3 paid bribes to lawyers or court officials. Court procedures are very slow and complicated, and the court system is severely backlogged and understaffed.
This results in delays in the processing of cases, and a loss of confidence in the law and in the justice system. (Freedom House 2008 estimates that there are currently 30 million civil and criminal cases pending).
There is also a high level of discretion in the processing of paperwork during trials and multiple points where court officials can misuse their power with impunity. In such contexts, people are tempted to resort to bribes, favours, hospitality or gifts not only to obtain a favourable decision but to move the case through the system and speed up the court proceedings.
The independence of the judiciary is guaranteed by the Constitution and India is ranked 26th of 131 countries on indicators of judicial independence in the Global Competitiveness Report 2007-2008.
According to the Global Corruption Report 2007, however, there have been recent cases of political interference in judicial decisions involving powerful individuals. In spite of the various legal provisions in place, the appointment of judges is not always free from political interference.
The Global Integrity Report 2007 also rates judicial accountability as weak. The weakness of the judiciary, the lack of political independence of the police and poor law enforcement contribute to a culture of impunity where few politicians or civil servants are indicted or convicted for corruption.