India’s judicial system is today widely viewed as highly dysfunctional. The legal inheritance from the colonial era is partly to blame. Complex and contradictory legislation on land rights led to disputes which clogged colonial-era courts. This problem has only intensified in independent India. The colonial-period decision to link “personal” law pertaining to matters such as divorce and inheritance to religion has had long-term consequences. It is now difficult to address issues of gender equity because they are linked to religious freedom. Independent India also inherited a style of litigation in which judges permit frivolous suits as well as various appeals and adjournments which lead to delay. We see continuity between the colonial period and independent India in all these trends. In some other areas such as labor law and industrial regulation, complexity and over-regulation are the result of choices made by post-independence governments, which adopted a far more interventionist role in the economy than the British Raj did. Here the story is one of rupture, rather than continuity, with the colonial period.
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