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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)



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CLEARING THE JUDICIAL BACKLOG - B.R.Lall,IPS (Retd.)

 
 


Justice Delivery System in India is under tremendous strain. Cases are piling up in courts of law soaring astronomically year after year. More and more cases are instituted every year, but the beleaguered Judiciary is not able to measure up to the task and backlog has mounted to a whooping three crores almost. However, 99 was an exceptional year when disposal in District/Subordinate Courts in the Country was higher than the filings as per Ministry of Home Affairs, Department of Justice. Exceptions apart, the fact remains that it is an explosive situation. The delays are killing the system and rendering all efforts at investigations/ prosecution futile. In civil cases also the genuine people suffer, others thrive, and in the field of criminal law it is the criminal who is the gainer at the cost of the victim and the society.

The problem has agitated the legal minds for decades. In July 1987 in its 120th report, the Law Commission expressed its deep concern and suggested to augment the number of judges. It compared the number of judges in some other countries and concluded that per million of population the number of judges was the lowest in India at 10.5 against 41.6 in Australia,75.2 in Canada ,50.9 in England and 107.0 in USA.

Prima-facie it may appear that our judges are overloaded and overworked as compared to their counterparts in other countries. If we delve a little deeper into the statistics, the analysis does not support this superficial view. Serious crime per million of population is 81210 in Canada, 60970 in France, 17728 in Japan and 42668 in USA as compared to 1790 in India. Even the total crime in India is only 6710 as against 302670 per million people in USA. Similar is the trend of civil cases. Proportionate to the number of filings, the strength of judges per million of population in Canada as compared to India should be 45 times, whereas it was only 7 times, as quoted by Law Commission (75.2:10.5). Assuming that civil cases would also be in that proportion, the Canadian Judiciary was highly under-staffed as compared to ours.

During last three years, it has become a fashion to draw superficial comparison with USA. In USA at present there are 29000 judges, including the part time judges which gives approximately 111.5 judges per million of population as compared to India which has 13000 judges for a population of 1050 million which gives 12.4 judges per million of population. No doubt number of judges per million of population is 9 times in USA but the crime is 29 times as compared to India and so are also the total filings.

In 1999 as many as 93.81 million cases both, criminal and civil were instituted in various US courts against 12.84 million in this country. Per judge filings in US courts were as high as 3235 as compared to 987 in India. Prima-facie the statistics indicate that efficiency of US judges is 327% as compared to Indian judges. Actual workload of American judges will be much higher when adjustment is be made for part time judges. However, there is also a statistical trap. Statistics can be a very dangerous weapon if not used very carefully and after thorough analysis. In USA 55.11, million are minor matters and only 38.71 million are the proper cases. Nevertheless, even that will give a load of 1335 cases per judges per year against 987 in India, which incidentally includes the figures of minor offences. The actual number will fall much below and comparison of workload will worsen against India when number of part time judges is also adjusted in USA.

The Hon’ble Members of Law Commission erred in correlating the population with the number of judges. There is no logical relation between their number and the population of the country. Visualize the situation where there are no civil or criminal cases, even if the population of a country rises to 2 billions, not even a single judge will be required. The number of judges should be correlated with the number of cases instituted in various courts and not the population, which has no bearing whatsoever on the number of courts.

A panic has been created in the country that the number of judges is very small in India and that their number requires to be raised to five fold. The mist requires to be cleared and things put in the right perspective that the judiciary has to put in more work rather than clamoring for flooding the country with courts and judges.

Grappling with the problem is not difficult. In 1999 it appears the Judiciary took pains and cleared part of the backlog as its disposal exceeded the institution by 1% i.e. against 12.84 million cases instituted, the disposal was 12.97 million. By itself, this proves that strength of judiciary in India is not inadequate, some minor additions here and there apart. They need to concentrate on reorganizing their own house and set the things right. They have to look into their systems of adjournment, bails, stays on which they spend lots of time. They have to discipline both the parties in the court and discipline themselves also. They need curtail on their holidays and vacations and raise their hours of work. Judge is the leader as also the umpire in the Court and running the court efficiently is his responsibility. There is nothing basically wrong with the Law; only procedures need be set right. The point was successfully proved by CBI special court at Jabalpur. With cooperation of Judiciary and CBI, the disposal could be raised there from an average of 1.5 to 35 cases a year, in just a matter of one year.

