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Criminal jurisprudence system will fail if backlog is not cut, says Lakshmanan

Legal Correspondent

Speedy trial is an integral part of the fundamental right of life and liberty

NEW DELHI: The present system of criminal jurisprudence will fail if the backlog of cases is not substantially reduced at the earliest, Law Commission Chairman A.R. Lakshmanan said.

The Commission had recommended that the criminal justice system be completely overhauled. It had “exhorted a radical change in the working of the law enforcement agencies, especially the police and public prosecutors, to contain such delays in the recent past.”

He was speaking at a national seminar on ‘speedy justice’ organised by the All-India Bar Association here recently.

Speedy trial was required not only to give quick justice “but it is also an integral part of the fundamental right of life and liberty as envisaged in Article 21 of the Constitution.”

Justice Lakshmanan said the Commission recently mooted the concept of plea bargaining — negotiations in which if the accused agrees to plead guilty to prosecution charges, he or she will get certain concessions as a quid pro quo, with courts taking a lenient view particularly in cases of lesser gravity.

Cheque bounce cases

Pointing out that over 36 lakh cheque bounce cases filed under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act were pending in various courts, he suggested that fast track courts be set up for expeditious disposal.

He also favoured an alternative disputes resolution mechanism such as negotiations, conciliation and mediation, in which nobody would be a loser and all parties would be satisfied.

In his message, Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan said: “It goes without saying that deliberations on strategies for ensuring speedy justice are of the utmost importance for our judicial system.”

AIBA chairman Adish C. Aggarwala, who presided, wanted judge vacancies filled without delay.

Vice-chairman S. Prabhakaran, while suggesting measures for speedy justice, pointed out that the Madras High Court had recently directed that bail bonds be executed at police stations, instead of before trial courts. This procedure should be dispensed with for, it would delay the accused seeking bail as there was the possibility of police officers refusing to accept the bond for frivolous reasons. If a magistrate refused to accept the bail bond, one could seek legal remedy but if a police officer refused to do so, no remedy would be available.

Other speakers called for cutting down adjournments, fixing a time limit for deciding cases, financial autonomy to the judiciary, increasing the number of courts and creating additional infrastructure to ensure speedy justice.

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