State plans to open 'nyaya panchayats'

KOLLAM, DEC. 27. The Chief Minister, Mr. A.K. Antony, said here today that as part of the move to overcome the heavy pendency of cases, the State Government intended to establish `nyaya panchayats' at the grama panchayat level to deal with petty cases.

Delivering the valedictory address at the five-day- long National Legal Workshop and Seminar, he said that with the same purpose, the Government was planning to open 25 fast track courts. Already one such court was existing in Kottayam.

Mr. Antony said that in the High Court of Kerala itself, around 1.25 lakh cases were pending and 34,000 of them were service matters. If that was the situation at the High Court, the pendency at the subordinate courts could well be imagined, he said. The pendency in magistrate courts was reported to be more than four lakhs.

The Chief Minister said that repeated adjournments were a source of harassment to the litigants as well as the witnesses. There should be only one or two adjournments and whenever a witness was summoned, no adjournments should be granted, he opined.

Though the judicial system of the country was one of the best in the world, Mr. Antony said there were still shortcomings and the acid test to find this was to scan how justice was being administered to the common man. He said that the common man unfortunately found the courts unaffordable. Apart from the responsibilities of the Government and the judiciary in this regard, practising lawyers should also make amends. Engaging an advocate was becoming a highly costly affair, he said.

The Chief Minister suggested to the Bar Council of India, one of the organisers of the workshop and seminar, to organise a special workshop on the World Trade Organisation laws. He said Kerala being a State which exported many products, it was interested in such a workshop as many here were ignorant about the WTO laws.

Addressing the delegates from other States, he said that the next time if they happened to be here, they would experience a sea change on all fronts in the State, especially on the tourism front. Kollam would then be a major backwater and ayurveda destination for tourists.

Delivering the keynote address on the occasion, the Supreme Court Judge, Mr. Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, said that though judgments could be criticised, such criticism should not be with the oblique design of tarnishing the image of the courts. He said that if an attempt was made to destroy the legal system of the country in this manner, it would be a death blow to democracy itself.

Mr. Justice Balakrishnan said that the working of many of the law colleges in the country was not up to the mark. The curriculum had to be remodelled in order to meet the new challenges. He also said that any litigation could be prone to misuse. However, it was the responsibility of those concerned to check the same.

Agreeing with Mr. Antony on the issue of pendency of cases, he said the entire legal system of the country was almost crumbling under the weight of such pendencies. Starting more courts and going for ways to have alternative settlement systems like the adalats would be a remedy for these.

Delivering the presidential address, the chairman of the Bar Council of Kerala, Mr. S. Gopakumaran Nair, said that if a court verdict on a public interest litigation was good, it was the duty of the executive to see that the verdict was implemented.

The chairman of the Bar Council of India, Mr. D.V. Subba Rao, the District and Sessions Judge, Mr. A. Dennison and the Member of the Bar Council of India, Mr. Paripally Ravindran addressed the function. In addition to the Bar Council of India, the other joint organisers of the seminar are the Bar Council of Kerala and the Bar Council of India Trust. The five-day workshop and seminar was inaugurated by the Chief Justice of India, Mr. S.P. Bharucha on December 23.