Right to speedy justice lies in tatters, says AG | India News


NEW DELHI: India’s top law officer K K Venugopal on Friday said litigants’ fundamental right to speedy justice lay in tatters and implored the country’s top judges to take drastic measures to arrest their waning confidence in the justice delivery system caused by a monstrous backlog of 4.8 crore cases, many pending for decades.
Speaking at a felicitation ceremony of high court chief justices, the attorney general said over 4 crore cases are pending in trial courts and 58 lakh in HCs – 42 lakh civil and 16 lakh criminal. “When we look at the pendency, a pall of gloom settles. We find that we are in a hopeless situation,” he said in presence of CJI N V Ramana and SC judges U U Lalit and A M Khanwilkar.
Venugopal said, “How has the justice delivery system deteriorated to this extent? If you look at the pendency over the years, we realise that over a lakh of cases are pending for more than 30 years at trial court level and 10-15 years in HCs. The average lifespan of a case in trial court and the HCs is around eight years. How do you believe that so far as litigants are concerned they would have confidence in the justice delivery system?”
CJI Ramana endorsed the AG’s concerns and said, “We and the chief justices of the HCs discussed these very issues. I am reserving my comments for the chief justices-chief ministers conference at Vigyan Bhawan on Saturday. I will tell who is responsible for this (sorry state of affairs).”
The AG said that the SC in a number of judgments had emphatically declared that access to justice is a litigant’s fundamental right. “But against whom the poor litigant can complain? Do they file a case for enforcement of their fundamental right? But, against whom? According to me, they can file cases against the government of India, state governments and the judicial system itself.” The AG said, “As much as 76% of inmates are undertrials, which is the highest in 25 years.”
The AG said he was sure the CJs would have discussed this most pressing issue. “You are the persons who have to innovate, and find grounds, reasons and reforms by which the whole of entire arrears can be done away with. But, there is a problem – the vacancies. The vacancies (of judicial officers) in trial courts are 5,000. Many HCs are functioning with 50% of sanctioned judge strength. How do we expect, so far as arrears are concerned, they would be able to tackle pendency by maintaining a high disposal rate? Lawyers, judges and the central as well as state governments have to get together to see whether it is possible,” he said.


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