Questionable commitment to reform Judiciary

Questionable commitment to reform Judiciary

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editorpick

BHAGVANJI RAIYANI

Chairman and Managing Trustee, Forum For Fast Justice, Mumbai

Initiator of Nyay Yatra- World’s First Judicial Reform Movement

We, the citizens of the largest democracy of the world are ashamed when we read:

Capital witnesses 635 rape cases but just one conviction this year.

DNA, 31-12-2012

SC: Over 40 lakh pending cheque bouncing cases, a serious issue.

Times of India (TOI), 22-1-2013

At 175 years, it is India’s oldest case in Calcutta High Court.

TOI 10-11-2008

Couple separated within 24 hours, divorced after 30 years.

Gujarat Samachar 19-1-2012

Delhi High Court will take 466 years to clear backlog: A.P.Shah, CJ.

DNA, 14-2-2009

Comeback trail: an under trial released from jail after 54 years.

TOI 17-11-2008

Rly Minister (L.N.Mishra) murder trial on for 37 years.

TOI 16-12-2011

India’s oldest prisoner walks out of jail at 108.

TOI 18-6-2011

Shias, Sunnis fought over graveyard in Varansi since 1878. TOI 31-1-2013

 

AND THE PRESIDENT AND PRIME MINISTERS? WHY SHOULD THEY LAG BEHIND IN CONDEMNING THE TARDY JUDICIARY?

  • Litigation was a disease and it could not be good thing to allow any disease to spread and then go out in search of doctors: Jawaharlal Nehru
  • The country needs an accountable judiciary for dispensing quick, affordable and incorruptible justice to the people: K.R.Narayanan, Former President
  • India has to suffer the scourge of the world’s largest backlog of cases: Manmohan Singh, former P.M.
  • President Pranav Mukherjee said justice delayed is justice denied and pitched for speedy and affordable justice to all. He is on record saying that Anna type movements help democracy.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi had expressed concern over the large number of cases pending in courts for years.
  • The people across the country, particularly the litigants who are suffering for decades on and the judicial activists like us feel that the statements of judges and politicians as above are merely the crocodile tears. Who stopped them in correcting the justice delivery system?

WHAT JUDGES, SITTING AND RETIRED, SAY ON THIS PATHETIC CONDITION?

People cannot afford to wait for 25 long years to get justice. There is limit of tolerance beyond which it would be disastrous to push our people.

Justice Bhagwati, CJI, May 1976

Chief Justice wants double shift to clear case backlog

DNA 30-7-2006

People will revolt if such unreasonable delay continues

CJI, Nyayik Jwala Jaipur 10-1-2010

A grocer’s shop is better managed than a Munsif’s court. The litigant has only one life but litigation has several lives.

Justice Krishna Iyer.

People have lost faith in the other two wings of the state much earlier unfortunately the faith of a common man in the judiciary is also being eroded

Justice S.B.Sinha, S.C.

If we want to save the nation, the democracy with lofty ideals, the judiciary must be saved.

R.C.Lahoti former CJI.

 Judiciary facing crisis of credibility.

Justice T.S.Thakur, CJI

 

HAVE YOU EVER HEARD MODIJI SPEAKING ON JUDICIAL REFORMS? NO? THE REASON….

Because 30% of his own party MPs are facing criminal cases in the courts and equal number are liable to be prosecuted but spared as people don’t dare to file cases against the powerful MPs. So is the proportion in other Parties’ MPs. If the judiciary is fair and fast, these MPs will be in Jail, losing their seats in power. These MPs will never vote for speedy justice delivery system. Fifty Two percent of Maharashtra legislators have criminal backgrounds and 70% are crorepatis. The situation may not be much different in other states. These are our law makers.

3rd March 2014: A special audience was granted to me by the then Hon’ble Chief Justice of India to discuss judicial reforms. The Lordship very well knew about Forum’s crusade as our brochures (and now NYAY DISHA) are reaching regularly every 3 months to all judges of the High Courts and the Supreme Court, members of Parliament and Bar Council members across the country.

