Judiciary is one of the three pillars of our country and access to justice is a basic right of the citizens. The citizens go to the courts with high hopes for redressal of their grievances hoping that the court will support them and ensure that they get justice. Delay in delivery of judgements or delay in justice, squashes their hopes and gives them a reason to re-consider their decision of taking up a matter in court. ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’, is a legal maxim which means that if legal redressal or equitable relief is available to injured parties, but it is not forthcoming in a timely manner, it is as effective as having no remedy at all which eventually is denial of justice. At present, it can take nearly 20 years to get justice if a case goes all the way from the subordinate court to the high court and then the Supreme Court.
This huge time frame could mean multiple generations of litigants, huge financial burden, mental trauma and frustration. The pendency of any case is like a sword hanging over a person’s head, and it directly affects their liberty, free movement, and interaction in society, even if the accused is not in prison or is ultimately declared innocent. As on July 17, 2020, 33.3 million cases were pending in India’s district and subordinate courts, 4.1 million in the high courts. Even the Supreme Court had over 65,000 pending cases as on January 1, 2021.
There are a few reasons which mainly lead to the delay in justice. Some of the principal causes are- Inadequacy in the number of quality judges which leads to the entire judicial system being clogged for a long duration of time, the presence of old and obsolete laws which provide multiple opportunities of escape or mitigation of punishment for the wrong doers and can be misused just like in Nirbhaya gang rape case where the perpetrators did not leave a single stone unturned to seek legal remedies (the Nirbhaya case is also an example of delay in justice as it took approximately eight years to punish the culprits despite the facts of the case being extremely clear. The loopholes in the judicial system allowed the culprits to misuse the system to their advantage), unnecessary adjournments of the pending cases is another reason for the delay in giving judgements which ultimately leads to delay in justice.
There are multiple problems that this delay in justice process creates. Firstly, judges, particularly those in the superior courts are probably dealing with cases from the previous decade and not today’s pressing issues which requires their urgent attention thereby creating an entire loop of pending cases. Secondly, the judiciary and the legal system at large, is inherently favouring the illegal actions of one party at the cost of violating the rights of the other as at times, the delayed decision from the courts helps the culprit to escape from justice. Thirdly, a case taking a long time to be resolved is indicative of an inefficient and ineffective judicial system which can create a negative impact on how the citizens of the country perceive the judicial system. Fourthly, from a larger perspective, judicial delays can also lead to uncertainty regarding laws and their application as laws get amended frequently so it might happen that a law applicable today will cease to be applicable tomorrow which might lead to further confusions.
Let us have a look at a few famous cases. Safdar Hashmi murder case: Safdar Hashmi and another politician were killed by political opponents while staging a street play in 1989. The accused were punished after 14 years, i.e., in 2003 by the court. By the time the judgment was pronounced, two of the accused, amongst 12, were already dead. The decision was to sentence the accused to life imprisonment, but since it came after 14 years, it was equal to justice being denied for the victim.
It is said that the past is history, so we need to move on. Whatever injustices have been suffered by people due to delay in justice cannot be reversed but it can be made sure that this kind of history does not repeat itself and solutions have to be rendered to improve the situation. The following points can be acted upon-
- The number and quality of judges is something that needs to be worked upon as increased number of highly skilled judges can help in achieving efficiency in the justice delivery system.
- A time limit for pronouncing particular judgements should be fixed and adhered to so that there is no delay.
- People should be made aware of their rights and duties and access to legal remedies so that unnecessary cases can be eliminated from entering into the system itself.
- There is a need to expand the number of fast-track courts and extend them to district level as well so that speedy trial can be ensured.
- Obsolete and redundant laws should be eliminated from the system and replaced to ensure that the judgements made, are in conformity with the need of the hour.
- Police should work more efficiently by registering FIRs on time, making investigations on time, so that no evidence gets destroyed.
The number of judicial cases is going to increase with the rising population and if required action is not taken with immediate effect, people will continue to face injustice due to delays and the cycle of pending cases will become a never-ending one. However, this does not mean that a case should be dealt with hurriedly.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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