Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir on Sunday said a major problem being faced in delivery of criminal justice was delay "where the entire process takes almost 15-16 years".
Delivering Justice P D Desai memorial lecture in Ahmedabad on 'Administration of Criminal Justice', Justice Kabir said, "Today a major problem is delay where the entire process, from the time when an offence is registered to the stage of final conviction, takes almost 15 to 16 years."
"I hope everybody involved in the process would perform their duty to expedite the wheels of justice," he added.
"....this (delay) is the main thing which bothers judiciary. And because of inordinate delay, sometimes we see angry reaction from public feeling that something should be done immediately," he said while elaborating the challenges in administration of criminal justice.
"One such incident took place on December 16 last year in Delhi. First reaction was let us set up fast track courts for the offences against women and girls," he said citing the incidence of gang rape in a moving bus which created widespread outrage.
"On January 2, first fast track court was set up in one of the district in New Delhi to take up such cases. Then you might have come across media reports that trial in one case was completed in 9 days and trial completed in another case in 13 days," he added.
"Something like this happens and people start reacting. It is a knee jerk reaction...But one can not blame any one part of the system. Look at the large population we have, which is at present 1.20 billion and it is increasing," he added.
"Where do we stand in regards to the Judge Population ratio? In USA, there are 125 judges for 1 million citizens and in India we have 6 judges for 1 million," he said while highlighting the ground reality of the country. Justice Kabir also said that, "India unfortunately is a country where a large population, almost 70 per cent, is living in poverty and does not share the affluence that the other section have."
"Many of them are not as fortunate as we are. They are below poverty line and don't even know about their rights, have no access of the courts," he said.
He also highlighted lack of infrastructure and logistical facilities for courts in the country, high amount of arrears of cases particularly those of Negotiable Instruments Act while expressing concern over lack of awareness about alternate mechanisms like compounding the offences, Lok Adalats, plea bargaining, etc.
"About three months ago in Madhya Pradesh, Lok Adalats disposed of 27 lakh cases in one day," he cited an example.
Chronologically describing the evolution of Criminal Justice system in India, the Chief Justice observed that, "there is a change in the mindset."
In this regard, he cited the example of the global campaign 'One Billion Rising' "to make people aware of the rights of women and their right to be protected."
"In Gujarat you have a famous ship yard (Alang Ship Yard at Bhavnagar) where hazardous ships were brought. These environmental hazards has been a crime against human beings, against people who live in the state. It took right-minded citizens to bring it forward," he added.