Appeal to the appeals system

News:  Recently the Allahabad High Court decided the criminal plea of Raj Kumar, which was filed approximately four decades ago. It acquitted the accused of all criminal charges after such a long time.

Read here: Undertrials comprise 75% of India’s prison population

The Supreme Court has frequently held that the right to speedy justice is a facet of the right to life of an individual, guaranteed by the Constitution. SC also acknowledged the injustice due to the system’s inability to provide timely justice.

How much pendency is there in respective state high courts?

1st Law Commission in 1958, had found that the Allahabad high court had 3,727 pending appeals. Now the pendency increased to 1,56,276 appeals. Similarly, other courts like Madhya Pradesh have 87,617 pending appeals, Punjab & Haryana have 68,956, Rajasthan has 49,264 and Patna has 36,818 pending appeals.

By clubbing all the appeals, more than 2. 5 lakh cases are pending for more than 10 years across all high courts in India.

Read here: Pendency of cases in Supreme Court: The supreme failure
What are the key causes for the delay in dealing with criminal appeals?

Judges: Expertise is required to effectively deal with the criminal appeal. So, while elevating candidates to the higher court bench, collegium should be cautious of prior experience of criminal court judges. Judges of the district court should be given more preference as they are experienced in handling criminal cases.

Currently, there is no such method to appoint high court judges that accounts for their subject matter specialization.

Read here: The role of the Judiciary in pendency problem

Counsel: A study by Vidhi on all cases in the Delhi high court found that in 70% of delayed cases, counsels had sought time more than thrice. Judges should take strict action on such advocates who intentionally use the system to delay the cases

Accused: It has been found on several occasions where the accused persons are completely unaware of the lawyer representing them. Effective legal representation is a constitutionally guaranteed right. Prison authorities should coordinate with legal services authorities to facilitate communication between the lawyers and the accused.

Also, legal services authorities should be questioned on the quality of advocates they admit, their remuneration, and the accountability mechanisms to ensure quality service.

Registry staff: One of the key causes for the delay is the lack of timely availability of lower court records while dealing with criminal appeals. This can be solved through digitization of records and easy transfer of case records across all tiers of the judiciary. Registry staff should be trained to handle such digitization.

Read here: Pendency In Indian Judiciary – Reasons and Solutions

Source: This post is based on the article “Appeal to the appeals system” published in the Times of India on 18th February 2022.

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