He told me that it was not the fault of the judiciary that the backlog of cases reached to the alarming proportion (of 3.30 crore cases) which is due to the lack of the government co-operation. I had mildly to retort him that we hear this blame game from each other since decades. I reminded him about the Supreme Court Judgement of March 2002 in favour of All India Judges Association directing Union Government and the states to increase the judges strength from 10.5 judges per million population to 50 judges per million population within 5 years and filling 30% vacancies of the judges within 1 year with commensurate increase in staff and infrastructure. I was blunt in telling him that though the Supreme Court had inherent powers to enforce the said judgement armed with the suo motu contempt proceedings for non-implementation of the directions by the Central and the State Governments but it has been sleeping over its own judgement and the country continues to suffer endlessly. He had no answer.

AND THE APPROACH OF LAWYERS TO THE JUDICIAL REFORMS

The independence movement was led by the then advocates’ fraternity who left behind their lucrative practices and fought for liberation of the country. They were Madan Mohan Malavia, Motilal Nehru, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, C.Rajagopalachari, Lala Lajpat Rai, C.R.Das, Saifuddin Kitchlew, Mahatam Gandhi, Dr.Rajendra Prasad, Bhulabhai Desai, Jawahrlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Vithalbhai Patel, Tej Bahadur Sapru, Kailash Nath Katju, Kanaiyalal Munshi, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Dr. .B.R.Ambedkar. But unfortunately today, in spite of our repeated written and spoken communications to thousands of advocates through mails, letters, workshops, seminars, conclaves and conventions to join our efforts on Judicial Reforms, I am sad to say that the response from advocates fraternity is lukewarm.

Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa has not taken any action against any advocate on hundreds of complaints of misconduct and malpractices filed by their clients during last 12 years. Supreme Court once said that no advocate is clean enough to be H.C. Judge.

What a meager annual budget allocation Indian Judiciary gets? A mere 0.2%. Singapore provides 1.2%, UK 4.3% and USA provides 1.4% to its judiciary. Needless to say that the provision requires to be enhanced at least five times if not more to address the need of proper infrastructure, increased strength of judges, staff and technological backup. It is reported that even this paltry provision of fund is not utilized for development of infrastructure of the judiciary.

No country of the world has such long vacations as we have. Our Supreme Court hardly works for 180 days in a year. High Courts work for about 200 days. A drastic reduction in the court holidays is the need of the hour.

RTI Act, 2005 was enacted for transparency and good governance at all levels but Indian Courts are arrogant in following the provisions of the Act and the orders of Information Commissioners. Their application fees are also very high to pinch the pockets of common man. Most orders of the Central Information Commission directing Supreme Court to provide specific information are challenged by S.C. in the High Courts! (that is the provision).

The upright person who files or faces court proceedings for no fault of his, gives up halfway as he can’t bear the cost and delay.  He will succumb, settle for less or pay up. Even in some cases compensatory cost awarded by the court is paltry, token but not realistic. The wrong doer is rarely penalized and that too to a peanut.

The working strength of High Court judges as in March 2016 is little over 600 against the sanctioned capacity of 1017 i.e. working with   40% vacancies. Lower courts have 1/3rd seats vacant. The situation creates huge backlog of cases and counting.

In spite of very stringent provisions Under Section. 193 to 195 of Indian Penal Code against perjury i.e. witnesses giving false evidences and litigants filing false and fabricated documents and affidavits routinely, the courts are so lenient in not invoking these provisions that wrongdoers are roaming free at the cost of innocent judicial victims. In New York State, perjury attracts 15 years jail. This menace of perjury is shaking the very foundation of justice delivery system. The judges of the country must be held responsible for this type of inaction leading to increase in criminal and immoral conduct afflicting with this cancerous disease among the society, trade, business and politics.

India made significant progress in science, technology, infrastructure, health education, agriculture, telecommunication, IT and space science but in judiciary we regressed. In 1956 there were 22 lakh cases pending in Indian Courts which have gone up to 3.30 crore as of now which is 1500% increase.

Governments went on appointing committee after committee, Law Commission of India went on publishing well researched report after report totaling to 262 so far with very useful recommendations to eradicate the menace of ever increasing arrears of cases but they all bounced back after reaching to the deaf ears of Government, Parliament and Judiciary. People and press didn’t have the courage to speak against, let alone launching any movement for judicial reforms till about five years before.

In my real estate business, I was facing (and still facing even after closing down business in 2007 for judicial reforms) several litigations. I went on filing PILs in Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court totalling to 106 PILs so far and most of them I argued in person, though I am not a law graduate. 15 of them are still pending in the Bombay High Court since 2 to 17 years. There too I am frustrated on snail’s speed of such cases.

