All are guilty of justice system?s collapse: CJI | india | Hindustan Times
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All are guilty of justice system?s collapse: CJI

CHIEF JUSTICE of India Y.K. Sabharwal on Saturday said that part of the blame for the near-collapse of the country?s criminal justice system lies with the executive. He said the executive was not doing much to improve the investigative machinery and was sitting on suggestions to change the rules of evidence to revamp the process.

india Updated: Mar 12, 2006 14:48 IST

CHIEF JUSTICE of India Y.K. Sabharwal on Saturday said that part of the blame for the near-collapse of the country’s criminal justice system lies with the executive. He said the executive was not doing much to improve the investigative machinery and was sitting on suggestions to change the rules of evidence to revamp the process.

Even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Law Minister H.R. Bharadwaj looked on, Justice Sabharwal said: “The justice delivery mechanism appears to be on the verge of collapse due to diverse reasons. Some of the responsibility will have to be shared by the executive branch of the State.” He was speaking at the inauguration of the Joint Conference of Chief Justices and Chief Ministers.

On his part, the PM, while calling for a “reflection” on whether the existing procedures were adequate to deal with the situation, expressed his full support for judicial reforms. He did, however, caution against the misuse of PILs. “We need to reflect whether… PILs have become a tool for obstruction, delay and sometimes harassment,” Singh said.

“Judicial activism too must be used in a restrained manner to fill up any institutional vacuum or failure and to clarify legal positions, retaining its character as a powerful but sparingly used instrument for correction. Judicial activism must also take adequately into account the administrative viability of the reform process,” he said.

Reacting to the PM’s remarks, Justice Sabharwal said PILs had done great service to the nation. He said the judiciary was aware of the need to use it sparingly so that its jurisdiction itself was not questioned.

Acknowledging public outrage over the failure of the system in some recent “high-profile” cases, Justice Sabharwal said judges cannot “create” evidence in the absence of proper investigation. He did admit though that faster disposal of cases could go a long way in addressing the problem posed by hostile witnesses.

“Significant suggestions for separation of the investigative wing from the law and order duties and changes in the rules of evidence still lie unattended. The public outrage over the failure of the criminal justice system in some recent high-profile cases must shake us all into the realisation that something needs to be urgently done to revamp the whole process,” Justice Sabharwal said.

He, however, cautioned against any knee-jerk reactions as "law is a serious business". He listed several concerns of the judiciary including lack of manpower, infrastructure and funds to deal with the pressure on the system.

The concern over "the way some cases are being prosecuted, particularly where cases fall because of witnesses turning hostile or change their evidence", was also reflected in the Prime Minister's speech.

He stressed on the need to reflect on whether existing procedures were adequate to deal with such "deviant" behaviour or whether new laws were needed to deal with it. Manmohan Singh also spoke of the need to focus on the common man while dealing with the issue of judicial reforms and accountability.

Justice Sabharwal said he was open to suggestions for a mechanism to deal with the "accountability" issue, as the existing procedure (impeachment through Parliament) was too "extreme".