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A System For Fast And Timely Disposal Of Criminal Cases

True that knowledge is endless but endless knowledge is not the end of all sufferings. Knowledge itself may not always enough for achieving anything for self or society, unless it is guided or implemented by a sound, logical and rational mind. Those, who know the reality and use their knowledge properly in a proper prospective are called wise men, philosophers or statesmen.

A wise king, a statesman or a leader has the sufficient scope and liberty to use his knowledge abundantly to achieve the real object for the benefit of the society at large. They have excuses for risk. It is also their primary duty to promote new ideas for the welfare of the society. But it is always difficult for a common man tied by a system to implement his ideas. Most of our critics are also hypocrites. They are making more confusion and chaos even without venturing into the preface of the issue. We should realize the situation and to adopt the best. We should not have any propaganda rather a mindset of acceptance.

I intend to say that knowledge and ideas may be the paramount considerations in each and every case but if those find pragmatic support from the system, they can do a miracle to a large number of people integrated and involved with the same.2 I have spent twenty years in judiciary. We have brilliant officers serving around the state. They are full of knowledge and hard working. They are doing their best to meet the needs and expectations of the litigants and sufferers of the society. But Indian judiciary is always blamed for its snail pace.

It has been proved since independence that the courts are not able to dispose of cases in time and almost all courts are sitting over the hills of cases finding them completely helpless. Gradually a large number of people are reluctant to approach the court and searching for unethical alternatives. This is certainly not a good sign for the society. The cause is that there are various obstacles not yet been overtaken, making the justice delivery system handicapped.

Delayed justice is the biggest cause of prevalent corruption in the country. Our nation is suffering unfathomable loss on ethical and moral point of view because of delay in disposing of cases. It is obvious to say that inordinate and unnecessary delay defeats the ends of justice.

It is well said by the Hon'ble C.J of India, Shri AS Anand that:
"The consumers of justice want unpolluted, expeditious and inexpensive justice. In its absence, instead of taking recourse of law, he may be tempted to take law in his own hands. This is what the judicial system must guard against, so that people do not take recourse to extra-judicial methods to settle their own scores and seek redress of their grievances".

The Hon'ble Apex courts through its various judgments observed that 'right to speedy trial is an inalienable right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution' Unfortunately, the most important cause of delay is Judge-3 citizen ratio, vacancies of judges and deficient number of courts. The law commission in its 254 th report urged the establishment of additional courts for speedy disposal of cases.

But I am concerned with the practical problem. After so many experiments, it can now be inferred that the prevailing system is not either practical or we are just overlooking the real problems in it and still doing experiments on fallacious stuffs. The result is little smokey and finally blemish.

After experiencing many years in judiciary, I am sure and confident that the major problem in disposal of criminal cases is non execution of summons and warrants. Most of the cases in each and every court are waiting for years together either for attendance of the witnesses or accused persons. It is also true that there is whimsical and rapid turning up of witnesses and accused persons where the parties have entered in to a compromise.

Those cases are very attractive for each court. Disposal of all these types of cases at no cost shall achieve the real objects or provide an absolute assurance to the backlogs which have already been obsolete. Disposal of a year old case, if any, does not provide justice. It may only be considered as a statistical disposal of a pending file. It is not only highly prejudicial for both the parties but also shameful for the justice delivery system. Just imagine, if a person in a case detained inside the custody for eight to ten years as an under-trial prisoner and after conclusion of trial he was acquitted, who will compensate him for loss of those years from his life and his family for so many things.

The delay is also a galactic reason for high ratio of acquittal of criminal cases. It is an injustice to the victims as well as to the rational expectation of the4 society. Those unsolved issues are making the justice delivery system grotesque and ludicrous. Those things have never been discussed as if we have taken it as granted for ever. Disposal of a case is not a matter. It is the length of time which actually matters for all who believe in this justice delivery system and waiting for years together keeping faith in this august system of this nation.