JABALPUR EXPERIMENT

Since pendency in trial disposal has always been a very big problem in CBI, in 1995 the author made a detailed analysis and identified the factors responsible for delays. These pertained to the investigation, the prosecution, the defence and also to the court. The problems with investigation and prosecution were:
(a)Copies of documents were supplied with long delays (b) copies supplied were not legible (c) entire documents were being copied instead of relevant portion which not only required long time in preparing documents, but also gave a handle to defence counsel to get frequent adjournments on the ground of examination of lengthy documents (d) summons were not served regularly and (e) no notice was taken if a witness failed to turn up.


The problems arising from the courts and the defence counsel were identified as under:

(a)only one or two witnesses in a case were called for a day and if one witness did not turn up, the time of all i.e. the court, the prosecutor and the investigator was lost (b) only one case was fixed for a day and next day another , with the result that every time everybody had to brush up afresh (c)even for giving dates each time, court took about 15 minutes for each case adding upto the loss of quite substantial time (d) it was found that in allowing another date only, it wasted at least two hours of the IO and the prosecutors even for the ineffective hearing (e)accused would not turn up and courts would not utilize their coercive powers to compel his presence(f)Court was very liberal in matters of adjournments.

Measures that were adopted in Jabalpur were that the SPs were made responsible for ensuring that when a case was charge-sheeted, the legible copies accompanied it and would personally look into the service of the summons. The Public Prosecutors of CBI were asked to liaise with the court and request for calling 4-6 witnesses a day and fixing the hearing of a case in continuity, so that in a normal case the prosecution in a normal concluded in a period of 3-4 days in a single week when about 20 witnesses could be examined in quick succession. Since the examination will be on continuous days, the prosecutor could determine to drop the repetitive witnesses, which would again cut down the number of witnesses and hence time. On every adjournment, the prosecutor should put forth his point of view and contest unless it was thought to be genuine and absolutely necessary. When it was resorted to, the court stopped giving frequent adjournments.

Fines were to be levied if the counsel of either side or the witnesses absented without sufficient reason. When approached, the judge agreed readily and felt happy that CBI had proposed some steps to activate itself and the system. The disposal improved immediately. In 1995 itself it rose from 1.5 to 13 and soared as high as 35 in 1996. Momentum had gathered, which carried it to the new heights in the subsequent years, touching a high of 46 cases in the millennium year of 2000.

Besides the number of cases, the quality of disposal saw tremendous improvement, with conviction percentage rising as high as over 85 and the punishment also became deterrent rising as high as 11 years in prison in a particular case, something unheard in CBI .It is natural as the judge remembers the demeanor of the accused as also the witnesses if the case concludes early.

Jabalpur has shown the way that within the given resources and the infrastructure, there is enough room for improvement. The Judiciary has to exert and make others also work. There is no reason that it cannot catch up with the disposal of annual filings.

THE BACKLOG

The re-organized judicial working may take care of the present institutions, but for whatever reasons, the backlog collected is heavy. Of course, there is no need of doubling or tripling the number of courts as has often been advocated. However, the number of judges can be increased for 5 years by recruiting new persons against future retirements during next 5years. In these years, the additional judges so provided, should clear the backlog.

However, the position of pendency in High Courts requires special measures. The working of the Courts needs be analyzed and the time spent on miscellaneous matters, bails, stays, adjournments needs be curtailed, besides doing away with the system of vacations. To make a beginng, the courts can also work for 6 days a week and add one more hour to their everyday schedule, besides foregoing their vacations.


The views and facts stated above are entirely the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the views of this Association in any manner.

 
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