It is surprising that election petitions are not being disposed of within six months of the date of filing, as provided for in the statute
Out of sheer interest, and enjoying the considerable leisure time at my disposal, I was reading the book, ‘The Law is an Ass', compiled by Ronald Irving. It had an interesting passage on the law's delays:
“My Lord; my clients have great reason to complain of the great injury suffered by them in consequences of these causes not keeping their situation at the head of your lordship's paper, agreeably to your lordship's order repeatedly given in my hearing. It is now nearly seven years since they have been waiting for your lordship's judgment; and upwards of two years and a half ago, they had arrived at the top of the paper; at which I humbly entreat they may, until you decide upon them, remain. There is a fund in Court of Pounds 10,000 and upwards, locked up until your lordship decides on those causes, and it is therefore a matter of great importance to my unfortunate clients that your lordship's decision may not be delayed by the circumstances to which I have above alluded. It is painful to me to state to your lordship, that I have learnt from authority, which I have no reason to doubt, that the infant, for whose benefit these suits were instituted twenty years ago, died of a broken heart, on account of being kept out of his property; and that I have to contend against the bitter feelings of his relations. Under the distressing circumstances, knowing that your lordship will pardon the liberty I have taken in thus addressing you, and which nothing but the imperious necessity of the case could have induced me to have done, I have the honour, etc.”
— Solicitor's letter to Lord Eldon, the Lord Chanceller, July 15, 1820
The Law has its majesty elsewhere, but often not where it must have it. Rightly, a reference is made by The Hindu in its editorial “Settle election disputes quickly” (June 8) to how “Section 86 (6) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 enjoins High Courts to hold trials ‘from day to day' until their conclusion. And subsection 86(7) declares that ‘every election petition shall be tried as expeditiously as possible and endeavour shall be made to conclude the trial within six months from the date on which the election petition is presented to the High Court on trial.'”
It is surprising and somewhat painful that election petitions are not being disposed of, on the basis of day-to-day proceedings, within six months from the date of filing. Is the law to remain shallow?
Without appearing to blow one's own trumpet, I would like to narrate something that happened in my own court when I was Puisne Judge of the Madras High Court. Today, of course, it is not uncommon to come across instances where political battles are waged in the court of law.
One day, a petition challenging the election to the Tamil Nadu Assembly of M.G. Ramachandran from Andipatti constituency, suddenly appeared in my court list. The challenge was based on the fact that, while being confined to a hospital bed in Boston, M.G. Ramachandran had not signed the required forms, nor was he conscious as to the happenings. These points were argued with all the vehemence that the senior counsel concerned could summon. Therefore, a request was made that the case be taken up immediately.
I acceded to the request of the senior member of the Bar. However, I emphatically told him, drawing his attention to Section 86(6) and 87 of the Representation of the People Act, that once the case was taken up for trial, it would go on from day to day; and on no account would there be any adjournment. Counsel readily agreed. But on the third day of hearing, he requested an adjournment on the ground of “personal inconvenience.” I had to ask, with a certain amount of firmness, as to what the understanding between counsel and court was before the case was taken up for trial.
I had to deny the request, and told him that a senior counsel was assisted by an equally senior advocate, and the case would go on with his help. The case went on. The election petition was disposed of within 21 days, including the day the judgment was delivered.
It is the judicial edifice that lends real dignity and charm to a nation. Therefore, it has to be reared with care and caution, devotion and determination. The ultimate progress of a land depends on the intellectual and moral standards of the people that comprise it.
The various parts that make up the edifice have to be strong and secure, resting on solid foundations, so that the structure may be a judicial Mahal, a powerhouse radiating wisdom, happiness and peace. A spirit of efficient and dedicated service is the foundation on which the reputation of the court rests. It is not so much genius as it is earnestness that is required. Faith is in the sanctity of the calling, a burning passion to give the very best to litigants. A steadfast determination to train such practitioners of law on healthy lines is the need of the hour.
Remember the words of Cicero: “How invincible is justice if it be well spoken.”
(S. Mohan retired as Judge of the Supreme Court of India.)