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Systemic flaws in judiciary needs to be redressed

THAT many judgements of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court take years to be written in full, typed, printed and signed by the judges is one of the many systemic inadequacies that plague the highest judiciary and, for that matter, the entire justice delivery system. While an order of the apex court takes effect only after a certified copy of the order is issued, according to a report published in New Age on Sunday, there are cases where full judgements have not been issued three years or more after the court delivered its verdicts; in one particular case, the full judgement is yet to be issued although four judges of the bench concerned have gone into retirement. One of the additional attorneys general admitted to many such examples ‘both in the Appellate Division and in the High Court’. Moreover, according to a former Supreme Court Bar Association president, full judgements in many cases are typed, signed and released hurriedly only after ‘lobbying’ by litigants concerned. Besides, he added, while full judgements ‘should be made available as early possible’, there are no rules stipulating a specific timeframe in this regard.
As indicated, inordinate delay in issuing full judgements is not the only ill that afflicts the highest judiciary. According to a report published in New Age on October 16, 2013, as of September 2013, more than 14,000 cases remain pending with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court alone. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court’s annual report for 2011 put the number of cases pending with the High Court then at more than 2.79 lakh. One such case landed in the Appellate Division on August 14, 2002 but was not posted for hearing as of October 2013; the original plaintiff had died meanwhile. Moreover, according to the New Age report, the Appellate Division was then taking up cases up to 2011 for either November or December.
Delayed disposition of cases has been a signature of the judiciary, from the bottom to the top, for decades now. Of course, there have been judicial reforms aimed at effective and expeditious dispensation of justice over the years. However, such reforms have apparently failed to inject the desired dynamism in the judiciary. It goes without saying that such intractable anomalies could lead to severe erosion of public faith in the highest judiciary, which, despite its many limitations, continues to command the respect and trust of people at large.
It is imperative thus that there should be a comprehensive effort to redress such systemic anomalies in the apex courts in particular and the judiciary in general. Needless to emphasise, the leadership of such effort needs to come from the chief justice. Introduction of a specific timeframe for the issuance of the full judgement in a case would be good start to this end.

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