I am talking about eighty percent of cases where we after a huge exercise have not yet been succeeded to bring the accused and the witnesses to the court in time. Perhaps rest of the cases are not meant for disposal for ever and we have the simple way to push it to the dormant, a very interesting and exclusive place of rescue for all. We have never realized what type of justice has been imparted to the victims of all these cases.

It would be injustice to blame the presiding officer or any one, rather the system to be solely or collectively responsible for the problem. The presiding officers are so preoccupied with various works that it is impossible for them to fetch some time to even think about the fault with a particular case record. That apart, they have already experienced their helplessness in so many fronts in the prevailing system.

All the trial courts have already realized that issuance of summons is just like a lottery and the result is beyond their control. So, it is always preferable for them to reach their yardsticks to defend themselves. They know that many problems are not under their control. In this process we are compelled to ignore so many important aspects which are essential to be implemented to eradicate the chronic malady suffered by the system.

I am sharing a fact. In a monthly meeting, the district judge5 found that certain number of cases are pending for re-commitment for years together due to non execution of the warrants. He expressed his dissatisfaction on the matter. The learned magistrate expressed that he in several occasions has requested (not instructed) all the IIC/OICs of the police stations and even discussed with them in his chamber for (kind) execution of the warrants but much to his chagrin it yields nothing.

Knowing it well that the learned magistrate is not the superintendent of police, the district judge expressed his annoyance by saying that you have no command over the police officers. However, he immediately commanded the Chief Judicial Magistrate to look into the matter. I left surprised by thinking what the district judge is discussing with the superintendent of police in the senior officers meeting.

In the next meeting of the judicial officers, the learned magistrate came like conquering the world as one re-commitment warrant has been executed during the month. I do not want to discuss as to how it was done by providing a wrong message to the judicial officers but it is the ground reality the judicial officers are facing in each and every case. I intend to say that the whole cosmos of criminal justice delivery system is spinning around proper execution of the summons and warrants.

I am sure that various instructions of the authority in different ways will not solve the problem. The key of disposal is not in the hand of the judicial officers. So, we have to adopt a mechanism which shall run independently, transparently, open to the public, without wasting the valuable time of the court and most importantly to secure the ends of justice. But before that, I have to disclose the major problems of non execution of summons6 and warrants.

We have code of criminal procedure and rules of the Hon'ble High court to deal with the matters. But it is proved time and again that the same is not actually working in the manner it is intended because of decentralization of the system and so many other complicated protocols. The court has to depend on other mechanism which is not under his control.

The authority has been timely instructing the subordinate courts to give preference to year old cases of different categories but while there is no turning up of the litigants, what the poor subordinate judge will do with such instructions. This sort of instructions remain only a rhetorical paradox. After an extensive discussion as above I have to travel to the real solution which is the major subject of this literature. But before that, I have to point out the issues objectively faced by the courts.
  1. Lack of process servers in the establishment for execution of summons.
  2. The process servers and the police are not executing the summons and warrants.
  3. In many cases, the process servers are making false execution and nothing is there to prove it.
  4. The process servers are giving preference to higher courts and ignoring service of summons of lower courts.
  5. The courts are not issuing summons before the prescribed period.
  6. The process servers are engaged in other duties.
  7. The dealing assistants are issuing the summons according to their will and time.
  8. Summons returned or not executed against the official7 witnesses due to no information of their present or permanent address.
  9. The dealing assistants are not issuing summons due to pressure of work.
  10. The dealing assistants are issuing summons in limited cases so that the court can record the evidence during the court hour and shall discharge their other duties during the official hour.
  11. In some cases the witnesses are returning due to bar strike, cease work, leave of the presiding officers, which ultimately discouraged them to visit the court again.
  12. The witnesses are not getting the travelling expenses due to procedural intricacy and lack of funds.
  13. Police is not executing the warrants on various pleas making the court handicap.

The above and other co-related issues of similar nature have not yet been addressed properly in this prevailing system. So, not using more space, I am trying to share certain ideas of my own, which I think must be useful to resolve all the basic hurdles with ease and timely disposal of the criminal cases.

