November 26, 2009
Cutting 2/3rd Undertrial Cases By Mid-2010
By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India
New Delhi (UNI) – A move to cut two thirds of undertrial cases by the middle of next year was announced by Law and Justice Minister M Veerappa Moily today.
The announcement may mean freedom for many of 170,000 Indians in jail for periods longer than entailed by petty offences they are alleged to have committed.
The plight of such undertrials has evoked concern for years, without much remedy at hand given the painfully slow system of justice at work.
Dr Moily spoke about the plan at two separate events in the Capital, one marking the National Law Day and another opening an India Chapter of a United Kingdom-based arbitration institute._
Addressing the Bar Council of India, a statutory body of a million lawyers across the nation, Dr Moily regretted the Justice system’s failure to give every citizen equal protection of law.
Advocates celebrating the day were reminded that ”a necessary corollary to the guarantee of the rule of law is Article 14 of the Constitution.”
The Article says: The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
”Unfortunately, Justice delivery system in its working in India has not been able to guarantee this protection to every citizen– man, woman and child,” Dr Moily noted.
Dr Moily estimated the number of undertrials in prisons in India at more than 300,000– 70 per cent of the jail population, which means only 30 per cent inmates are serving sentences after conviction.
Roughly 200,000 inmates have been in jail for several years, essentially because of delays in the justice delivery system, officials say.
The second event was the opening of the India chapter of the London-based Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) for ”faster resolution of pending court cases.”
Declaring the Chapter open, CIArb Director General Michael Forbes Smith stressed ”assured level of training and experience” and maintaining the highest standards of professional conduct in the practice of private dispute resolution.”
The 94-year old Institute with 11,000 members across more than 100 countries is a ”not for profit, UK registered charity working in the public interest through an international network of 31 Branches and Chapters.
Indian courts have close to 31 million cases pending, a factor many litigants find discouraging, as indeed do many businesses contemplating to invest in India owing among other things to a promise of cheaper labour.
Indian Arbitration yet to pick up Arbitration is an alternative way to settle disputes, but despite ripe grounds– court delays and huge arrears– it has yet to pick up in India.
A good many arbitral awards are known to have ended up in courts again, rendering the alternative not much of one.
Investors are often known to decline a resort to Indian rbitration.
As one of the speakers at the opening pointed out, arbitration in India does not appear to have emerged as a cost-effective and speedier alternative to courts.
Retired Chief Justice of India J S Verma told audience it’s ”quite disturbing” to know the fees of some professionals, as indeed how much richer, more affluent some judges are ”post-retirement.”
Justice Verma, introduced as one of the few Judges who accepted no post-retirement office of profit, stressed that arbitration was not intended to make ”us richer after we retire… The mindset has to improve.”
Asked how arbitrators who violate ethics are dealt with, the CIArb Director General told United News of India Special Correspondent Mukesh Jhangiani that a conduct panel goes over complaints.
Depending on merit, a case may be referred to a disciplinary tribunal and possibly result in debarment, Smith said. But he could not immediately recall such instances.
He said complaints are sometimes made by disappointed parties seeking to appeal the arbitrator’s award by means of a personal attack on the ability or competence of an arbitrator.
UNI MJ KJ
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