Justice delayed is justice denied, goes a saying. To curb undue delay in delivery of justice, the Union Law Ministry has proposed to impose a penalty on lower court judges who grant frequent adjournments without any justifiable reason. The Ministry has also consulted the Supreme Court to take the proposal forward.
However, the proposal has expectedly kicked up a storm in judicial and legal circles. Judges feel if the penalty system is imposed it would put lower judicial officers under undue stress and make it difficult for them to apply their mind or analyse all aspects of a case.
“If this system is introduced, the judges may pass quick orders. But justice will be buried in the hurry. We strongly hope that the Supreme Court will never allow such a system,” says a serving judicial officer. He argues that speedy disposal of a case is the combined responsibility of the litigant parties, advocates, prosecution and the court. “Penalising only the judges would be highly unfair,” he says.
Retired district judge A Noor Ahmed insists that bringing such a penalty system is impossible. “A basic principle in our judiciary is that a judge is granted unfettered freedom in handling a case as per the provision of law. Seeking adjournments is a legal remedy available to a litigant and it is unfair to penalise a judge for granting a legally permitted remedy to a litigant,” he argues.
The Union Government is also seeking enforcement of the latest amendments made to Section 309 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPc) which lays restrictions on litigants in seeking adjournments.
Judicial officers say there are enough mechanisms to ensure that judges don’t unnecessarily delay disposing of cases. “Judges also have targets – a magistrate has to dispose of 20 cases every month and examine at least 80 witnesses. A munsif judge has to dispose of 15 cases per month. Failing to meet the target for three months in a row can attract a memo from the High Court and affect promotions,” says a judge.