Abstract: As cliched as it may sound but the truth is justice delayed is justice denied. It implies that if justice is not being served in due time, even if it is given later, it is not justice as there will be an injustice for a considerable period. When we delay an action it not only weakens the desired result of it but also such delays defeat the very purpose for which we perform those actions. In our country judicial delay is one of the major issues which can be seen in the number of backlogged cases in our courts. This is shaking the very foundation of justice which is namely public confidence. Such a feudal system of rule of law will decrease the overall concept of justice in India.
The preamble of the Indian constitution has placed justice- social, economic and political on the highest pedestal above all other basic structures. Delay of justice is not the simple postponement of an action over some time but in its judicial meaning, it is an action in a process that has irreversible long-term consequences. This process with the progress of time slowly stealthily and silently kills justice.
When we look into the facts as of 15 September 2021, there were around 4.5 crore pending cases across all courts in India, especially in the district and subordinate courts. In 2019, there were 3.3 crore pending cases this shows that in the last two years, India has added 23 cases every minute to its pendency. The total number of pending cases in the Supreme court of India is 71411 as of 2nd august, 2022 out of which 56365 are civil matters and 15,076 are criminal matters. This issue is raising serious problems. The question is how are we going to cope with the ever-increasing backlog in our judicial system and deliver timely justice to an ordinary man?
History of speedy justice
The evolution of the right to speedy justice, its jurisprudence and its growth as a fundamental human right originates from the mother of all constitutions which is the British constitution the famous Magna Carta of 1215. Section 40 of this great charter reads:
‘To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay right to justice’.
The last four words of the statement hold huge political importance in the evolution of human rights.
Historically, the 6th amendment to the constitution of the oldest democracy, the United States of America also provides that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public hearing”.
The right to a hearing within a reasonable time is also recognised in the universal declaration of human rights of 1948 and it is also guaranteed in the charter of Fundamental rights on human rights in the Canadian rights and freedom.
Hence due to all these efforts the right to justice within the stipulated time is being accepted as a universal human right and so occupies the centre stage of national and judicial goals of all civilized democracy.
Reasons for Judicial Inefficiency
It is difficult to make a discretion as to where the delay begins in the justice delivery system or when the number of delayed cases becomes a backlog in the given jurisdiction and time frame. To get the solution, we need to find the roots of the problem. Some of the major issues that lead to the inefficiency of the judiciary are as follows-
- The government is the biggest litigant- poorly drafted orders have resulted in contested tax revenues equal to 4.7% of the GDP and are rising. Roughly Rs. 50,000 crores are locked up in installed projects and investments are reducing. Both of these complications arise because of injunctions and stay orders passed by the courts primarily due to poorly drafted and poorly reasoned judgements.
- Less budgetary allocation- the budgetary allocation to the judiciary is between 0.08-0.09% of the GDP.
- Low ratio of judges- one of the reasons for the backlog of cases is that the ratio of judges to the population is very low. The hopelessly inadequate number leads to judicial delays. The judges who are even appointed are incompetent and inefficient.
- Habit of taking adjournment- nowadays advocates are taking the adjournment at the drop of the hat. It should be made a rule to allow an adjournment for sufficient cause. Seeking unnecessary adjournment on non-existent grounds with the motive of obstructing the proceedings of the case are instances of deviant conduct, tending to meddle with the justice system. They often delay cases due to their propensity of earning higher professional fees.
- Unnecessary inflow of cases- there is a high inflow of cases in the judicial system of India. People approach the courts even on petty cases.
- Absence of work culture- judges aren’t motivated to work to their fullest. Work culture is absent in the Indian courts which leads to such delays.
- Endless amendments- while making the laws up to date the legislature keeps on going with an endless number of amendments without realising that it creates a delay in the system. There are always loopholes that could be used in the laws and cases and these loopholes increase the burden on the judiciary.
- Inadequate staff- there is inadequate staff in the courts which further leads to slowing down of the procedure.
- Accumulation of first appeals
- Indiscriminate closure of courts
- Indiscriminate resort to writ jurisdiction
- Inadequacy of classification and granting of cases
- Inordinate delay in the supply of certified copies of judgements and orders.
Ajit Mohan & Ors. V. Legislative Assembly National Capital Territory & ors
This is a case in which the three-judge bench of the supreme court in the postscript of the judgement has made some intriguing and riveting observations while drawing a context between judicial delay, the pendency of cases and the restriction of the period for oral submissions by counsels. The bench has emphasized how the proceedings will go on post covid situations.
Facts of the case- the bench was hearing a petition wherein the social media intermediary, Facebook has been alleged of fuelling violence which led to communal riots in different parts of North-east Delhi. The hearings of the case went on for 26 long hours. While deliberating on the Postscript, the apex court clarified that the same was only to start a discussion among the legal fraternity and to notice the importance of succinctly framed written synopsis in advance, and the same being adhered to and to make judgments more crisp, clear and precise so that the common man can understand what is the law being laid down.
