PENDENCY OF CASES IN INDIA – JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED

PENDENCY OF CASES IN INDIA – JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED

Kamala was a 21-year-old young woman when she was married off in a “prosperous” family to a farmer in Ajmer, Rajasthan. She was married into the family with aspirations of her happiness, with hopes of a fulfilled life, but right after few months, things began to change. Everyday quarrels and taunts over the unfulfilled promise of dowry made Kamala’s life a living hell. On a fateful night in August 2017, a similar quarrel lit their Ajmer house and Kamala was burnt to death. Kamala’s case is pending in Rajasthan high court for over three years now. With no legal aid in sight, Kamala’s parents continue to knock the doors of justice every fortnight as her culprits run free. 

Status Of Pending Cases In The Country

As a child we often heard our family members, close relatives and neighbours complain of how tedious it is to seek justice in the Indian judicial system. As a citizen of a democratic country it is not only our right but a sacrosanct duty on behalf of the judicial system to ensure to the citizens’ justice at all costs, however sometimes cases take years and often decades to come to its conclusion and this is when the layman begins to lose hope in the judiciary. The problem especially increases for those who have abysmal knowledge of how the justice system work, lack of justice sensitisation and the available avenues like free legal aid as enshrined in our constitution under article 39A of Directive principles of state policy directs the executive to make available all provinces necessary to achieve the reality. Despite the available avenues and government intervention as of  September 2019, there is over 3.5 crore pending cases across Supreme Court, High court and the subordinate courts. Out of the 3.5 crore cases, approximately 87% account for subordinate court cases, followed by 12.5% pendency before the 24 High courts and the remaining in Supreme Court. These figures are staggering, and shocking to say the least. 

Why is the Indian Justice System Slow?

Among many reasons that slow the road to justice is Low judge strength and appointment. The approved number of judges in the High court in India stands at 1076 out of which 680 is the working strength. The vacancy is around 399 according to the data given above. The Allahabad high court has the maximum number of judges at 160 out of which 53 posts are vacant. In the present scenario, India has around 19 judges for every 10 Lakh people. One of the reasons mentioned by law minister Dr Ravi Shankar Prasad for a high vacancy is the inordinate delay in filling up the vacancies of judicial offices. If the present government wishes to solve the problem of pendency of cases it needs to ensure speedy recruitment of justices in High court and lower courts. 

An Extremely Slow Process of Law

The staggering number of 3.3 crore pending cases is a blot on the Indian judicial system. A particular case has multiple hearings and several adjournments, in the process, the culprit often roams free with no fear of the law. This creates a lack of faith in the laymen and women. However, in this regard, the Supreme Court should ensure that a time limit is given to high courts and subordinate courts in which they have to get done with the case. It is the need of the hour that the honourable Supreme court presents guidelines to dispose of cases at the earliest without compromising on justice.

Lack of Infrastructure 

In today’s day and age, it is imperative to ensure the needed infrastructure to provide speedy assistance to those who need help. There are several systemic issues like the inadequate staff and IT infrastructure, undue delay in getting reports from the understaffed forensic science laboratories, lack of victim support services and lack of victim/witness protection measures, frivolous adjournments are some of the common issues that have plagued the Indian justice system. What needs to be done is speedy infrastructural changes like the use of computers to admit the cases, computerisation to update the status of the cases the courts, filing of cases through the online platform, among others is the way to go. Now we will look at ways to resolve the problem ahead of the judiciary and citizens at large.

Speedy Recruitment 

The need of the hour is for the judiciary to fill its vacancies. For this, supreme courts must provide guidelines to the lower courts to fill the vacancies in a stipulated and time-bound manner. For example, young lawyers from hundreds of law colleges and universities must write a common judicial test after which they will be recruited in state district courts and alternate dispute resolution mechanisms like tribunals, after they’re recruited they can continue their practice so it doesn’t take too many years of hardship where they find hard to get themselves a steady job. 

Seminars and Workshops 

The world is constantly changing, and so is the justice system across the world. There are two ways to learn, one, by personal experience, as and when am advocate is confronted with the case and second, by learning from examples. There is no harm in learning by practice, however, the senior judges in lower and high courts must train those who have joined Indian judiciary through seminars and workshops. They must discuss the issues faces by young advocates and students who aspire to enter Indian judiciary and make a difference with their passion for justice. This will not only encourage young aspirants to join judiciary but also train young minds to face challenges as and when they appear in their professional careers. 

Need for Alternate Dispute Resolution Mechanism

Before we try and understand how ADR will help in speedy disposal of cases, let us understand what does alternate dispute resolution means, ADR refers to methods of mediation or arbitration to resolve disputes without the use of litigation. In the process, both the parties decide to employ the method of mediation to resolve the issue along with a third party who listens to the argument and presents a way to resolve the dispute without knocking the doors of courts. As we know that about 50% cases in India are civil, mostly compoundable, it is a wonderful way to provide justice in a time-bound manner without filing a case in courts and simply increasing the number of cases. 

What’s the Way Forward?

Indian constitution is the largest in the world, it has the most articles and deals with the most significant aspects of social, economic and political justice. It not only acts as a bible to those who take the task to provide justice to the citizen of this country but also enables the growth of a fertile mind. It aids liberty of the mind and soul, assists the sustenance of life-breath of the country’s growth and fulfils the aspirations of those who seek to take part in nation-building. Tall words, isn’t it? But the power of the judiciary is not to be taken lightly, it has the potential to uplift the flag of justice whenever a young woman like Kamala loses her life to gender-based violence, it uplifts the values on those minds that built this nation brick by brick. Hence, the way forward will be to educate the young about the true value of justice and what it means to be free, the civil society needs to be aware of its right to alternate dispute resolution, the poor must be provided with free legal aid to provide them with an equal ground to seek justice and the judiciary needs to buckle its shoes to make sure they surrender to those they promised to provide justice. 

Trisha Jha

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