Justice delayed is justice denied

Remember the filmi dialogue Tareekh pe tareekh. The dialogue is the mirror to Indian judiciary system. There are more then three crore pending cases in various courts and the number is increasing. Many complainants have been waiting for justice for many years.

A Supreme Court bench has ruled in very voluble terms on the exasperating virus of adjournments that has crippled the Indian justice delivery system. No homily has been made truer in the Indian experience than the declaration that “justice delayed is justice denied”. The angst of Justices Dipak Mishra and Rohinton Nariman was reflected in their describing the plague of adjournments in passing an order in a case in which they fined the petitioner: “If a case ever exposed the maladroit efforts of a litigant to indulge in abuse of the process of court, the present one is a resplendent example.”

The learned judges are not the first to speak up on the way our legal system operates. Down the years, various judges have noted the use of dilatory tactics as a game plan to avoid judgments being arrived at in cases, including in the top court. Delay in justice delivery has proved so irksome as to have reduced one of the strongest Chief Justices of India to tears at a public function in the presence of the Prime Minister.

The top court has been disposing of cases at a faster rate — in 2015, the SC disposed of 47,424 cases compared to 45,042 in 2014 and 40,189 in 2013. However, 38 lakh cases are pending in the high courts and three crore in the lower courts. A conservative estimate reckons that it would take 320 years to clear the backlog if a full complement of judges sat non-stop from now. The biggest culprit is, undoubtedly, the adjournments asked for and granted freely. The best way to begin tackling pendency would be to put a time frame on cases and absolutely forbid adjournments.

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