India

SC cracks down on judicial delays

NEW DELHI, 14/02/2017: Tricolour  flying high at Supreme Court Building, in New Delhi on Tuesday. 
Photo Sandeep Saxena

NEW DELHI, 14/02/2017: Tricolour flying high at Supreme Court Building, in New Delhi on Tuesday. Photo Sandeep Saxena

Non-performers and “dead-wood” among judges should be weeded out as the judicial service is not just a job to be done with but a mission to serve the cause of justice, the Supreme Court held.

Highlighting the importance of having men and women with leadership qualities among the subordinate judiciary, which has over two crore pending cases, the Supreme Court said subordinate judiciary “cannot rest in a state of helplessness” as litigants wait in snaking, ever-longer queues for their turn.

A Bench of Justices A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit, in their 22-page judgment, said there was no room for non-performers among the subordinate judiciary. “Public interest is above individual interest,” Justice Goel wrote.

‘Weed out deadwood’

“Judicial service as well as legal service are not like any other services. They are missions for serving the society... Posting of suitable officers in key leadership positions of Session Judges and Chief Judicial Magistrates may perhaps go a long way in dealing with the situation. Non performers/deadwood must be weeded out as per rules,” the Supreme Court said.

In a slew of guidelines for High Courts, the Supreme Court fixed a time-bound hearing and disposing of criminal cases, especially in bail applications.

The Supreme Court suggested that bail applications be decided in a week by subordinate courts, while High Courts do the same within a month.

The court said magisterial trials, where accused are in custody, should normally be concluded within six months and sessions trials, with accused in custody, within two years.

The Supreme Court asked the High Courts to ensure that subordinate courts dispose of cases pending for five years by the end of 2017. In case of High Courts, the judgment said criminal appeals, where accused are in custody for more than five years, should be concluded at the earliest.

‘Monitor actions’

Noting that High Courts should monitor action plans for lower courts and keep a constant watch, the Supreme Court said the timelines prescribed in the judgment would be used to assess judicial performance in the annual confidential reports of judicial officers.

Noting that 50% of the population in jails consists of undertrial prisoners and long periods of incarceration without bail or trial is human rights violation, the judgment said those undertrials who have already completed their entire period of their sentence had they been found guilty should be released on personal bond.

The court held that liberal adjournments of cases must be avoided and witnesses once produced must be examined on consecutive dates. It held that suspension of work or strikes were “clearly illegal and it is high time that the legal fraternity realises its duty to the society which is the foremost”.


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Printable version | Oct 3, 2022 1:31:16 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sc-cracks-down-on-judicial-delays/article17453424.ece