Union Minister for Law and Justice M. Veerappa Moily has suggested launching a campaign mode approach to achieve speedy justice delivery this year, and to prepare a charter for quick disposal of criminal cases pending in various courts.
In separate letters to the Chief Justice of India and 21 Chief Justices of the High Courts, Mr. Moily said maximum reduction of cases pending for over five-15 years was possible in a six-month campaign, except for some very difficult cases.
“In those courts where such long-time pendency is not there, a six-month campaign to reduce substantial [cases] to three years could be launched,” he said.
Mr. Moily said the campaign might be launched from July-December 2011 giving the targets for disposal of cases to morning or evening-shift courts, subordinate courts and the High Court itself. The targets and types of cases for disposal by Lok Adalats might also be determined.
“The summary procedure as allowed by law, plea bargaining and compounding of cases can be used to reduce the caseload in courts.”
He said there were 288 vacancies of judges in the High Courts and 3,070 vacancies of judicial officers in subordinate courts, and “at least 50 per cent of the vacancies could be filled up in respect of subordinate courts by December 2011.”
Such a campaign in consultation with the State governments could be initiated by the High Courts, he added.
On the High Courts judges' vacancies, Mr. Moily said the Chief Justices could send their recommendations for appointment of judges who meet the professional standards and have impeccable integrity for the existing as well as anticipated vacancies.
Stating that poor infrastructure in subordinate courts was a bottleneck in the speedy delivery of justice, Mr. Moily said the government had sanctioned Rs.500 crore as part of Centrally-sponsored schemes to improve the system.
Unfazed by the Supreme Court's rejection of the Central Bureau of Investigation's curative petition in the Bhopal Gas tragedy case, the government on Wednesday said that the option of seeking stringent punishment for the convicts was still open and would be pursued.
Law Minister Veerappa Moily insisted that the petition had nothing to do with the compensation to be given to the victims — which the government was handling separately.
“The doors are still open as the issue of seeking a stringent punishment for the convicts in the local court can still be pursued...this has been made clear by the Supreme Court itself. The government would certainly exercise that option,” Mr. Moily said, adding that the government would, in any case, go by the Supreme Court's decision.
Mr. Moily said the Group of Ministers (GoM) had decided to file the curative petition in its “due wisdom” after having obtained the Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati's opinion.
The GoM was headed by Home Minister P. Chidambaram.
Soon after the Supreme Court verdict, Mr. Vahanvati and CBI director A.P. Singh met Mr. Moily to discuss the issue.
The Law Minister said the government and the CBI could not be blamed for the delay in filing the petition as the matter was already pending in a lower court in Madhya Pradesh.
Asked about his decision to draft a “stand-alone” law to deal with man-made disasters after the June 2010 court verdict let off the convicts with lighter punishments, he said the process was still on.
He said the proposed legislation would deal with issues relating to compensation in the case of disasters.
“The Law of Torts in India is not codified...there is a need to codify such laws and the Law Commission is already dealing with the issue,” he said.
The Law of Torts deals with compensation in cases in which respondents are not directly liable.
In 1996, a two-judge Bench of the apex court, headed by then Chief Justice A.H. Ahmadi, had diluted the charges against the accused from Section 304 Part II of the IPC — which provided for a maximum of ten years imprisonment — to Section 304 (A) — which deals with rash and negligence act with a maximum punishment of two years.