Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat
In the year 2004 Collector Land Acquisition Srinagar issued notification under section 4 of J&K Land Acquisition Act for acquisition of land enabling construction of flyover from Jahangir chowk to Rambagh. As per the provisions of J&K Land Acquisition Act , the award was to be submitted in three years from the date of issuance of the notification which would enable the affected parties to get due compensation and proper rehabilitation. Failure on part of the collectorate to submit the award with the statutory period was the first blow to the affected persons to be either rehabilitated or to continue as owners, as basic notification has lapsed. However on 5th of January 2012 while it was snowing heavily a demolition squad from collectorate assisted by local police bulldozed the house of one Ghulam Mohiudeen Ahangar and others at Haft Chinar Srinagar even denying a little bit of relaxation to save the households. The five families and four shopkeepers housed in the structures had to come under the open sky in cold winter days. The apathy of the affected families was consistently deliberated upon in the High Level Committee (HLC) for such acquisition headed by Divisional Commissioner Kashmir but of no consequence. The compulsory acquisition made by collector Srinagar forced the inmates to hire residential accommodation which continues to be hired till date. The affected families through Ghulam Mohiudeen Ahangar challenged the compulsory acquisition and the lapsed award in the J&K High Court which is said to be still pending due to passive approach of the state Government. I have quoted this particular instance just to highlight the lacunas in our justice delivery system wherein people are expressing their extreme confidence, but the state Government being the biggest litigant in state, due to its passive approach shakes the basic foundation of this system. It is a known fact that judges who run the judicial system have a pivotal role to play, but if they are not zealously and proactively cooperated by the lawyers from both sides, judges feel helpless and litigants continue to suffer.
“The lapses on part of the state advocates either not being equipped with facts or skipping their appearances on scheduled dates compels the judges to grant adjournments, thus prolonging the agony of poor litigants” says Syed Nasarullah Shah former Administrative Officer in Sub Ordinate Judiciary.
The alarming number of pendency’s in courts of the country is a matter of serious concern for the Chief Justice of India. From time to time various guidelines for speedy disposal of cases have been issued by the supreme court. In addition, the Alternate Dispute Resolution System (ADRS) through Lok Adalats and Mediation centers is in place and National Lok Adalats are organized across the country every now and then. If all this process is in place why the pendency’s does not come down ? Let me highlight some factors which need to be considered for making the judicial system more vibrant and decreasing the pendency.
Flexibility of rules:
The existing flexibility in the laws and rules including the High Court rules and the rules for guidance of sub ordinate judiciary need to be amended in such a manner that least scope is left with the judges to grant adjournments and also enabling them to decide the case expeditiously.
Transparency in Govt lawyers appointment :
It is a matter of fact that appointment of state counsels (Govt lawyers) is more or less political in nature. Right from the appointment of Public Prosecutors (PP’s) to State’s Advocate General merit , suitability and integrity is not at all a criteria. There is no mechanism to make such appointees answerable and accountable to system. An instance of a Public Prosecutor (PP) in Sessions Court Budgam caught red handed by Vigilance Organisation Kashmir while accepting a bribe in a murder case , after his bail was allowed to resume his duties. How the system tolerated him is nothing but an abuse of power by a cabinet Minister who was closely related to this tainted PP. Later, salute to the High Court judges who intervened and showed him the door. It is time that effective guidelines be issued by the Honb’le Chief Justice of India for engagement and appointment of Government lawyers. Public would love to see a mechanism where appointment of state lawyers are made subject to undergoing a screening test conducted by the panel of experts preferably headed by State Chief Justice.
Groundwork for Lok Adalats:
Through Lok Adalats so far a large number of cases arising out Motor Vehicle accidents in the country have been resolved, giving substantial relief to the victims. However, in Motor Accidents Claims Tribunals (MACT), selected group of lawyers have reduced themselves as commission agents at the cost of victims agony. In respect of traffic challans Lok Adalats dispose off thousands of such cases in every sitting which by any standard, is not a substantial contribution, as for disposal of these cases the Courts of Traffic Magistrates are functional everywhere. It would highly be appreciated if a ground work for disposal of land acquisition cases , revenue appeals , ICDS appointment cases, SRO 43 cases etc is undertaken through leave reserve judicial officers well in advance and then taken up in regular Lok Adalats for final disposal.
Constitution of hearing benches:
Due to heavy pendency of the cases in the High Court and alarming rush of supplementary matters, cases listed in regular cause lists for final hearing do not usually get the turn resulting in consequential adjournments. It would be highly appreciated if separate hearing benches are constituted which would pave a way for speedy disposal of the old cases ripe for final hearing.
Paucity of Judges and supporting staff :
In many high courts including the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir alarming number of vacancies are available. On the other hand sitting judges continue to retire or else get elevated to higher positions. This is another factor which is a stumbling block in the growth and evolution of justice delivery system. It has also been observed that in lower judiciary many vacancies of judges and supporting staff remain unfilled for a longer time. Coupled with the fact that the state Governments are very economical in giving priority to the creation of supporting staff for the courts. It would be expedient if effective and speedy steps are taken at the relevant revels so that the system does not suffer for want of human resource.
The people of the state have pinned their hopes on son of our soil Honb’le Justice T S Thakur the Chief Justice of India who is expected to visit J&K soon. It is hoped that visiting dignitary will imbibe a fresh spirit of zealousness, dedication and devotion among the rank and file of the system which include the judges , lawyers , staff and also the executive so that sufferings of the people get mitigated to promote people’s faith in the judicial system.
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat