Judiciary must urgently address delays in cases – analysis
At best, the job of a constitutional court judge is largely thankless. There has been an exponential explosion in litigation cases and we simply do not have enough judges. For quite some time, there have been demands from the judiciary itself to appoint specialized court managers. With the coronavirus disease pandemic (Covid-19), cases have been backed up in court like never before. The case for court managers needs to be reviewed now.
Trials that had been reserved but not delivered have accumulated. The fact that the courts cannot function normally during the pandemic, but by remote control, is certainly not helping the situation.
Going through the portals of the Madras High Court, I came across a circular from the 2014 vintage, issued by the then president of the court, Sanjay Kishan Kaul (now with the Supreme Court). In that circular, court officials at the main bank in Chennai and Madurai were ordered to mention the dates on which orders were reserved and the dates of their pronouncement. We are still awaiting verdicts in those cases.
In a move to deal with these delays, Supreme Court justices KT Thomas and RP Sethi had said in Anil Rai vs State of Bihar (2001), that chief judges of all higher courts could direct their record to print the two crucial dates in the trials. The other remedies suggested by the court included a directive from the chief judges to make it mandatory for court officials to provide them with a monthly list of cases in which the judgments were not pronounced within one month from the date they were issued. reserved.
The order said: “The President of the Supreme Court can also see the advisability of circulating among the judges of the Superior Court for their information the status of the cases in which no sentences have been pronounced, within six weeks from the conclusion date of arguments. Such communication should be transmitted as confidential and in a sealed cover. If the judges do not pass judgment even after three months, the parties in the case may be allowed to submit a request with a prayer for an advance order, and such request must appear before the judges within two days.If the ruling, for whatever reason, is not delivered within six months, either party shall have the right to file a request with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court with a prayer to withdraw the case and present it to any other bank for new arguments. It is open for the President of the Supreme Court rowing, grant the prayer or approve any other order that you consider convenient. ”
Delays are not simply a matter of logistics. The current Chief Justice of the Madras Supreme Court, AP Sahi, has issued a circular that makes “personal personnel” available to judges at all times. And the documents that can logically be inside the heritage building are available for transit, if necessary. This means that there will be easy access to relevant documents and personal assistance in the case of videoconferencing. The virus may have slowed things down, but the problem won’t go away with the end of the pandemic.
In July 2019, the then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Vijaya Tahilramani, had said that the E-Courts website and the National Judicial Data Grid are the most accessed websites and that the procedures of all cases are being loaded in this regard. He indicated that the parties involved were sending petitions / letters about the delay in making the orders, after reserving the cases. Therefore, it considered that it was appropriate to proceed with the cases without delay. When the cases are reserved for sentences / orders, she felt that the same should be pronounced as soon as possible taking into account the instructions of the Supreme Court.
We have seen how, by ordinance, UP Prime Minister Yogi Adityanath suspended 35 labor laws for three calendar years to boost the economy. It has been debated among policy makers’ advisers that, in the face of excessive judicial delays and the institution’s inability to eliminate the backlog of reserved sentences, it may be necessary for the Center or the state to take the route of the ordinance to close some litigation in which the national interest may be at stake. This does not bode well for the judiciary. It is better for the judiciary to set its own house in order when it comes to delays and to use the technology that is available to speed things up.
Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan is a lawyer at the Madras High Court
The opinions expressed are personal.