President, chief justice differ on mounting court cases

February 23rd, 2008 - 7:35 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pratibha Patil

New Delhi, Feb 23 (IANS) President Pratibha Patil Saturday feared the mounting backlog of court cases might lead the common man to take the law into his own hands and trigger the culture of mob lynching, but Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan blamed the government for the swelling volume of litigation, and attributed it to a “lack of proper and good governance”. The unusual crossfire between the country’s constitutional head and the final interpreter of the constitution took place during a national seminar on judicial reforms organised by the Confederation of Indian Bars at Vigyan Bhawan here.

In her inaugural address, the president said: “The foremost problem to be tackled is the huge swell in the volume of litigation. Congestion in courts has become a daunting challenge. Case disposals are excruciatingly time consuming.

“This agonizing delay has rendered the common man’s knock on the doors of justice a frustrating experience. This has ominous portents. We cannot allow a situation where the common man is tempted to take the law into his own hands and subscribe to the deviant culture of lynch mob,” said Patil.

She apprehending the “ominous portents” of inordinate delays in disposal of civil and criminal cases by courts and exhorted the judiciary “to launch a crusade against the scourge of arrears.”

But Chief Justice Balakrishnan blamed the government for the rising volume of pending cases. He said: “Lack of proper and good governance largely contributes to the number of cases in subordinate courts.

“If the decision making authorities take firm, independent and impartial decisions, the citizens would not normally be driven to litigations,” he said.

Pointing out that the government is the biggest litigant, the chief justice said: “In a large number of cases pending in courts, especially in higher courts, the government is one of the parties either as defendant or as appellant. These litigations are on account of lack of proper governmental administration.”

While President Patil exhorted the bar and the bench “to launch a crusade against the scourge of arrears” and rid the courts of the malady of mounting backlog of cases, the chief justice unveiled his vision of having a National Minimum Court Performance Standards (NMCPS) to tackle the problem.

The chief justice said the implementation of NMCPS would ensure that not more than five percent of the cases in courts should be more than five years old within the next three years and not more than one percent of cases should be more than one year old within the next five years.

The chief justice said the NMCPS, being developed by National Judicial Academy, Bhopal, in consultation with the National Informatics of India (NIC), would incorporate ingredients like computerised monitoring of progress in trial of cases.

The debate took place a day a murder suspect was brutally thrashed by a mob and left almost dead in Bihar’s Hajipur district while policemen watched.

The mob snatched Ravi, who had allegedly killed his friend in a quarrel over a cell phone in Hajipur’s Pokhra neighbourhood, from police custody in the morning and beat him with bamboo sticks and bricks and kicked him repeatedly. This was the third incident of mob lynching in Bihar in the last one week.

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