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Kalam for speedy justice
Comes down on adjournment culture in courts
Maneesh Chhibber
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, December 10
The dream of the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that common Indians must get “cheap and speedy justice” found an echo at the function organised today to celebrate the golden jubilee of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Led by the President, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, almost all the speakers stressed the need to reduce pendency of cases, clear mounting backlog of cases and make litigation affordable to the ordinary people.

Delivering the keynote address at the function organised by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the First Citizen of the Country expressed concern over delay in justice, adding that the judiciary had to be accountable to the people, especially to the rural and poor populace.

“As on October 31, 2005, the Punjab and Haryana High Court alone had 2.40 lakh pending cases. In the same period, the number of pending cases in the subordinate courts was around 11.8 lakh. This means that on an average more than 3 per cent of the population is affected by the prolonged litigations. And, if we take a family being affected by one case, the number of affected persons will be much more. It is particularly the rural people’s quality of life that gets affected by the enormity of litigations. This is definitely a matter of serious concern for all of us,” he said.

Observing that there were instances of court cases dragging on for more than 10 years, Dr Kalam outlined the reasons for the delay. These, he added, were inadequate number of courts, inadequate number of judicial officers, judicial officers not fully equipped to tackle specialised cases, dilatory tactics by the litigants and their lawyers who seek frequent adjournments and delay in filing documents and, finally, the administrative staff of the courts.

Criticising the adjournment culture prevalent in the courts, the President said the lawyers should proceed with their respective cases without seeking adjournments, suggesting that there must be a limit to the number of adjournments permissible in a particular case.

He suggested that the backlog of cases can be cleared through human touch, age analysis of cases, alternative dispute redressal mechanism, fast-track courts, introduction of e-Judiciary, capacity enhancement and continuous training of Judges, lawyers and the judicial staff.

Explaining, he said grouping of cases similar from the legal point of view could be done so that these could be placed before a particular judge or bench for disposal. “The combined process of age analysis and grouping will result in disposal of a large number of pending cases,” the President said.

He advocated a special mechanism for settling cases pertaining to each department for a period of six months to one year as a large percentage of pending cases may belong to different government departments. “This will enable fast clearance of all the pending cases of a department,” he said.

Dr Kalam also stressed the need for a total e-judiciary system to reduce the agony of litigants. “From the time the case is registered till it is disposed with the judgment, the entire process must take place electronically,” he said. This, he added, would enable easy search, retrieval, grouping, information processing, judicial record processing and disposal of cases in a transparent manner.

Making a special mention of Punjab and Haryana, the President suggested the formation of a Punjab and Haryana Litigation Pendency Clearance Mission — a Judiciary Programme Management Group with empowered team of IT power — for reducing the pendency of cases in the two states.

In his message to the judiciary and the legal fraternity, the President observed that transparency must start from home. He said the judges, lawyers, support staff and litigants have all got to play a role and must be accountable for their actions.

He also said judiciary had an important role to play in the nation’s development, adding the role of the judiciary placed enormous responsibility on the shoulders of the courts and the nation’s development was equally dependent on the dynamism and innovativeness of the judicial system.

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