Monday, 31 October 2016

Justice delayed is justice denied

Constitution of India - Preamble

People use to go to the judiciary in quest of justice. But sixty years after Independence, we have endless laws but not enough justice.

Justice is a consumer product and must therefore meet the test of confidence, reliability and dependability like any other product if it is to survive market scrutiny. Judicial responsibility, accountability and independence are in every sense inseparable. Credibility of the judiciary is at stake now due to mounting arrears of cases, delays in disposal and also high cost of obtaining justice. The denial of justice through delay is the biggest mockery of law. It does not amount to mere mockery, the delay in fact kills the entire fabric of justice delivery system of the country.

Justice and the judiciary is the inevitable result of that civilization. But the present day society is a victim to the dilatoriness of the process of justice. People unfortunately fall victim to injustice. They suffer day after day. A major portions of the Indian people are very poor and illiterate as well. They come to the court to get justice by paying their hard-earned money. They pay to advocates, law clerks day after day, and wait for justice. They become gradually destitute by selling their everything to meet the fees of advocates, law clerks and other expenses and eternally wait for justice. Sometimes they pass away from the world and never get justice. Thus justice remains untouched by many victims in the Indian judicial system.

The more they do not get relief, the more they lose their faith in judiciary. As a result, people gradually will take law in their own hand, which will lead a social anarchism. There will be deep darkness of frustration and futility, nihilism and cynicism all around. The whole society will be in jeopardy, as the entire judicial system will collapse under its own weight.

There are about 10,000 courts in India .Out of these, one Supreme Court, 21 High Courts, 3150 District Courts, 4861 Munsif and 1st class Magistrate courts and 1964 2nd class Magistrate courts are there. Besides, there are many tribunals. There are 4 crores cases pending in different district courts across the country while there is a backlog of 34 lakh cases in State High Courts. Nearly 2 crores criminal cases are pending before Magisterial courts and over 70 lakh civil cases are pending in various subordinate courts. As many as 70 percent of these cases are litigations from villagers. Again some of these cases are as long as 25 to 30 years old. The longer a case runs, the more expensive it becomes to pursue. At the present pace of cases disposal, to clear entire backlog it takes more than 300 years.

Causes behind Law's Delays:

  1. Inadequate number of judges and also courts.
  2. Cumbersome judicial process.
  3. Incompetence and inefficiency of judges. Poor quality of law education is underlying reason.
  4. Good judgment prevents multiplicity of proceedings. Good advice by lawyers followed by good assistance prevents unnecessary litigation and wastage of time.
  5. The habit of taking adjournment by the lawyers is another reason behind delay. Some lawyers take adjournment unnecessarily to harass opposite parties and to extract money from clients.
  6. Delay by continuing meaningless argument day after day. 
  7. In Government cases, adjournment are freely sought to file affidavit because the offices of the Advocate General, the Attorney General and Solicitors General to the Central and State Governments are inadequately staffed and equipped. 
  8. However, the habit of taking adjournment by lawyers day after day, poses a serious threat to the entire judiciary, which only can be equated with the disease of cancer.
  9. Too many amendment of laws is another reason behind delay.
    These endless amendments make the legal system slow and confusing. Our propensity for enacting laws is really a problem. The Income Tax Act, for example, has been amended over 4000 times since it came into force in 1961.
    "The tragedy of India is the tragedy of wastage of national time, energy and manpower for grappling with torrential countless amendments ... Nani A. Palkhivala
  10. Absence of work culture in the courts. 
  11. Attraction to the holidays makes the work of judiciary dilatory and procrastinating. 

Even Supreme Court is not immune to delays. Some judgments were delivered after 10 years. If a judgment takes this long time in the Supreme Court what can be expected from courts of lesser authority?

Some of the principal causes of accumulation of arrears of cases in the High Courts are :

  1. Litigation explosion
  2. Accumulation of first appeal
  3. Inadequacy of staff attached to the High Court
  4. Inordinate concentration of work in the hands of some members of the Bar
  5. Lack of punctuality among judges
  6. Granting of unnecessary adjournments
  7. Indiscriminate closure of Courts
  8. Indiscriminate resort to writ jurisdiction
  9. Inadequacy of classification and granting of cases
  10. Inordinate delay in the supply of certified copies of judgments and orders etc.

Justice delayed is not only justice denied but rule of the law destroyed
... William Ewart Gladstone 
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere ... Martin Luther King.

My View:
Today justice in courts is limited to rich and educated due to its very high costs and delays for have-not's. Middle class and poorer classes look at local goons or mafia's for quick justice. Land settlements by local thugs and petty politicians at below 25% value to its legitimate owner is rampant. Even in USA any litigation less than $5 million it is widely recommended to settle face to face or write-off. While Supreme Court and High Courts purview is largely occupied by rich & famous, at least lower courts processes could be modified for quick justice delivery for middle class and poor. Appeals should never be endless. Most appeals should be limited to one higher court only. Only judgments with wide ranging ramifications should escalate to HC & SC. Unfortunately even bail petitions (of course for famous rogues only) are heard by SC even during holidays. Corruption must be eliminated, especially in the noble professions namely education, healthcare and judiciary otherwise we diminish ourselves to be called a rogue nation.

Technology has made our lives easier in almost all fronts. Financial sector, Banks and Communications have improved their efficiency and customer service delivery extraordinarily. Process reforms and leveraging Technology will definitely improve the efficiency of Justice Delivery System manifold.

The present system of justice delivery gives a long rope in the name of benefit of doubt to wrong doers, no deterrent for telling blatant lies in the courts and no punishments for advocates encouraging accused to defend his wrong doings for their hefty fees most of which is in cash, truth will never come out in courts. At best, judgments will be in conformity of laws & rules and should be termed as 'law administration' rather than 'justice delivery' or 'judgment'. The burden of proving guilty must not be on the litigant but proving innocence must be on the accused, where ever prima facie exists.The reforms must encourage advocates persuading their clients for 'pleading guilty' for reduced punishments, severe penalties for telling lies and submitting forged documents and compel advocates to collect their fees with in ethical, moral & legal limits. Advocates taking the side of wrong doers for monetary gains should be debarred from considering for judge position or any other public positions in future.

Judiciary should realize its limits of authority and never encroach into the domains of Executive & Legislature and control temptations of 'Judicial Activism'. Because judiciary is truly independent and not answerable to any one under the Constitution of India except to themselves, they must preserve their worthiness of this provision.

Finally, the argument that judges are 'human beings', and prone to temptations, errors and mistakes is unacceptable non-sense. Will you accept similar argument from a aeroplane pilot or heart surgeon? They must have sufficient education, undergo training and gain enough experience before occupying the seat of justice.

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