Overcrowded courtrooms, littered corridors and stinking washrooms—welcome to the Tis Hazari Court Complex in the National Capital.
As four modern court complexes come up at Karkardooma, Rohini, Dwarka and Saket in the city, Tis Hazari—the oldest and largest court complex in Asia —seems to be withering away.
This is despite the fact that the entire city is getting a facelift for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Imagine over 100 people packed in a room of about 20 x 20 square feet at the peak of Delhi’s summer without any air-conditioners and air-coolers, and sometimes even fans. Tis Hazari courts, visited by over 50,000 litigants everyday, have virtually become a gas chamber, say litigants, advocates and judges alike.
“About 100 litigants and court staff are stacked without even fans in 40 degree-plus temperature. I was about to faint during the hearing. There is utter chaos inside the courtroom,” said Mohit Sharma, who had come for a hearing in his case.
Judges too feel the pinch of the lack of basic facilities.
“No air-conditioners, no coolers, age-old fans, slow computers, sick UPS, and shortage of court staff. How do we work?” asked a metropolitan magistrate (MM), who did not wish to be identified.
“You know, we call the court complx gas chamber and concentration camp,” he added.
The biggest casualty of the crippled infrastructure is, of course, justice. Close to 10 lakh court cases are still pending in Delhi’s courts.
“I don’t have the requisite infrastructure. Computers are slow and the printer is ancient. And there is shortage of court staff,” said another MM. “The number of cases pending in my court has crossed 13,000.”
Even the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s (CMM) court does not have an AC or cooler.
“The CMM court witnesses the largest footfall in the day, and deals with most of the important cases in the city. But we don’t have basic facilities,” said a court staffer.
Reeking toilets remain a permanent problem in the complex which sees a traffic of thousands daily.
“They charge Rs 1 and 2 for using the toilets. But see the condition… one would actually vomit if ever required to use these toilets,” said Pritam Pal, a businessman from North Delhi.
The list of woes does not end here.
The food outlets inside the court complex are in a deplorable condition. Visitors say the canteens are littered and there is no hygiene in the kitchen.
“Availability of water is a big problem…Since 1958, the Bar has been demanding space for parking but nothing has been done. And there is no security inside the court.” said Rajiv Khosla, President of Delhi Bar Association.
Unlike the Supreme Court and the High Court, there are no centralised electronic display boards to give information about the case of the day being taken up. As a result, litigants flock to the court right from morning to ensure they do not miss their case when their names are called out.
Since 2000, funds have been allocated to renovate Tis Hazari, but most courtrooms are still awaiting renovation.
“By the beginning of 2010 except Tis Hazari all other district courts would share a modern look,” said a source in Delhi Law and Justice department on the condition of anonymity.