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India’s Rule of Law Index Ranking Drops to 68; Behind Nepal and Sri Lanka

Kingson Chingakham



India’s Global Ranking in the Rule of Law Index 2019 dropped to 68th out of the total 126 countries. In 2018, India was ranked 65th. Among the South Asian Countries, India has been ranked behind Nepal and Sri Lanka. The Rule of Law Index is an annual series prepared by the World Justice Project (WJP) measuring the rule of law based on the experiences and perceptions of the general public and in-country experts worldwide.

What is the Rule of Law?

According to the WJP, the following four principles constitute Rule of Law:

  1. Accountability: The government, as well as private actors, are accountable under the law.
  2. Just Laws: The laws are applied evenly irrespective of income, power, caste, gender, etc.
  3. Open Government: The procedure in which the government enacts and administer laws should be fair and efficient. It should also be accessible, for example, Right to Information.
  4. Accessible and Impartial Dispute Resolution.

How Did India fair in all the Parameters?

The Ranking has been further subdivided into regional and income rankings. Under the South Asia regional ranking, India has been ranked third, below Nepal and Sri Lanka. Out of the 30 Low Middle-Income countries, India is in the 7th rank; behind countries like Ghana and Indonesia.

Source: WJP Rule of Law Index 2019

Out of the 8 parameters, India has done poorly in 6 parameters and have performed fairly in 2 parameters. We will first discuss what went wrong for India.

6 Parameters where India Ranked Low

Order and Security: The first parameter where India has been ranked the lowest is under ‘Order and Security’. Security is one of the defining aspects of any rule of law and is a fundamental function of the state to ensure the security of persons and property. Maintenance of proper order and security is paramount to the realization of various rights and freedom. India has been ranked 111th among the 126 countries in the parameter. The reasons cited for this are the absence of violent redress, improper mechanism to address civil conflicts and a threat to security due to the rising incidence of crime.

Civil Justice: Under this parameter, India has been ranked 97th out of the 126 countries. This parameter measures whether civil justice systems are accessible and affordable as well as free of discrimination, corruption, and improper influence by public officials. Further, it examines whether court proceedings are conducted without unreasonable delays and if decisions are enforced effectively. As we know, the delay in our judiciary is one of the major reasons crippling our system. Apart from this, the report also highlighted that India has done poorly when it comes to ‘effective enforcement’. Accessibility, affordability, and discrimination are the other areas that need serious attention. Though, India has been applauded for ‘no improper government influence’, the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADRs) need to be more impartial and effective.

Low Middle-Income Ranking 2019

Absence of Corruption: India has been ranked 80th out of the 126 countries in the parameter. According to the report, there are higher corruption cases in the legislature, executive branch, and the police/military. Prevalent of corruption in the Judiciary can also be seen but below the above three branches.

Criminal Justice: This parameter examines the effectiveness of bringing actions against individuals for the offensive against society. An assessment of the delivery of criminal justice has been done considering the entire system, including the police, lawyers, prosecutors, judges, and prison officers. India has been positioned 77th out of the 126 countries in this parameter. The reasons listed for the low ranking are an ineffective investigation, delay in adjudication, the improper correctional system, discrimination and corruption, government influence in the cases and breaking of due process of law.

South Asia Regional Ranking 2019

Regulatory Enforcement: This parameter inquires into how regulations are implemented and enforced. India has been ranked 76th out of the 126 countries in this parameter. Due process is ignored at various levels. There is a need for immediate attention to effectively enforce government regulations, such as labor, environmental, public health, commercial, and consumer protection. There are many cases where private individuals with their selfish interest have attempted to influence through bribery of the public officials. There have been unreasonable delays in administrative proceedings too.

Fundamental Rights: This does not need an explanation. As Indians, we are all aware of this concept. But we have been placed in the 75th rank out of the 126 countries in this parameter. India has been put midway in eight fundamental rights described in the report. India needs to work on the right to life & security, labor rights, freedom of association, right to privacy, due process of law, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and equal treatment without discrimination irrespective of class, caste, gender, etc.

Now, the happy news. Which parameters did India perform fairly?

Constraints on Government Power: By this, it means the powers of the government, its officials and agents are limited and held accountable under the law. India has been ranked 40th out of the 126 countries. Though the present BJP government has a clear majority in the Lower House, it does not have the majority in the Upper House. Government powers are effectively limited by the legislature. Our Judiciary system is independent of the other branches. Therefore, Government powers are effectively limited by the judiciary. In addition to the above two, Government powers are effectively limited by independent auditing and review. The rise of civil society to check on the government policies are encouraging. We need to examine the independence of media from government intervention. Through strict judicial review and maintenance of law, the transition of power has been in accordance with the constitution. Although India has performed fairly in the above areas, there is one important area which needs to be worked on – ‘sanctioning of government officials for misconduct’.

Open Government: This is the parameter India has performed the best. The country has been ranked 34th out of the 126 countries. The report has applauded the ways in which basic laws and information on legal rights are publicly available, presented in plain language, and made accessible in all languages. The country has also performed well in terms of the right to information and civic participation. Redressal of public grievances has been one of the areas India was lacking in the last few decades. But the government has initiated an online grievance redressal portal. Nonetheless, the report says that the officers at work need to be more sensitive and attentive to the complaints of the people.

Identifying the above weaknesses and strengths, the government now should work with all the stakeholders to strengthen our rule of law.

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