  1. There must be complete abolition of the court sub-inspector office substituted by a full fledged court police station (CPS) with modern environments. The outlying stations having their sub-CPS stations.
  2. All the public prosecutors offices and the witness accommodation/rest room shall be attached to the said CPS preventing direct access to the public, litigants and other8 advocates to the said establishment. All necessary official transactions with the public prosecutors and CPS during office hour shall be made through counter or any other suitable modes.
  3. The duty of the CPS is to carry out the orders of the courts of the stations such as execution of summons, warrants, collection of address of official witnesses, arrest and production of the accused persons, production of witnesses before the court under escort and other duties as per the rules. A coordination of CPS all over the country shall not only ensure timely production of accused persons or witnesses of the locality but the same can be useful in execution of warrants against the accused persons outside the state who after releasing on bail have absconded for ever, particularly in NDPS and other serious nature of cases. Similarly, in MACT cases where the owners and drivers of outside the state are avoiding the court can be brought through the CPS. The CPS can also be used by civil courts including the Family courts in execution cases outside the state.
  4. All the courts shall send the list of witnesses and the accused persons with their addresses and the date of their appearances or production as the case may be, to CPS maintaining a separate register by both sides.
  5. The CPS shall ensure their production before the court police station and shall keep them inside the witness accommodation room or in custody as the case may be, inside the said establishment giving no access to the accused, defence or the opposite parties interested in the case and intimate the respective courts about such executions.9
  6. The witnesses shall be produced before the court under police escort at the time of trial in a manner not giving access to the adversary party. The accountability of CPS may be fixed by the appropriate authority.
  7. In case of more turning up of the witnesses, there shall be equal and proper distribution of the witnesses to other courts with the case records only for recording of the evidence of the witnesses.
  8. If any court fails to record the evidence of any witness on the same day for any other reason, shall report the same to the authority so that the witness shall be sent to another court.
  9. The CPS shall report regarding the cause and reason of non execution of each summons or warrant, if any, in writing directed by the court for execution
  10. In year old cases the CPS shall execute the summons and warrants directly by deputing staff and produce them in proper escort or custody including the official witnesses if specifically instructed by the concerned court.
  11. In case of failure of the witnesses or accused persons to attend the court after first service of summons, the CPS shall execute the second summons directly and bring them to the court in proper custody.
  12. The court will not accept the charge sheet/ final report/PR if the name, address, phone number, alternative phone number, e- mail, if any, of the witness have not been clearly mentioned with the witnesses list and more particularly the permanent and present address of official witnesses.
  13. The probationary magistrates or the magistrates who have10 not completed one year of their service shall only be assigned to record the evidence of the witnesses and accused statements and send the closed (evidence) case records to the concerned courts. They may prepare dummy judgments in selected contested cases as per the instruction of the authority.
  14. In case of cease work by the bar members or in other similar situations, the court shall record the evidence in chief of the witnesses in under trial prisoners (UTP) cases and may testify the witnesses present in other cases to ascertain whether they are competent witnesses for examination. In such situation, if the witness is an unimportant formal witness of not supporting the prosecution case, he may not be called again to the said case.
  15. The court shall issue sufficient numbers of summons by giving preference to year old cases than new cases and it shall be entered into the portal regularly as well as the result of such issuance.
  16. So far as the pendency of criminal cases in superior courts such as session's courts are concerned, in application to the above suggestions, there is a need of change of their work pattern for enhancement of more disposal. If there are more sessions courts including special courts in a station, where the pendency is high, it would be essential to put11 an end to deal with multifarious cases by a court in the same time. If there are two sessions courts in a station, one court to deal with only criminal trial matters of all categories and the second to deal with all types of appeal/ revision matters both civil and criminal. If there are more than two sessions courts, the third court to deal with only the civil appeal and revision matters.
  17. While functioning as above, after every three or four months interval, there shall be interchange of the presiding officers of the courts of the same station only for the purpose of changeover. This practice will encourage healthy competition and release monotonous working mental pressure.
  18. Compromise is the best, most effective, sound and rational adjudication. This also promotes harmony between the parties. But due to technical legal impediments the court is unable to make it effective. Putting offences on charge sheet is game of the police. In many cases offence under section 324 of IPC has been portrayed under section 307 of IPC. So, now it is imperative to amend the section 320 of Cr.p.c making more offences compoundable.
    For example: the offences under section 379 of IPC where the value of the property is less than 5000, 326 and 307 of IPC where the injury is simple and not on the vital part of the body and many more offences under certain circumstances including the antecedent and age of the accused. The court can also impose compensation in certain cases on compromise. Compromise can also be permitted before completion of the investigation. Some may not agree with this suggestions. So, let me assert that even in case of murder the witnesses are not deposing anything. The law is sponsoring 'plea bargaining'12 which is a failure in India.

