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Bombay HC on Speedy trial as a fundamental right


The Bombay High Court observed, “For how many years without trial, can people languish in jail. Speedy trial is a fundamental right.”


GS-II: Polity and Governance (Judiciary, Constitutional Provisions, Fundamental Rights)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Data regarding Delay in Justice
  2. Reasons for delay in Justice
  3. Way Forwards

Data regarding Delay in Justice

  • As per the National Judicial Data Grid:
    • Around 17% of all cases in district and Taluka Courts are three to 5 years old;
    • More than 20% of all cases in High Courts are 5-10 years old, and over 17% are 10-20 years old.
    • Over 66,000 cases are pending before the Supreme Court
    • Over 57 lakh cases are pending before various HCs
    • Over 3.5 crore cases are pending before various District and Subordinate courts – the number could have increased to more than 4 crores due to the pandemic.
  • According to the National Crime Record Bureau, lakhs of people who are lodged in jail are waiting for their pleas to be heard. Thousands are in jail for petty crimes and have spent more jail time than are required by law.
  • In 2016, there were at least 18,000 women prisoners in central jails across the country and of them, the hearing of cases of 6328 women had not even been started in Courts.

Reasons for delay in Justice

  • Across India, there are vacancies against even the sanctioned strengths of courts and in the worst performing states those vacancies exceed 30 per cent. Due to this, the average waiting period for trial in lower courts is around 10 years and 2-5 years in HCs.
  • District courts across the country also suffer from inadequate infrastructure and poor working conditions, which need drastic improvement, particularly if they are to meet the digital expectations raised by the higher judiciary.
  • Also, there is a yawning digital divide between courts, practitioners and clients in metropolitan cities and those outside. Overcoming the hurdles of decrepit infrastructure and digital illiteracy will take years.
  • The budget allocated to the judiciary is between 0.08 and 0.09 per cent of the GDP. Only four countries — Japan, Norway, Australia and Iceland — have a lesser budget allocation and they do not have problems of pendency like India.
  • On an average, there is just one judge for 73,000 people in India. In contrast, the US has one judge for every 13,000 people. If better salaries and better perks are provided, then better lawyers would be interested in becoming judges.

Way Forwards

  • There should be wide introspection through extensive discussions, debates and consultations to identify the root causes of delays in our justice delivery system and providing meaningful solutions to improve the justice delivery system in India.
  • Government rules, orders and regulations should be thorough and comprehensive after wide consultations with stakeholders to avoid unnecessary litigations.
  • Speedy Justice is not only a fundamental right but also a prerequisite of maintaining the rule of law and delivering good governance. In its absence, Judicial system ends up serving the interests of the corrupt and the law-breakers.
  • One of the solutions is to substantially increase the strength of the judicial services by appointing more judges at the subordinate level — improvements must start from the bottom of the pyramid. Strengthening the subordinate judiciary also means providing it with administrative and technical support and prospects for promotion, development and training.
  • The Supreme Court should mandate summary disposal of all ‘hibernating’ PILs – those pending for more than 10 years before HCs – if they do not concern a question of significant public policy or law.
  • Women judges, and judges from historically-marginalised castes and classes must finally be given a fair share of seats at the table.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023