Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

Posted on 26. Dec, 2007 by in social justice

Siddharth Chitturi asked:

Jawaharlal Nehru, on the afternoon of March 19, 1955, while addressing the members of the Punjab High Court at the inauguration of its new building in Chandigarh, said, “Justice in India should be simple, speedy and cheap.” He remarked that litigation was a disease and it could not be a good thing to allow any disease to spread and then go out in search of doctors. Referring to an adage that “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied”, Pt. Nehru stressed that disposal of cases must not be delayed.

Securing Justice – Social, Economic and Political to all citizens is one of the key mandates of the Indian Constitution. This has been explicitly made so in Article 39 – A of the Constitution that directs the state “to secure equal justice and free legal aid for all its citizens.” But the experience of last 57 years shows that the state has failed to dispense quick, inexpensive justice to protect the rights of the poor and the vulnerable. Hon’ble Justice B.P. Singh, a serving Judge of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, spoke on the topic “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied: the Plight of Indian Poor” at Observer Research Foundation and said that “the situation today is so grim that if a poor is able to reach to the stage of Hon’ble High Court, it should be considered as an achievement. It has merely become a court of the rich.”

The justice delivery system is on the verge of collapse with more than 30 million cases clogging the system. There are cases that take so much time that even a generation is too short to get any type of redressal. A brief look at some of the judicial statistics would tell the true story of the state of justice in India today: –

On an average, 50 lakh crimes are registered everyday, which are sought to be investigated by the police.

The pendency of criminal cases in subordinate courts is in the region of 1.32 crores and the effective strength of judges is 12,177.

· The number of under – trials in criminal cases pending in the courts is 1.44 crores and of these over 2 lakh persons are in prison.

· On an average, Courts are able to dispose off 19% of pending cases every year.

The reasons for delay could be attributed to the fact that every case moves from the lowest to the highest level. Too many revisions, bails, applications make five cases of one. The Centre and the State Governments also contribute to the backlog. Not only is the Govt. the biggest litigant but also it creates fresh litigation because it doesn’t honour judicial decisions. Another obstacle to speedy justice is adjournments. As far as the situation in Subordinate Courts is concerned, the infrastructure is non existent and at times the judges have to write judgments with their own hands as they don’t have stenos. Every subordinate judge is caught between oppressive workload and hardly any time or facilities.

Constitution which mandates that the state shall secure that the operation of the legal system shall promote justice, on a basis of equal opportunity and shall ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen. The Judiciary is bound to shape the processes of the law to actualize the constitutional resolve to secure equal justice to all. A people who are illiterate by and large, indigent in no small measure, feudal in their way of life, and tribal and backward in large numbers, need an unconventional cadre of jurists and judges, if equal justice under the law is to be a reality. If there is breach, judicial power must offer effective shelter. Even if a legislation hurting or hampering the backward sector is passed, the higher courts have to declare the statute void, if it be contra-constitutional. In sum, the judicial process, in its functional fulfillment, must be at once a shield and sword in defending the have-nots when injustice afflicts them. And this must be possible even if the humbler folk, directly aggrieved, are too weak to move the court on their own and a socially sensitive agency advocates the cause. Securing justice – social, economic and political to all citizens is one of the key mandates of the Indian Constitution. This has been explicitly made so in the Article 39-A of the Constitution that directs the State – to secure equal justice and free legal aid for the citizens. But the experiences of last 57 years show that the State has failed squarely on addressing some very basic issues–quick and inexpensive justice and protecting the rights of poor and the vulnerable. The justice delivery system is on the verge of collapse with more than 30 million cases clogging the system. There are cases that take so much of time that even a generation is too short to get any type of redressal.

 

That it will take more than 300 years to clear the backlog of cases in Indian courts is proof enough that our criminal justice system is sick, stagnant and in urgent need of a complete overhaul. A committee was set up, a couple of years ago, under Justice V S Malimath to examine changes and its report came, coincidentally, at the time that justice was finally done in the Uphaar Cinema case and just before the fourth anniversary, Jessica Lal’s horrific murder. Both cases draw attention, in different ways, to the glaring flaws in our justice system.

In the Uphaar case it is shocking that it took ten years to establish that the 59 people died because of criminal negligence on the part of the cinema management and the Delhi government. It was clear from day one that nobody would have died had the cinema followed safety rules but because the wheels of Indian justice move at the pace of our national vehicle – the bullock cart – it took ten years for justice to be done.

Causes of Delay:-

Delay in disposition of cases– Due to huge pendency, the cases take years for its final disposal, which would normally take few months time. The arrears cause delay and delay means negating the accessibility of justice in true terms to the common man. The very core of a civil society and rule of law is the provision of justice, but the decision must be delivered within a reasonable time. It is totally unfair if a suspected criminal waits for trial for years and is ultimately found innocent. Similarly, the victim of the crime will be also not satisfied if there is no punishment to the criminal for so long. Only speedy justice could ensure effective maintenance of Law and order. Quality of justice not only promotes peace in the society but also strengthens internal security of the country. There are number of litigations which could be avoided if Govt. officials had taken interest, for e.g. section 80 of CPC require a prior notice of two months to Govt. by a party who wish to sue the Govt. The purpose of this section is to give time to Govt. to settle the matter with such party by taking proper and suitable action, and thereby could avoid unwanted and unnecessary litigation. But the utter failure of Govt. official in taking a quick, bold and suitable action inspite of giving time forces a person to file case.

