With about three crore cases pending in various courts across the country, President Pratibha Devisingh Patil on Saturday said “this agonising delay has rendered the common man’s knock on the doors of justice a frustrating experience.”
The President cautioned: “We cannot allow a situation where the common man is tempted to take law into his own hand and subscribe to the deviant culture of the lynch mob.” The foremost problem to be tackled was the huge swell in the volume of litigation, as congestion in courts had become a daunting challenge and case disposals were excruciatingly time consuming, she said inaugurating a seminar on Judicial Reforms organised by Confederation of Indian Bar.
Maintaining that the formal adjudicatory machinery has to reign supreme, Patil said, “The time has arrived to launch a crusade against the scourge of arrears.” She exhorted both Bar and the Bench to address themselves to this problem as they were equal partners in the administration of justice.
“Courts are respected as temples of justice and the judicial fraternity regarded as custodians of law and dispensers of justice. This precious trust cannot be allowed to be eroded,” the President said. She suggested use of alternative disputes resolution mechanism to clear the backlog. Disapproving of the prohibitive costs of quality legal service, she said: “It is commonplace to hear that law has become the luxury of the rich… we need to have in place a judicial machinery which is easily accessible and dispenses affordable justice to the people.”
Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan, who spoke just before the President, defended the judiciary on the issue of backlog and blamed it on the lack of good governance. In a large number of cases, especially in higher courts, government was one of the parties and these litigations were on account of lack of proper governmental administration, he said. “If decision making authorities take firm, independent and impartial decisions, the citizens would not normally be driven to litigations,” the CJI said.
Giving the example of criminal cases, the CJI pointed out that in many cases delay was “due to late receipt of forensic reports from scientific laboratories, which we did not have in sufficient numbers”. “Inept policing and weak prosecution are hugely responsible for slowing down and protracting the criminal trial in many courts,” he added. He said the National Judicial Academy was preparing a proper case management system to avoid the delay and clear the arrears of cases.