THE BAR and the bench of the MP High Court are celebrating the 50th year of the court’s existence. Created under Section 49(i) of the State Reorganisation Act 1956, the High Court was established at Jabalpur on November 1, 1956. Simultaneously, its temporary benches were set up at Indore and Gwalior; later converted into permanent benches in 1968.
What has been the track record of the court in 50 years? The State has produced some outstanding legal luminaries, including scholarly judges like Justice P V Dikshit and Justice G P Singh. It has sent several judges to the Supreme Court of which three became the Chief Justices of the apex court, namely Justice M Hidayatullah, Justice J S Verma and Justice R C Lahoti.
The MP High Court has been reasonably quick at disposal of cases and has lesser pendencies right now as compared to the high courts of Allahabad, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, Punjab and Haryana and Rajasthan. Of late the court has introduced some innovative mechanisms such as the Nyay Seva Sadan and Legal Aid clinics to provide legal services to the needy and weaker sections of society.
Addressing the MP High Court a few days back, President Dr Abdul Kalam urged the court to expedite cases. Though relatively faster, the court is still bogged down in a huge backlog. According to the Union Ministry of Law and Justice, the number of pendencies in the State’s High Court is 200,918 on January 1, 2005; up from 197,774 in 2004. What can be done to hasten the process of justice delivery?
One, the court should establish a court annexe — mediation and conciliation centre — that could be referred cases from the High Courtrt’s existing cases. These may be mediated by former judges and practising lawyers. This will not only reduce backlog but also enable the court to concentrate on priority cases.
Two, computerisation and automation will lessen judicial delays. Although the court has appointed a committee under the chairmanship of the Chief Justice to monitor the upgradation of computerisation and some progress has been made in computerisation of case classification, in case filing and video-conferencing, yet there is scope for progress.
President Kalam had also urged the HC to emulate courts of western countries and invite ideas from citizens to strengthen the judicial system.
Training is one area where the courts should concentrate. There should be continuous orientation and refresher courses for the bar and the bench especially in areas of mediation and conciliation, economic aspects of law, intellectual property law and human rights. Services of the prestigious National Judicial Academy (NJA), Bhopal, could be utilised for training.
Two, judges and lawyers should avoid being schizophrenic towards the media and be more media-friendly. Both the bench and the State Bar Association must depute a sitting judge and a lawyer to hold press briefings once a month regarding court activities. The High Court should also encourage journalists and academicians to write about the HC judgments freely and without fear.
Using the golden jubilee as an opportunity, the Chief Justice should constitute a Nyay Parishad in the State. Headed by the CJ, the Parishad may comprise one sitting judge of the HC, the State’s Advocate General, the Principal Secretary (law), an officer of Additional Director General of Police rank, the Chairman of the State Bar Association and the Director of the NJA.
Although advisory in nature, the Parishad will have a significant bearing on aspects of law and justice, legal enforcement, legal education and research in the state. Holding bi-annual meetings, the State’s Chief Justice could request the State’s MP’s and MLAs to contribute 0.50 per cent and 0.25 per cent respectively from their Local Area Development (LAD) scheme for funding the Parishad.
Besides commissioning research projects on law, the Parishad could also hold an annual cricket match, a kho-kho event for women, ghazal nites, kavi sammelans etc. to promote closer interaction among judges, law teachers, lawyers, legal correspondents and police personnel in the State.
(The writer teaches at the National Law Institute University, Bhopal)