PUCL Bulletin, December 2001

Recommendations for reforming the judiciary

In a welcome move the Jharkhand chief justice, Justice Vinod Kumar Gupta demoted 25 judicial officers of the rank of additional district judges to sub judges. The action was taken following a report that confirmed corruption charges levelled against them.

These unprecedented steps received vide public acclaim. Lawyers, traders, academic community, and others - all supported the action by the chief justice, which was perhaps a first in the history of country's judiciary.
It is reported that Justice Gupta has asked a committee of three registrars to enquire into allegations of bribe taking and other malpractices. The actions followed an approval by the State Cabinet.

The Delhi High Court ordered compulsory retirement of three Additional Sessions judges and six Metropolitan Magistrates at the Tis Hazari Courts for judicial misdemeanor. Judicial powers of one Additional Sessions judge were seized temporarily. This drastic action was taken by the full court of the Delhi High Court following submission of annual confidential reports on the judicial behaviour of these officers by the Inspecting Judges of the High Court.
In this connection the following report from the Jamshedpur branch of the PUCL is relevant: the District and Session judge East Singhbhum, Jamshedpur invited members of the public to speak out about malfunctioning and corrupt practices rampant in the judiciary. The Jamshedpur PUCL made some recommendations to Shri Laxman Oraon, the District and Session judge about a month before the Chief Justice of the State took the afore-mentioned action.

We give below a gist of the PUCL memorandum to the District and Session judge under the signature of Shri S Bhattacharjee, President Jamshedpur PUCL:

  1. It has been observed that most of the judges do not sit in the Court Room during the specified hours. This is one of the reasons for abnormal delay in disposal of cases. Some of them indulge in this kind of irresponsible practice as they consider themselves unaccountable and thus take liberties to function according to their convenience and will and pleasure.
    The District and Session Judges should ensure that all the judges and judicial migrates strictly maintain Court office timings - the basic discipline of any organization in a civilized society. However, of late, as we understand, the situation has slightly improved at your instance.
  2. It is often seen that some of the judges and judicial magistrates have scant regards for the dress code.
    It is desirable that when the judges sit in the Court, they should be in proper dress as prescribed. This is equally applicable for the Government public prosecutors.
  3. A point is pertinent that in many cases, witnesses, accused or others who are given' dates' for hearing have to wait for the whole day without knowing at what time, they would be called for the hearing. After waiting for long hours, most of them are informed of another date for further hearing without even moving the case before the Court. There are many instances when cases are prolonged in this manner, year after year.
    To rectify all this, it suggested that the public prosecutor in the event of witnesses not turning up should inform the Court within the first two hours of the sitting of the Court.
    Moreover, fixing and re-fixing of dates on the order sheet generally do not show specific reasons for extension of the date for further hearing. As per the present practice, the order sheet does not reflect the proceedings of a case.
    The judges and judicial magistrates should, as a matter of practice, specify the reasons on the order sheet while extending the date for subsequent hearing. In addition, the order sheet must reflect the day's proceedings.
  4. It is usually seen that the judges and the judicial magistrates dictate the orders/judgments to the stenographers much after the hearing is over and they do so in their chambers. This obviously raises doubts among the public of the possibility of the judges being managed or influenced.
    It is advisable that the judges and judicial magistrate should dictate the orders following the hearing in the Court room, as we noticed the Chief Judicial Magistrate Mr. Prabhu Tiwary always gives his dictation sitting in the Court, in front of all present.
  5. It has been seen that orders passed by the judges and judicial magistrates are not executed on the same day. They are deliberately delayed for obvious reasons. We have a ready instance. In the case No. CI-788/2000 Bhusan Kumar alias Bhusan Mukhi Vs Budhan Singh Kirai and others in the Court of Judicial magistrate Mr. M.K. Srivastava, orders for issuing bailable warrant against 6 persons was passed on 24th March 2001. The same was not executed until 25th April 2001.
    (Incidentally some of the accused of this case had prayed for anticipatory bail before your court, which you have already rejected.) This deserves proper investigation and offenders given exemplary punishment
  6. It has become almost a general practice that summons are not served to the accused. As a result of this, concerned judge in due course passes orders for issue of warrant. Now, this warrant is executed with uncanny speed by the Police who usually choose even midnight to arrest the accused in most cases and create room for extortions.
    We consider that both the Court clerks and the parties merrily indulge in corrupt practices. Now, if summons are retained unserved that should have two witnesses and Court should ensure that the clerk issue the summons on the same day the order is passed.
  7. In course of the legal proceedings of a case both the complainants and the accused have to apply for and obtain copies of various documents from the court on payment of certain fees. And because of underhand dealings this becomes an expensive affair. Further, the papers are not made available on specified time and secondly, the parties are always kept in dark about the exact sum of fees payable for such transactions.
    We suggest there should be a monitoring committee to ensure that the papers are made available to the party within the specified time. Besides, there should be a display board clearly indicating the prescribed fees payable for such requirements and transactions.
    For effective implementation, there should be an " Action Cell" where the public could complain and seek redressal, in case of any grievances. The display board should also inform that the complainant or accused could obtain copies of documents directly.
  8. It is reported that huge sums of money are demanded and extorted for obtaining signatures of undertrial prisoners on wakalatnama and bail bonds. Even after grant of bail, the prisoner is not released, until the palms of the jail officials are suitably "greased". This evil practice must be stopped forthwith.
  9. The legal procedure is so complex and complicated and so expensive that it is beyond the reach of the common man. Besides, the procedure is so lengthy that it denies justice and proves the oft -quoted saying "justice delayed is justice denied".
    This needs a careful study of the present system and practice. The Court should provide the services of the lawyer to the financially poor accused and also ensure that the legal practioners do not charge exorbitantly high fees.

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