What can be done when the country is in CATASTROPHIC SITUATION?

We few friends met in 2007 had thorough discussion and decided to set up a trust to launch a nationwide movement for exhaustive judicial reforms. Thus Forum For Fast Justice (Forum for short) was registered as a trust in Mumbai in March 2008.

Forums started publishing its own literature highlighting the drawbacks, delays and deficiencies in judicial services. It started mailing this literature to all High Courts and Supreme Court judges, all MPs, Bar Council members and other NGOs and prominent persons appealing them to start judicial reforms in right earnest to save the nation from losing hard earned democracy.

We met Shri L.K.Advani, Arun Jaitly, Rahul Gandhi, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Ravishankar Prasad, Dr.Murli Manohar Joshi, Veerappa Moily, Salman Khurshid, Manohar Joshi and many more political leaders who all appreciated our campaign and promised support but with no action.

We started publishing NYAY DISHA, a quarterly journal of Forum on judicial reforms which regularly reached to all the aforesaid stakeholders but without any response.

The Forum’s Board of Trustees decided to approach masses across the country and thus 35 days historic NYAY YATRA, first time in the world took off in two groups one led by me and other by Forum’s National Convener Pravin Patel, each with two mini buses fitted with public address system and our own media team travelling with us reporting to the central control room at Delhi for editing the news and transmitting them to the media across the country. Commencing on 30th January 2016 from Delhi’s Rajghat the yatries travelled through hundreds of villages, towns and cities, covering 19000 kms. in all, distributing pamphlets in lacs, appealing the citizens to unite for judicial reforms, holding meetings, rallies with blaring slogans, speeches and addressing press conferences in a big way in this massive awareness campaign. Our 85 registered Societies in 22 States had enthustically organised programmes in their respective cities. Other NGOs helped where we do not have presence.

NYAY YATRA ended at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on 4 March 2016 where about 200 delegates from all over the country representing most of our 85 Societies. For Fast Justice and equal number of local citizens participated in dharna, demonstrations, speeches, dance and songs on nationalistic spirit. Following two days were Forum’s Annual National Convention, NATCON-16.

The delegates at the convention interacted for two full days on the pathetic condition of Indian judiciary. Forum’s untiring efforts to persuade concerned authorities to see the reason and start working on war footing to save judiciary from total collapse met with not much success. One positive trend seen after Forum’s relentless and no nonsense crusade for reforms over last 8 years that people and press got so embolden that they started openly criticizing the affair of the judiciary in the true meaning of the freedom of speech and expression as laid down under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution.

When Forum Family across the country failed to get any positive result, its Board decided to plan a nationwide NYAY YATRA i.e. March for Justice to connect the people and the press of the country with the movement which really clicked well. People waited for hours on the roads to receive yatris and join the rallies on the streets. Press reporters and cameramen lined up for bytes and interviews. Local newspapers flashed the news of the YATRA following morning. News channels did their job matching with the big event.

WHAT NEXT?

A resolution was passed in the convention highlighting the shortfall in the judicial services and remedial measures. The copy of the resolution in form of a memorandum containing demands on behalf of the suffering multitude of the litigants is mailed to the President, Vice President, Prime Minister, all High Court and Supreme Court judges and Bar Council members.

Some of our demands are; additional Supreme Court and High Court benches, enhancing judges strength 4 times, filling 30% vacancies, constituting judicial ombudsman, implementation of Gram Nyayalaya Act, evening courts, limiting adjournments and time for arguments, punishing false, frivolous and vexatious litigants, video recordings of the proceedings, repealing obsolete laws, cutting down long vacations, etc.

The memorandum will state in no uncertain terms that if the work on some of the above referred demands is not initiated before the end of 2016, nationwide satyagraha, phase-wise, will be launched and will continue till the goal of fair and fast justice, equally accessible to all, rich and poor, is achieved.

No country of the world has such long vacations as we have. Our Supreme Court hardly works for 180 days in a year. High Courts work for about 200 days. A drastic reduction in the court holidays is the need of the hour.

About the author

CSR VISION
CSR VISION is India's (probably World's) first monthly magazine in print devoted to CSR and Sustainable Development for bringing together all stakeholders of SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT at a global and local levels and act as a platform for promoting strategic CSR and sustainable development practices through dissemination of information and knowledge.