It is a harsh truth of our legal system that only the aggrieved persons knock on the doors of the court to seek justice. You will not find a single happy soul in the entire court premises. The aggrieved person put his precious time and life-saving money with the hope of getting timely and effective relief against the wrongdoer. However, our justice delivery system is largely unable to live up to this expectation. A huge pendency of cases, running from the last 20-30 years, with no possible outcome even in near future is the harsh and bitter story of our current legal system.
For instance – In the Delhi Gangrape case of 2012 (Nirbhaya Case), the trial court awarded the death penalty to all the accused in 2013 for that brutal and barbaric offense. But, because of our slow justice delivery system, they were executed 7 years later in March 2020.
In this article, we will discuss the concept of ‘justice delayed and justice denied’ in our legal system. Further, we will shed light on the reasons and factors behind this prolonged delay in the justice delivery mechanism.
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Meaning of Justice Delayed is Justice Denied
It is a legal maxim which states that if the aggrieved party is not provided with a timely legal remedy, it is equivalent to not providing any remedy. Here, time is the essence and the aggrieved party wants immediate help. The right to a speedy trial has evolved from this maxim. Denial of timely remedy is detrimental to the interest of the aggrieved party as it has not only suffered the damage but also it is financially burdensome to carry on the litigation.
More often than not, our complex judiciary system is cited as a prime cause for the delay in the justice. Our judiciary system is divided into 3 parts, which are as follows-
- Supreme Court – It is the apex court of the country. The decisions given by this court are binding on all the other courts in the country. It possesses the power to pass any decision to meet the ends of justice. Talking about its composition, it has 34 judges (33 Judges + Chief Justice of India). It is important to note that the Chief Justice doesn’t have any voting power. He is known as the master of the rooster as he decides on the bench of judges to hear any dispute.
- High Court – After Supreme Court, the next in authority is our High Courts. It is the top judicial institute of the state. It has the power to issue writs under Article 226 of the Constitution.
- District Court – The High Courts are followed by the district courts. They are headed by the district and session judges under the supervision of the High Court. The district courts can be further sub-divided into 2 parts – (1) Session Court and (2) Civil Court.
Factors Behind Delay in Justice
There are various factors which are causing inordinate delays in our justice delivery system. Some of them are discussed below-
Corruption in the Indian judiciary
It is a widely known fact there is large-scale corruption in our judicial setup. The corruption peeped into rights from the moment of appointment, as there is a lack of transparency and procedural compliances. If the judge is corrupt, it would be futile to expect that he will pronounce a fair judgement in a timely manner. In the greed for money or any other monetary benefits, he will give undue preference to a party. Personal bias will decide the fate of a case, not the merit.
Lack of Manpower
This issue is highlighted many times by the current and former judges of the Apex Court. There is a large vacancy in High Courts and District Courts, but the members are not appointed against the same, Since the appointment depends on the government, Justice T.S Thakur reprimanded the government is very strong words as he highlighted that-
‘It is easy to criticize the judiciary but no one is talking about the fact that there are only 10 judges over a population of 10 lakhs. The appointment procedure stood at a halt on the part of the government for obscure reasons. This lethargic behaviour of the government is severely affecting the common peoples of the country’.
As per a report published by the Law Ministry in 2016, there were about 16119 judges in the subordinate judiciary, 598 in High Courts, and 26 in Supreme Court. Against the counting of judges, approximately 32 million cases are pending in the country.
Complexed Judicial System
In our country, the judicial system is very complex. The decision given by a trial court can be challenged before the High Court, and thereafter to the Supreme Court. Even the cases already decided on merit can be reopened at the appeal stage, and the court may grant the order for a fresh collection of evidence. Apart from appeals, there are provisions for filing revision applications, special leave petitions, etc. A single case normally goes through 3 to 4 stages before being executed, and each stage involves a substantial period of time.
The famous case against former Tamil Nadu CM (J. Jayalalitha) highlighted this entire story. A charge sheet was filed against her in 1997 on the allegation of having undisclosed assets. This charge sheet was decided in 2017 by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. But, at that time, she had already died.
Lack of Transparency
Transparency is the heart of democracy but is hard to be seen nowadays. With respect to the judiciary, there is a dearth of transparency in the matter of –
- Appointment of judges. (Though the judges are appointed by a collegium, the members of the collegium are decided by the government. Further, the working process of the collegium is completely opaque.
- Allocation of benches. (In India, CJI is the master of the rooster and he decides the composition of judges to hear a particular dispute. This power is completely based on his will and discretion. In 2018, four senior-most judges of the Apex court held an open press conference and raised the issue of favouritism and biasedness while assigning the cases.
Judges on Leave and Adjournment
Recently, it is observed that the judges take leave without even notifying the registry of the courts. The parties only come to know about it after reaching the court. Since there is already a lack of manpower, the frequent leaves of judges cause a huge backlog of cases. The advocates should be equally blamed for the same. On the day of the hearing, they seek adjournment. It has become a trend in litigation that after the admission of a case, the next few hearings should be adjourned by citing some frivolous reasons.
What are the Ways to Improve Courts’ Efficiency?
To improve the efficiency of the courts, the following methods should be adopted.
- Promoting Alternative Dispute Resolution
- Simplifying the court procedure, particularly for litigation
- Bringing transparency in the appointment of judges.
- Increasing the strength of judges in lower as well as upper courts
- Introducing technology in the judicial system
- Improving the quality of fresh law graduates.
- Reducing corruption.
- Ending post retirements jobs for the judges to maintain their independence.
Virtual Hearings and E-courts
With the global pandemic and subsequent lockdown, the judiciary has also shifted to a virtual world wherein all the matters, ranging from filing to hearings are happenings virtually. This has improved accessibility as the people belonging to far-fetched regions of the country can present their cases before the Apex court. The relaxation in the procedure will substantially reduce the time involved in the completion of the case.
However, the virtual world has its own limitations which cannot be disregarded. There is an inadequacy of trained staff who is familiar with all the technical requirements. Further, there are cyber security threats, insufficient funding, and poor infrastructure (especially in subordinate courts.
The concept of delayed justice is one of the core concerns of our present-day justice delivery system. Since a single case took years to decide, the parties feel it futile to bring their case into court. There are various reasons for this delay, such as corruption in the judiciary, lack of transparency, complex judicial system, etc. To deal with this issue, some good steps can be taken, such as increasing the manpower, ending post retirements jobs for the judges and promoting Alternative dispute resolution (Arbitration and mediation).
In a nutshell, it can be said that this issue needs radical changes on the part of the government and judiciary to bring some visible transformation.