habitual delay

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 05 Dec 2017 12:16:56

THAT the honourable Supreme Court has said “sorry” to a litigant for a delay of 13 years in a case, is a good sign, to say the least. In this particular case, the delay was reportedly caused due to two conflicting orders by a High Court judge in two different but related cases in a single day. Naturally, the ensuing confusion led to the delay, the Supreme Court said while apologising to the litigant. However, the general experience of interminable and inexplicable delays that generally dog the legal system at all levels across the country should also become a matter of serious worry for the entire country in general and the judiciary in particular.

In fact, it would be in the best interest of the country if the honourable Supreme Court takes up this issue as the most urgent and tackles the challenge in a systematic and even ruthless manner.

We use the word ‘ruthless’ with purpose when we drive the point of interminable, inexplicable and inexcusable delays in the process of dispensation of justice in the overall Indian legal system. The word ‘ruthless’, in fact, reflects the sentiment of the people who have a feeling that the delays in the legal system exist because there is no fear of punishment for the trouble -- financial, social, and even spiritual -- caused to the litigating public due to a near-total absence of speedy handling of the cases. Lame excuses are given out garbed in legal terms and there is no higher authority seeking explanation from lower officials. That is the reason we wish to use the word ‘ruthless’ as a special attribute of the officers of higher judiciary. The moment the officers in the lower judiciary realise that there would be no pardons for delays, then the speed of dispensation of justice would increase all by itself. This is the actual need of the hour.

Countless lakhs of cases are pending at various stages of legal procedure with nobody to seek explanation. A culture of crassness and casualness has come up in the legal and judicial systems where nobody is bothered about anything. The litigating public, the lawyers, the judicial officers, the Government, the higher judiciary including the High Courts and the Supreme Court do not seem to be in a hurry to speed up trials and verdicts.

Countless thousands of examples are known in cases where the entire process gets stalled for years because one or the other party is seeking a further ‘date’ all the time. Lawyers also collude in this process and do not act as public faces of the system of law.

These issues have come up in public discussion time and again. Despite this, there is no conscious effort at any point to spruce up the system and speed up the process of justice. Now that the honourable Supreme Court has said “sorry” to a litigant, a hope has arisen that there would be much wanted certain push to the system of justice and the litigating public would be ultimately benefitted. For, this single incident indicates a positive attitude on the part of the highest level of the judicial system.

Therefore, a hope has come up in popular mind that this positive attitude of the honourable Supreme Court would percolate to lower levels and there would be a healthy speeding up of the overall process. This is a legitimate expectation on the part of the public particularly from the Supreme Court. Unless some positive and resolute action is initiated at the highest level, Indian judiciary will never get freed from th affliction of inexplicable and almost deliberate delays that mar the fundamental principle of justice -- justice delayed is justice denied. The people now hope that things would move in the right direction and at a right pace at the behest of the honourable Supreme Court and none else. We hope that the apex court gets rather ruthless in this regard so that the lower rungs of the judiciary get appropriate message at the earliest.