February 23, 2008
People Need ‘Incorruptible’ Justice, Prez Tells Judges*
By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India
New Delhi (UNI) – President Pratibha Patil today called for an easily accessible judicial machinery which dispenses ”affordable and incorruptible justice” to the people.
”We need to have in place a judicial machinery which is easily accessible and dispenses affordable and incorruptible justice to the people,” she said inaugurating a conference on Judicial Reforms.
Noting that India’s judicial administration is not without ”blemishes,” Mrs Patil stressed the need to ”introspect whether our judicial machinery has lived up to” expectations.
The event presided over by India’s Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan was addressed among others by Law and Justice Minister Hans Raj Bhardwaj and Bar Council of India chairman Gopakumaran Nair.
President Patil warned against letting the common man ”take law into his own hand,” stressing that ”the formal adjudicatory machinery has to reign supreme.”
She said, ”We cannot allow a situation where the common man is tempted to take law into his own hand and subscribe to the deviant culture of the lynch mob.”
The two-day conference organised by a Confederation of Indian Bar to discuss the ”disquieting” delay in delivery of justice has more than half of Supreme Court judges listed among speakers.
The meet is being held at a time when the judicial system has been a focus of much public debate and comment, arising from such concerns as court delays, case arrears, shortage of judges, unending judicial vacancies and opacity, especially in the area of judicial hiring and accountability.
Alluding presumably to numerous conferences and seminars on reforming the justice system that appear to get nowhere, President Patil remarked: ”We talk incessantly about delays.”
”But now the time has arrived to launch a crusade against the scourge of arrears. Both the Bar and the Bench as equal partners in the administration of justice must address themselves to this problem.”
”Admittedly,” the President went on, ”the realm of judicial administration is not without its own share of inadequacies and blemishes.
”Time has come when we need to seriously introspect whether our judicial machinery has lived up to its expectations of walking the enlightened way by securing complete justice to all and standing out as the beacon of truth, faith and hope.”
Touching on a key issue, Mrs Patil said, ”case disposals are excruciatingly time consuming. This agonising delay has rendered the common man’s knock on the doors of justice a frustrating experience.
The issue of delay in courts has been debated for decades, without much avail. Experts believe lawmakers must take an initiative to sharpen laws and make them truly deterrent.
Mrs Patil called for making legal procedures ”simple, streamlined, rational, easily understandable and commonsensical.”
She reminded members of her erstwhile tribe that lawyers were trustees of justice and ”must set high standards of probity and rectitude.”
On another key area, she said citizens’ access to law ”remains limited due to prohibitive costs of quality legal advice. It is commonplace to hear that law has become the luxury of the rich.
”Legal aid can go a long way in helping the indigents secure justice,” she said adding that the present system ”needs to be improved.”
She reminded that alternative dispute resolution mechanisms need to be encouraged, but ”cannot aspire to substitute the formal courts.”
She said she recently came across the Karnataka High Court’s Bangalore Mediation Centre where 86 mediators had settled more than 1,000 cases in a year, taking an average 131 minutes per case– which ”is worthy of emulation.”
Justice Balakrishnan concurred that Judicial Reforms was a subject ”so much of talked about but too little done.”
Balakrishnan said India had a nationwide network of more than 14,000 courts– about 12,500 judge working strength– dealing with 40 million cases.
He said each judge handled on an average nearly 4,000 cases, which ”is too high as compared to the average load per-Judge in other countries.”
He acknowledged that ”the general impression of the people is that a large number of cases are being delayed and, if any case is filed, it would take years to get a relief.
”This impression about the performance of Indian Judiciary is not fully correct,” Justice Balakrishnan asserted, but went on to acknowledge that some 60 per cent cases were more than a year old.
He said 90 per cent of delayed cases were pending in subordinate courts.
He suggested setting up a national planning and management system for administration of justice and added that the Bhopal-based National Judicial Academy was preparing a case management system to avoid delays.
He also suggested:
— Legislative reform to remove the bottlenecks that adversely affect adjudication;
— Strengthening the Bar;
— Strengthening legal education;
— Legislative reform to strengthen judges’ powers to control judicial processes to ensure just and efficient outcomes in line with international reforms; and
— Satisfactory framework for judicial accountability.
He offered the suggestions as ”broad outlines” to be discussed and designed by competent people.
Justice Balakrishnan also drew attention to a source of overcrowding in courts.
”In a large number of cases pending in Courts, especially in higher Courts, government is one of the parties either as defendant or as appellant.”
He blamed such litigations on lack of proper governmental administration, pointing out that if authorities took impartial decisions, citizens would not normally be driven to litigation.
”Lack of proper and good governance largely contributes to the number of cases in subordinate courts,” Justice Balakrishnan said.
”When it comes to disposal of cases, the delay is disquieting,” Confederation president Pravin Parekh said, citing case arrears now close to 30 million.
He counted 46,926 cases pending in the apex court, 37,00,223 cases pending in high courts and 2,52,85,982 cases pending in district and subordinate courts.
The seminar will be attended by some 1400 delegates, including 14 sitting judges of the apex court, which has a strength of 26.
UNI MJ KD BST1837
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- People Need ‘Incorruptible’ Justice, Prez Tells Judges – By Mukesh Jhangiani