Strength of Judges are inadequate according to population and bunch of cases. As of January 2005, pending cases in the Supreme Court number 30,000, in high courts over 33.79 lakh and in subordinate courts over 2.35 crore – a totally unacceptable situation. Much of this is due to shortage of judges. The ratio of judges to population is 10.5 to one million, the lowest in the world. Even this low level is not reached because of the accumulation of vacancies in the Benches -140 against the approved strength of 668 judges in high courts and 2000 against 15000 in subordinate courts.4

The infrastructure of the lower courts is very disappointing. Though, the Sup
reme Court and High Courts are having good infrastructure but this in not the same position with lower courts. The Courts have no convenient building or physical facilities. The executive has failed to provide necessary infrastructure to enable judiciary and function normally. Good library, requisite furniture, sufficient staff and reasonable space are the need of the qualitative justice. In some courts security systems is also not good. The legal profession is one of the most struggling profession but no social security scheme is available for lawyers, some financial aid should be provided to Bar associations or the new beginners by the government. The good working condition of the lawyers would help in the excellence of service and qualitative justice to the litigating public.

Competency of the Other Staff in Court : It should also be kept in mind that not only Judges and Advocates be competent but also the administrative and clerical staff. The clerical staff must be free from all type of corruption. This is the era of computerization. The highly technical and competitive clerical staff will also help in speedy course. We all know how much time is taken in getting merely a copy of the judgment? It is hard that money is used to speed up the process. The bribe giver does not wish, to get anything done unlawfully, but merely wants to speed up the process of movement of files and communication relating to decision. Certain sections of staff concerned do work only after taking money.

Investigative agencies generally delay : The investigation of crime It is generally heard that the accused gets bail as the investigating agency failed to submit charge sheet within statutory period. The combination of several functions, such as crime investigation, riot control, intelligence gathering, and security of VIPs by a single police force has a devastating effect on the criminal justice system. Nowadays, the crime investigation is not immune from the partisan politics. The power of the government to drop criminal charges against the accused has further abused it. The lethargic police investigation is also a ground of slow process of law.

Consider the condition of the poor victims of Bhopal gas Leak disaster, which took a toll of 15000 people. Twenty years had passed to that ghastly incident; still now victims were fighting for its compensation, which fails to measure up the damage caused to them. Consider the terrible situation occurred in August 1991 as massacre of Dalits at Tsundur in Andhra Pradesh. 13 years had passed to that incident, the families of the victims of Tsundur, still await justice for those who died. They say, they will not find any peace until the guilty are punished for their crime. Consider the condition of those girls who were brutally gang raped during the Godhra riots in front of their helpless family members. Consider the victims of Best Bakery case who still awaits justice to be dispensed in their favour but the climax starts with the key witness in the case turned hostile and the entire fate of the Bakery case is in turmoil. Today the victims of the all the above-enumerated cases know full well that the price of truth is extremely high.

 

“Still they are waiting… But for what? Whether all these amounts to justice?”

 

Remedies to Overcome Delay (Suggestions)

I. Talking about the strategies to deal with justice delay, an improved justice delivery system means cutting down the number of adjournments, reducing the time for arguments, keeping a check on review petitions/ frivolous petitions, stopping lawyers extending cases and so on.

II. Punishments should be very stringent and the implementing authorities should be tough so that crime comes down automatically.

III. Lawyers should encourage out of Court settlements.

IV. In case a lawyer looses a certain number of cases, his license should be suspended for sometime so that lawyers refrain from taking up frivolous cases.

V. Govt. Officials should be made personally liable for lapses so that cases against the Govt. are reduced.

VI. The number of appeals to be filed for each category of case should be fixed. Every litigant should not be allowed to go to the Hon’ble Supreme Court. If need be, the law can be changed accordingly.

VII. It is needed to establish a body at national level composed of Judges, Lawyers and Legal academics, which should be charged with a duty to conduct examinations for recruitment to Indian Judicial Service (IJS). Article 233 will have to be amended to confer power on the president to appoint members of Indian Judicial Services on the recommendation of National Judicial Service Commission. The creation of Indian Judicial Service is appeared necessary to get best available talent in the country.

