| by N.S.Venkataraman
( July 7, 2014, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) Nandini Voice For The Deprived, a not for profit organisation based in Chennai , India organised debate amongst college students on 6th July,2014 Chennai on “ How to ensure fast justice in Indian judiciary?”
21 college students participated .
Highlights of the views of students are given below :
Poor judge people ratio :
The number of judge people ratio in India is very low compared to many other countries including USA.
While improving the judge people ratio is very important by appointing more number of judges at various levels, this measure by itself would not ensure fast justice unless the quality of an average judge would be improved from the present level.
This calls for more transparent and well structured procedures for appointment of judges based on well established rules and regulations. The recent controversy with regard to appointment of Mr. Gopal Subramaniam as supreme court judge was cited as a case study of confused procedure. When such is the case in the case of Supreme Court, one can well imagine the lack of transparency in appointment of judges in the lower courts.
Accumulated cases :
There are reported to be over three crores of pending cases at various courts in the country. This number is increasing at alarming level.
The cases which have been pending in various courts for over ten years must be shortlisted and entrusted to special courts to be set up at various levels in the country for disposing them off in a period of two years. For such special courts, the retired judges at various levels may be appointed.
When such old cases are taken off, the existing courts will have less number of cases and therefore, they can prevent further accumulation of cases.
Delays due to adjournments :
Repeated adjournment of cases have become a big issue now. Supreme court must attend to this problem urgently and fix some rules for granting adjournments. The maximum limit should be fixed for each case .
Case accumulation due to appeals :
Judges often admit cases which have already been disposed off in lower courts and provide stay orders readily in many cases. The Supreme Court needs to fix certain rules and guidelines for admitting appeals and providing stay orders with regard to the judgement ordered in the lower courts. This can be done based on the triviality of the case and certain types of cases may be barred for appealing.
Working days of the court :
Most courts in India hardly work for 245 days in a year. With lawyers frequently boycotting the courts, the working days have become even less. Many judges start the day’s proceedings late and end it up early. Many judges now work hardly for four hours a day.
Just like Modi government issuing orders to Secretariat staff in Delhi, Supreme court should issue orders that all judges should start working at 10 a.m and should work atleast for minimum of six hours every day.
Need for introducing information technology:
The court proceedings and working methods should be considerably modernised using the information technology. Cases should be allowed to be filed online and elaborate typing procedures should be given up and related paper work should be cut drastically. These are possible without much efforts.
Publicise the court proceedings in internet
The court proceedings should be uploaded in the internet (youtube), so that it can be available for public viewing. This will provide transparency and judges would tend to avoid delay.
Strengthen mobile courts :
Mobile courts are hardly functioning in the country now. The mobile courts must be extended particularly in rural areas in a big way, that can hear petty cases and give very quick decisions. Senior lawyers are reluctant to appear in mobile courts, considering that it lacks prestige.
Recently passed out advocates must be encouraged to appear in mobile courts and it should be stipulated that every advocate should have appeared in minimum number of cases in mobile courts before being allowed to practice in district courts and high courts. This will also give good grounding for lawyers , just as the MBBS passed doctors get training by way of house surgency.
Introduce jury system:
The jury system which was in vogue in the pre independent days should be reintroduced. This will help the judges considerably in delivering quick judgements.
Limit the time for delivery of judgement :
Judges should be asked to complete the hearings and pronounce the judgements in stipulated time. If this would not be done, it should be taken as reflection on the performance of the advocates appearing for the cases as well as the judges. The judges not delivering the judgements within stipulated time should be carefully evaluated before promoting them to higher positions and should be barred from becoming member of any judicial commission after retirement.
These ornamental bodies should be revamped :
There are number of commissions today like Human Rights Commission, Women’s Commission , Minority Commission ,which have become ornamental bodies, with no transparent procedures for appointment of members. They do not have teething powers also.
Such commissions should be strengthened to hear cases and give judgements , so that the number of cases reaching the courts would be considerably reduced.
Election cases :
Similarly, the election commission should have judicial powers , without need to refer the cases relating to elections to the courts.
Infrastructure facilities :
The infrastructure facilities in small towns and rural areas are very poor. The hygienic conditions are poor and even the benches are sometimes broken. Senior judges rarely visit these court premises to see the conditions for themselves. How can there be efficiency and fast justice in such conditions?
Government is the chief litigant :
Around 50% of the cases in the courts are reported to be between the government departments and the public or the private establishments . Most of these cases can be avoided, if the senior government officials (All India service officers) deal with the issues with understanding and keeping the ground realities in view. Instead , they just push the files into the courts, which linger for several years before the judges.
If the bureaucrats would become more imaginative and practical , such cases can be avoided.
Avoidable cases in the court :
Courts seem to entertain all sorts of issues these days irrespective of the fact whether interpretation of law is involved.
Several of the issues such as inter state water disputes, environmental issues relating to industries , cases relating to jallikattu (bull fight), whether crackers can be burst or loud speakers can be used after 10 p.m , need not be entertained by the courts and can be left to the government to handle in the best way that it deems fit.
Government has the mandate given by the people to rule and it should have the powers to act in such matters, without judiciary being involved. If judiciary would take firm stand on the choice of cases, perhaps, the load on the judiciary would come down substantially.
Code of conduct for judges :
The quality of the judges can be considerably improved and the public esteem of the judges would go up , if strict code of conduct for judges would be enforced.
In the earlier days, the judges kept themselves aloof . These days, we see sitting judges as well as retired judges sharing platform with business men and politicians, many of whom already face court cases or may face such cases in future. The judges should avoid taking part in public functions , unless they are directly connected to court matter.
Mercy petitions :
The practice of referring death sentence awarded by Supreme Court to President of India should be dispensed with. The view of the Supreme Court should be final in such matters. This practice not only amount to belittling the Supreme Court but also cause delay in justice , since President of India appear to take view in such matters based on political considerations.
Need for vigilance department for courts:
It is sad to hear that corruption exists in courts too. Some judges have been accused of misappropriation. It is necessary for Supreme Court to constitute a special vigilance cell in the courts reporting directly to Supreme Court to take note of the activities of the judges. While this will certainly improve the standards of the judiciary, it will also ensure fast justice by eliminating dishonest people holding position as judges.