The Supreme Court on Wednesday said delay in dispensation of justice could well be attributed to the judiciary's almost institutionalized generosity in granting adjournment of hearings and called for its complete abolition.
"The lavishness with which adjournments are granted is not an ailment exclusive to narcotics (case) trials; courts at every level suffer from this predicament. The institutionalization of generous dispensation of adjournments is exploited to prolong trials for varied considerations," said a bench of Justices D K Jain and J S Khehar in its judgment in a case relating to delay in disposing cases under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.
The court unabashedly said, "Such a practice deserves complete abolishment." It found that the legislature had enacted a crucial amendment in the form of fourth proviso to Section 309(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, to tackle the problem, but lamented that it awaits notification for more than three years.
- - - "Therefore, this court directs the concerned courts to adopt the method of 'sessions trials' and assign block dates for examination of witnesses...This permits a witness to take the stand after making one-time arrangements for travel and accommodation, after which he is liberated from his civil duties qua a particular case," the bench said.
For the full text of the report in the ToI, click here.
This is about the most serious of causes leading to the notorious kinds of delays in the delivery of justice in the country as a whole. I have personally experienced this in the following two cases:
1) where a Bangalore City Civil Court took 5 yrs and 10 months to decide on what in legal terms is referred to as an "open & shut" case (pertaining to recovery of a substantial sum of money), and, with the defendant company, based in Kolkatta, not taking cognisance of the order, I am now pursuing an Execution case in Kolkatta, where the situation is just as bad.
The situation is so bad that the general talk in business circles is that if you want to avoid or delay paying your dues, the simple thing to do is to get your creditor to file a case against you. This has led to the creation of an industry which uses strong-arm tactics to get the money for you.
2) a criminal case under Sec 332 (IPC - voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty) against somebody closely known, where the matter has dragged on for over 5 years, with the end still far from sight. The resulting frustration for the person concerned is to be experienced to be believed.
In both the cases, the number of adjournments granted by the courts, for the most frivolous of reasons, would normally be seen as scandalous except for those who have got inured to the goings on.
What is most shocking is that all that is awaiting the implemention of a Supreme court order, abolishing the practice of liberal granting of adjournments, is the notification of an enabling amendment passed by the legislature over three years back.
It is perhaps time the Civil Society collectively pursued this matter on a most urgent footing.
We, from PRAJA-RAAG, had in our submission to the Justice Verma panel (check here), highlighted the matter of delays in the delivery of justice, and suggested besides a) Publishing of progress of cases, with brief notes, on court web-sites, and b) Appointment of 'professional court managers', in order to allow the judges to concentrate on just the judicial matters.
From PRAJA-RAAG's side, we will be making suitable representations to the government and judiciary, on the matter of adjournments also, soon.