The Dawdling Justice Deliverance in India By Mitali Shahane from Pravin Gandhi College of Law, Mumbai
We, as law students must have quite often heard that “Justice delayed, is Justice denied." This phrase can be perfectly related to the current scenario where a prudent man, aware of his rights approaches the Courts for justice, but his reach to justice faces prolonged adjournments, leading to expensive litigation, which is in toto contrary to what we understand by ‘Justice’. Isn’t this actually denial of justice? Nearly, seven decades have passed since the formalising of the justice deliverance mechanism in India, but dispensing Justice seems to have adopted a different approach altogether.
The transition period has witnessed an increase in the number of cases being filed in the Courts, increase in adjournments, the matter being dragged for many years and the factor of paramount importance, the judge to case ratio still a concern. The ground reality of the current judicial system of India shows that it is crippling with the twin problem of “delay” and “pendency” and it is perfectly right to say that the prudent man’s justice has been denied. The wrath of delay and pendency if amassed reflects the reality of Indian judiciary and a solution to tackle the same is the need of the hour.
According to the 245th Law Commission of India Report on “Arrears and Backlog: Creating Additional Judicial (wo)manpower”, the terms “delay” and “pendency” have been assigned a precise definition. Delay means where a case has taken more than normal time to be disposed of. Pendency means where the cases have been instituted but not disposed notwithstanding the institution of a case. Delay and Pendency has raised alarm not only amongst the judicial fraternity but also the Government and a solution needs to be formulated. Many committees were established in 1924, 1949, 1969 (committee headed by Justice Hidayatulla) and 1972 (Justice Shah was the Chairman). The committees have analysed various reasons for delay and pendency. Large number of vacancies of Judges in High Courts and Subordinate Courts, increase in adjournments, misuse of PIL, lack of adequate number of courts, frequent transfer of judges. Justice V.R Krishna Iyer in his autobiography titled “Up Till Now” highlighted this issue, by stating that “Our courts have become so slow involved in arcane procedures than to circumvent them and reach remedial justice. Law is exaggerating, expensive, extra-ordinary experience and the hierarchical system we have inherited makes the late disposal and static ideals an inevitable phenomenon.” Jurists and academicians have recommended that more judges should be appointed to tackle the issues of delay and pendency. However, here we should make a mention of Justice Iyer’s view. He states, “The more the number of judges, the more the benches or more litigation, more judgments, more appeals and revision and reviews and more cases multiply the number of judges and you can see the multiplication of dockets. It is an illusion to imagine that more judges will reduce the arrears….the Indian Supreme Court has resorted to a procedure to escalate the case. Basically, send the case back to the High Court to reconsider and the case comes back to the Supreme Court. Thus, one single case becomes three.” The foresightedness of Justice Iyer has somewhat proved to be correct.
The only remedy available is to make the drafting of law simple and repeal the old laws such as Indian Penal Code, Code of Civil Procedure, etc. The problem can also be tackled by increasing the number of courts. An amendment has to be made for establishing the benches of Supreme Court as it would not only solve the problem of expensive litigation simultaneously help focus on dispensing cases at the earliest. There are precisely 3 crore cases pending in the Courts as of today and the Judiciary and the Government have to, in consensus, arrive at a solution. Judges need to be appointed in the High Courts as per sanctioned strength. Right to speedy trial is a right recognised under Article 21 by the Supreme Court in Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar, and it has to be made available to every citizen of the country with timely disposal of cases. Under Legal Services Authorities Act, 1976, Lok Adalats were established. Over the years, since its inception encouragement for Lok Adalats needs to be promoted. Thus, the problem of delay and pendency can be effectively remedied with the active participation of all wings of Government.
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