    The reason that more than 80 percentage cases triable before the court of judicial magistrate ended with compromise and it is more than 60 percentage in session's cases. Therefore certain discretion must be given to the learned trial courts to deal with the compromise matters. Otherwise the same will be repeated, but in a different way by wasting time and paper of the court. If the situation is alarming and a little liberal procedure is making a big difference, it must be adopted.
  19. Similarly, discretion may be imparted to the courts to compound or mediate the offences under motor vehicle Act, Negotiable instrument Acts and other minor offences between the parties.
  20. Another important matter is equal distribution of cases among the courts. This aspect has always been ignored. It is often seen that the principal magistrate court holds eighty percent of cases and the rest just twenty percent. This seriously creates checkmate in disposal of cases in time. The main causes are non appearance of accused persons for non execution of summons and warrants and non preparation of the police papers. I experienced that police paper is the primary cause for the bottle-necking situation.

    I have already discussed about the execution of summons and warrants in my preceding paragraphs. But so far as preparation of police paper is concerned, the only best and effective way is outsourcing of technical persons for preparation of the police papers. That will put an end to this problem. But to eradicate this problem for ever, the investigating agencies are to be directed to supply the required sets of police papers along with13 the final form/charge-sheet.
  21. Knowledge makes perfect and confident. Every judicial officer badly requires knowledge according to their requirements. Judicial Academies have little scope to fulfill the requirements. So, we must have to think the best and easy way to enter into the galaxy of knowledge and also to explore ourselves freely and joyfully.

    I suggest an exclusive website for district level judicial officers for all over the country, where they can only share their legal problems and in return they will get countless answers, legal literature, judgments and legal principles. In one click a judicial officer will visit huge conversations on different legal issues. That will keep a judicial officer in touch with different laws of the state. The officers can share their articles and judgments in such web site. The retired judicial officers and academicians can be inducted as members.
  22. Now a days the subordinate courts are facing another problem. That is submission of facts and figures in each and everyday asking them by the authority and must of these with a direction to send such informations on return mail. This is seriously wasting the valuable times of the courts and distracting the staff to focus on the important court works. This can be prevented. The superior authority has to prepare a format including all informations generally required and additional information required in the past frequently. Those informations shall be sent to the authority by the subordinate courts at once in monthly basis.
  23. We are exclaiming about twenty first century concept. Application of technology will keep the proceeding of the court14 far ahead. The court may examine the rape victims, child witnesses, pregnant ladies and sick persons through virtual mode. The CPS may be provided with all such technical requirements to reach the witnesses as desired by the court and the court shall record the evidence or examine any person through virtual mode. Rules may be framed to that effect.
  24. There is a huge need of reassessment of the sanction strength of the staff. The old courts having more pendency are working with less staff due to old sanction and the new courts with more staff.
  25. The yardstick system needs to be abolished. In its place the Hon'ble court may publish a quarterly merit list of judicial officers of different ranks on the basis of disposal/performance. And final merit list may be published at the end of the year. Last but not least, encouragement, support, help, discussion with the problems and advice for the solution by the senior judicial officers to the junior judicial officers will create a conducive environment and will empower the juniors mentally and psychologically to discharge their duty more perfectly, fearlessly and effectively.
(The Whole Article Is Completely A Personal Opinion Of The Author) Written By: Sri Rajkishore Lenka,
1st Additional District and session's Judge, Puri
[email protected]

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