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Supreme Court Judgement on Judicial Delays: Daily Editorial

Context

Delay in disposal of cases, not only creates disillusionment amongst the litigants but also undermines the capability of the system to impart justice in an efficient and effective manner.

Hearing a petition a Bench of Justices A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit, in their 22-page judgment, said there was no room for non-performers among the subordinate judiciary. “Public interest is above individual interest,”

The Summary of the judgement is here as follows

Supreme Court guidelines for Subordinate Courts

  • Subordinate judiciary has over two crores pending cases; Supreme Court said subordinate judiciary “cannot rest in a state of helplessness” as litigants wait in snaking, ever-longer queues for their turn and highlighted the importance of having men and women with leadership qualities among the
  • Judicial service, as well as legal service, are not like any other services. They are missions for serving the society to serve the cause of justice.
  • Posting of suitable officers in key leadership positions of Session Judges and Chief Judicial Magistrates may perhaps go a long way in dealing with the situation. Non-performers and “dead-wood” among judges should be weeded out.
  • The Supreme Court suggested that bail applications be decided in a week by subordinate courts, while High Courts do the same within a month.
  • The court said magisterial trials, where accused are in custody, should normally be concluded within six months and sessions trials, with accused in custody, within two years.
  • The Supreme Court asked the High Courts to ensure that subordinate courts dispose of cases pending for five years by the end of 2017.
  • In the case of High Courts, the judgment said criminal appeals, where accused are in custody for more than five years, should be concluded at the earliest.
  • Noting that High Courts should monitor action plans for lower courts and keep a constant watch, the Supreme Court said the timelines prescribed in the judgment would be used to assess judicial performance in the annual confidential reports of judicial officers.
  • Noting that 50% of the population in jails consists of undertrial prisoners and long periods of incarceration without bail or trial is a human rights violation, the judgment said those undertrials who have already completed their entire period of their sentence had they been found guilty should be released on personal bond.
  • The court held that liberal adjournments of cases must be avoided and witnesses once produced must be examined on consecutive dates. The court held that liberal adjournments of cases must be avoided and witnesses once produced must be examined on consecutive dates.
  • It held that suspension of work or strikes were “clearly illegal and it is high time that the legal fraternity realises its duty to the society which is the foremost”.
Practice Questions

1. Subordinate Courts in India are plagued by several systemic issues. But the focus of reforms has been mostly in the Higher Courts. Suggest measures to unclog the burden of pending cases in Subordinate Courts.

Footnote: CJI Conference has documented analysed issues with Judiciary in India. You can read here if interested.

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  • Ubermensch

    Needless to say, very helpful article.
    The link attached is an interesting read. Much fodder for mains answers. Thank you <3