VIII. There is urgently need to improve the basic infrastructure and management of resources. Modern technology and use of computers could also increase the efficiency of the court system. The judiciary has also to learn management techniques through training at all levels. Though, the Supreme Court and High Courts are having good infrastructure but this in not the same position with lower courts. The lower courts are the basic institution of justice and to improve the quality of the justice dispensed with, it is necessary to improve their infrastructure by modern technology. Lack of funds should not be allowed to enter in the way of development of infrastructure, as external security is necessary, internal maintenance of law and order is also necessary for the internal security, national interest, peace and progress. In general budget certain handsome amount could also be allocated to judiciary like defence and education or a separate judicial budget should be placed, like railway budget. The panel of government lawyer should also be on merits not on the basis of nearness to ministers. As the government is the largest litigant, more transparency is required on their part. Govt. counsel should be selected on the basis of merit, efficiency, integrity, by some transparent manner. There should also be some permanent vigilance provision to observe the working of the public prosecutors. Security system in courts also needs improvement for proper confidence of people and fearless functioning of system. Information-counter should be set up in every court for the convenience of litigating public.

IX. Our criminal justice system has the urgent requirement of Independent Investigative Agency. Delay in police investigation is also one reason due to which cases linger on for years. It is, therefore, good to create an independent wing of police force, fully in charge of crime investigation, and functioning under the direct control of independent prosecutors. That wing should be accountable to judiciary and not to particular government of a time. The practice of torture and third degree methods, extra judicial execution in fake encounters may be stopped also when crime investigation machinery became accountable to judiciary. Such type of police wing also became knowledgeable about the type and method of the evidence needed. Hence, baseless cases, which lead acquittal, also could come down. So, there should be co-ordination between police and prosecuting agencies. The early disposal of case also boosts the morals of police force and will save time, which would have been taken in producing arrestee to the court Horn time to time.

X. We have inherited British legal system, British prescribed it at that time, without considering the need of Indian society nor did they consider the practical of the procedure. So, this system is drawn from different sources without seeing the ground realities. Some people today prefer to keep quiet, rather than go to the court of law. So, now this system is more Indianised for making it fit to society. It is heard that in ancient time justice system was very good. The disputes were settled on the spot by delivering justice. B
ut ancient justice proceedings were oral in general and therefore no much record is available. Now we can take modem know-how from the countries, which have best justice delivery system by getting acquainted with the procedure followed there, if fit to Indian society. The civil and criminal procedure codes and the laws of evidence have to be substantially revised to meet the requirements of modem judicial administration. Though most of procedural laws are effective even today but some provision needs revision, especially the civil laws. To lessen the burden of cases, we may introduce the concept of’ Plea-bargaining’ by decriminalization of those wrongs, which can justly be dealt with by compensatory remedies (Compensation to victim like in tort). The institutions involved in justice delivery system such as the police, the prosecution, and the court, prison etc.-requires to be reformed in terms of organization, procedures, resources and accountability. So that, nowhere citizen feels uneasiness. There should be time limits prescribed for adjudication. There should be uniform formats for the appeals and petitions to make the procedure easy. The judgment should be in brevity and clarity. The concept like of public interest litigation is always welcoming, which is affordable to common men. Hence, there is a lot of scope to improve the situation. For e.g. Section 301 Cr. P.c. should be amended to allow the victim to appoint a lawyer of his choice in addition to public prosecutor to defend his case. Similarly, Section 3 13 (3) of Cr. P.C. also be amended so that the accused would be held liable for refusal to give answer or telling lie. The victim will be allowed to cross-examine the accused to elucidate the truth. There must be some fixed time for presentation of written statement, counter claim and reply like the plaint, under the I imitation Act. After all procedural law is meant to further ends of justice.

Conclusion

While the problem of delay looks daunting, it can be dealt with, by having more fast track Courts, making judicial services more attractive thereby attracting good lawyers and filling up all vacancies at various Courts. We can conclude from the above discussion that we should not resort in extra-ordinary hurry-up of cases by whatever means. As justice delayed is justice denied, similarly, the saying, justice hurried is justice buried is equally true. Therefore, sufficient, reasonable and due hearing of every cases with consideration of its circumstances is the necessary requirement of natural justice and balance of convenience. In fact, the untiring efforts put by fear and flavorless Indian Judiciary is doing commendable job of imparting justice in spite of so many difficulties, which created faith of public in the rule. Of law is a great achievement, which really requires deep appreciation. Social justice will be possible only if the entire concept of egalitarian politico-social order is followed, where no one is exploited, where every one is liberated and where every one is equal and free from Hunger and poverty. The proverb ‘Justice Delayed is Justice Denied’ is proved as it is denied to the poorest of the poor. Providing basic necessities to them will amount to Justice because the definition of justice varies from individuals to individuals on the basis of its economic conditions. According to B.P.Singh J the situation today is so grim that if a poor is able to reach to the stage of a high court, it should be considered as an achievement.  Cases should be decided for imparting justice not for the sake of its disposal. Secondly, Arbitration procedure must be utilized as a better option for quick disposal of cases. Finally, to conclude with the words of Lord Hewet as it is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.

“Without Justice, life would not be possible and even if it were it would not be worth living” ……Giorgio Del Vecchio

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply