In the wake of Coronavirus stand still, Adv. Pratibha Bangera (family court lawyer) urges for speedy disposal of cases for real justice.
Q. Why is it famously believed that judicial system in India is slow?
A. When a litigant reaches a lawyer’s office, a lot has already taken place in his/her life and with this back ground there is an emergency situation and panic that the person struggles through to get some relief.
With large number of cases and fewer judiciary staff it takes some time for filing of cases and matters to be listed in court.
Sometimes due to lack of experience, lawyers file in wrong courts which get rejected due to lack of jurisdiction.
And most importantly lawyers who are for opponents delay by taking dates with flimsy reasons.
On other occasions judges are absent or judges are not assigned and court is awaiting transfer of judge to take charge or judges go on jail visits and cancel the days cases.
The worst is even after order for matter to be heard exparte (without reply of other side) applications to set aside such order is allowed in principal and practice.
Thus, it is a common practice of lawyers to use every available provision of law to delay matter. The aggrieved party has no choice but to accept such delayed and deferred dates.
Q. Does the law not have any timeline for conducting such cases?
A. All civil cases are bound by guidelines and time frame in Civil Procedure Code Act or CPC and for criminal cases, the time line and procedure is provided in Criminal Procedure Code Act or CRPC.
However, their provisos and time frames are only directory and not mandatory and the supreme court has held that extension of time may be allowed in exceptional cases so that no innocent person should be denied a chance to defend himself.
Q. Who is responsible for delay of cases?
A. Combination of system errors, litigants who wait till last minute to go to court, lawyers supporting and protecting their clients, judges not inclined to hear matters or pass immediate judgments and by then judges may get transferred and matter has to be argued again before another judge who takes charge and same delay may repeat.
There is no check to hold anyone accountable. And in some cases, even after the sentence the execution of judgment itself takes a few years at the least. This irregularity causes litigant to hold judicial system responsible unless the Legislature suggests appropriate reforms.
Q. Has there been any steps taken to alter or change this and speed up matters?
A. All courts have a practice of expediting hearing of old cases. A list is displayed for all cases which are in court for more than 3 years from time to time.
Party themselves can make application to expedite hearing but even these applications may delay regular routine and be misused to further delay the case waiting for specific orders. In absence of presiding court, party can also take matter before discharge court. But these orders are limited only to an extent and if it’s not a written order, same is not likely to have any benefit.
Q. How can a simple litigant with no money get any justice when everything runs so slowly?
A. There are court mediation centers set up for all types of matters. Lok Adalat consists of practicing lawyers or retired judges or judges of other courts or people well qualified to take up resolving cases in their court.
But if these matters are not jointly resolved in some kind of settlement, matter goes back to regular court. For some this may not be a conducive bargain and they may prefer going on with the fight instead.
Q. What happens when a litigant die while there is an ongoing case?
A. Legal heirs come on record in cases where there is money or property or liability involved.
Legal heirs cannot be held accountable for sentences or criminal conduct of deceased accused/convict
But where there is penalty or compensation payable the same will be recovered from the assets of the offender or convict who has deceased.
Q. Are international courts also facing similar situations?
A. Justice hurried is also Justice Buried. Every judgment is required to be substantiated with a good reasoning. No two cases are same. It is the same all over the world. Not just in India.
Q. What will happen in this Pandemic situation where all cases are on hold?
A. Online court system to file all applications/ replies/ arguments and judgments including online registration of police complaints by way of video recording will simplify and regularize cases. This could also reduce distortion of statements given. Updating these records on a police database or court database or cloud may be a solution.
Video conferencing is already a practice adopted by court. Applications, replies and arguments can also like wise be submitted after a lawyer identifies the client in his/ her respective office.
This suggestion is not just during the pandemic but even regularly.
Wastage of time can be kept to minimal if digital mediums are encouraged for court practice.
Also, there is no undue influence or bias caused if this manner can be adopted.
People can work more productively and efficiently.