Justice delayed is justice denied
Millions of civil cases have been pending over decades across the country now. Most of these cases are at the level of the High Court and Supreme Court. ‘File a case at the trial court level, and you will be over and done with it in about 3 or 4 years,’ said a family friend, who is a lawyer himself. ‘But once you approach the higher courts, justice becomes long, tedious and delayed. That’s where the trouble begins,’ he added.
The Bombay Civil Court is flooded with as many as about 362,949 cases dated from decades ago. Most of these cases are related to encroachment, division of property, breach of contract, compensation etc. My father, over tea, was telling me about the case he, along with his elder brother, has been fighting for almost 60 years now. ‘It is an extremely simple case; justice clearly needs to be ruled in our favor. But we have been running around with this encroachment matter since 1954,’ he told me. ‘Never approach the court unless it’s absolutely necessary! All this running around for justice is an absolute waste of time and money,’ he added; which was absolutely shocking. It was situation where my father had almost lost faith in the judiciary of our country. If that is what we have to say about the body that is meant to provide justice, it is an extremely sad state of affairs.
Lack of proper infrastructure is one major reason for this delay. The Bombay High Court has just the same number of staff it had 30-40 years ago. The population explosion in our city has just not been taken into consideration. 40 years ago, the Bombay High Court had 40 years. The number is still the same. The ratio of the number of cases to the number of judges is constantly growing. In addition to that, when a judgment is passed at the trial court level, there are chances that either of the parties are not satisfied with the outcome. In such a situation, the Constitution gives whoever is unsatisfied with the outcome of the case a chance to appeal to the higher courts. When the case is transferred to a higher court, the numbers of cases in the higher courts get saturated and this slows the process down.
The Constitutional right of allowing dissatisfied parties to appeal to higher courts cannot be taken away from them. In our country, the Constitution is considered to be supreme, and curbing of rights is not an option at all. But at the same time it is a matter that must be looked into immediately. The only way this problem can be solved is by improving the infrastructure of our judiciary. More man power needs to be diverted to the judicial system. We need more judges and more court staff in order to speed up our judicial proceedings.
It’s time we open our eyes. Before it gets too late and before people start losing faith in our system, just like my father did, we need to mend our ways and make them more people friendly.