Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Judicial delays fact of the day

In the context of the Chief Justice of Supreme Court's recent appeal to the government to help the courts expedite case disposals by filling up vacancies, Livemint shines light on more egregious internal delays like that between reserving for judgement and actually delivering the judgement. It examined 487 judgements delivered by the Supreme Court in 2015 for which information was available and found a disturbing trend. In more than 17% of cases, orders were not delivered within the three month benchmark suggested by the Supreme Court itself.
The article says,
The relatively large number of cases where the judgement is delivered more than 90 days after being reserved by the bench suggest the absence of a system to keep track of how long a case has been reserved for judgement. From the information available on the Supreme Court website, it is not possible to determine with any accuracy how many judgements have been reserved and for how long. A recent Right to Information application seeking details of cases that have been reserved for judgement was denied by the Supreme Court.
It is impossible to imagine any other agency of the government being able to deny such basic information and get away without a public admonition by a Court. As the article says, "it is high time perhaps that the apex court adopts a system to keep track of reserved judgements in the interests of transparency and accountability to the litigating public".

This again underscores the point that I have blogged many times that the country's highest court needs to urgently embrace the advise of Justice Louis Brandies and disinfect judicial performance with the sunlight of transparency on case disposal information. It is worth reiterating,
Even the most basic data on the performance of judicial officers is currently difficult to obtain. How many orders have been passed by each judge annually, individually and in a bench? What is their average time between the final hearing (reserving for orders) and passing of orders? How many orders of the judge have been appealed against? How many of the orders have been reversed in appeal? How many orders have been passed in favor of the petitioner and how many rejected? How many orders have been passed against the government and how many in favor? What is the average number of adjournments in a case for each judge?
For a part of the government whose accountability largely rests on self-regulation, and one which has mostly refused to play by the same rules of the game that it administers on all else, transparency may be the only check against degeneration.

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