- That from the very beginning of the arguments, counsels must have a specific and clear understanding of the submissions. These submission requirements must be rigorously followed and made in the form of a concise overview.
- That, especially in the light of a pandemic a restriction on the period for oral submissions must be brought forth for the swift and proper administration of justice.
- The overwhelming volume of pending disputes across the nation serves as evidence that the weight of the complicated and drawn-out legal system falls on the litigants.
- Only because there are so many precedents listed and it is necessary to deal with them rather than just refer to them as is done in other countries, are judgements getting increasingly difficult and verbose.
- That because of the time devoted to routine affairs, there is little time left over to resolve legal issues that are now being heard by larger Benches and could eventually affect the judicial system.
- that following international practises and procedures will make court proceedings more effective. The right to a fair trial is guaranteed by Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which also stipulates that everyone has the right to a fair trial within a “reasonable time.” 3 A successful and organised judicial system depends on the completion of processes in a fair amount of time.
Judgement opinion- Although the majority of nations do not set a time limit for oral arguments, the significance of such limitations in a nation like India with a sizable number of open cases cannot be ignored. To make sure that the complexity of judgements does not beyond the comprehension of an “ordinary man,” it is crucial to analyse the suggestions made by the Court. However, the legal community and the general public may have opposing views on the matter.
To address the case backlog, Lok Adalats were established around the nation. Lok Adalats encourage parties to resolve disputes out of the purview of the courts. These courts have resolved millions of disputes over the previous 20 years.
In India, the Lok Adalat, often known as the People’s Court, has grown in power. In this alternative dispute resolution process, court-pending matters or disputes are resolved in a single day. Most nations have supported this type of alternative dispute resolution process as a way to escape the maze of litigation, courts, and attorney’s offices.
Constitutionality- Lok Adalat were allowed by the 42nd amendment. Article 39-A was introduced to ensure that justice is not denied to any citizen of the country due to reasons of economic or other disabilities. Articles 14 and 22(1) also make it obligatory for the state to ensure equality before the law and a legal system which promotes justice based on equal opportunity for all.
Instead of building new organisations to address the same issues, it’s crucial to think about how these current systems may be improved. The introduction of Lok Adalats opened a new chapter in India’s legal system. Long-running cases in India are resolved outside of court at the Lok Adalat. Lok Adalats use negotiation and compromise to resolve conflicts. By 2015, there were more than 15 lakh public courts in the country, out of which, more than 8 crore lawsuits were settled. Most state governments have encouraged the Lok Adalats, as they reduce the burden on the judiciary.
To pinpoint the underlying reasons for delays in our justice delivery system and offer practical recommendations to enhance the justice delivery system in India, there should be thorough introspection through protracted conversations, debates, and consultations.
- To prevent needless litigation, government rules, orders, and regulations should be thorough and complete following extensive consultation with stakeholders.
- According to the population, there is a need to build new courts and hire more judges. The country’s population has grown significantly, as has the number of cases, but the judgement services seem to be understaffed. A similar situation exists with respect to the courts when there are less than necessary given the demand.
- There are a set number of backlogged cases in the courts that are listed alongside the usual cases that are being heard. As a result, the judge is unable to finish hearing regular cases before moving on to backlog cases. As a result, hearings are frequently postponed or delayed in the system. This links to the idea that while attorneys are aware of how the system operates, they don’t always ready for backlog cases when they appear. As a result, they request adjournments, which are granted frequently in many courts. As a result, a system where backlog cases still exist is created. So, frequent adjournments must not be given.
- Apart from corruption, there is a long and costly judicial process and delays in delivering decisions. Hence the portion of the Judiciary in the budget must be increased. More money should be allotted for its expenditure.
- In order to expedite trials, the judicial system in the lower courts needs to be corrected. According to experts, maintaining Courts, their assets, adequate facilities on Court grounds, and ongoing case hearings are essential. In addition to them, it is necessary to expedite civil and criminal hearings. It takes a long time to hear these cases and decide on them. Decisions in criminal cases frequently have to be made when the offender is virtually through serving their sentence. Similar to criminal proceedings, civil matters are decided by the second or third generation.
- Morale and enthusiasm among the Judges at all levels, has to be uplifted by providing adequate remuneration and favourable conditions of employment. Adequate administrative support may also be provided to the Judges and Magistrates.
- Mediation and Conciliation should be encouraged and facilitated to reduce the workload and clear the backlog. Simultaneously, Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism may be resorted to and extended to all jurisdictions and put into optimum use.
We might infer from the discussion above that statistics on the protracted backlog of court cases that have been pending for the “last six decades” is another indictment of the nation’s struggling legal system, which is eroding public confidence. The multifaceted reforms are a long-term undertaking, and any significant modifications to judges’ line of work must first be approved by them. To remedy this sentence and trust deficiency, fast-track courts specialising in sexual offence cases were established around the nation. However, swift justice has its own problems.
Certainly “justice delayed is justice denied” but the opposite, that “swift justice is injustice,” is also true.
By- Kriti Gupta