Justice delayed is justice denied

Special committee proposes ways to speed up justice delivery



In a bid to promote efficiency and speedy justice delivery, the Supreme Court is all set to introduce major reforms in the litigation system of the judiciary beginning in mid-July.


A special committee on case management under the coordination of Justice Anup Raj Sharma has come up with the reform programmes, to which the Full Court of the Supreme Court is giving a final touch in the last one week.


Statistics show that every year an average of about 50,000 new cases are registered at all courts and tribunals and almost same number of cases are carried over from the previous year.


The restructuring is expected to modernise procedures, speed up litigation processes, and improve efficiency in the judiciary leading to a significant reduction of backlog and increased case disposal rate.


To that effect, the new system will categorise cases into four different types based on their levels of complexity: simple, general, complex, and highly complex. Depending on which of the four categories they belong, complexity, the cases will then have to be disposed within a period of six, eight, 10, and 12 months. "The simpler the case, the faster the disposal," said a Supreme Court official. As there is no clear policy to tell apart cases, the current litigation system groups all categories of cases together, a practice,  advocates argue, has unduly delayed justice delivery.


The next major reform expected to facelift the judiciary is the system of separate panel of judges to hear special cases, such as those pending for more than five years. "This is to discourage the current practice of transferring complex cases over to other benches," said another SC official who has been involved in the reform process.


Similarly, a new rule on "time management" will regulate court hearings by introducing a concept of "lead lawyer" and time-bound pleading.


So far there is no limits to how many lawyers can a petitioner hire, which can unnecessarily. For instance, the apex court listened to more than 30 individual arguments and counterarguments during the hearing on the current government-Army row over retirement of eight Nepal Army generals.


The reforms aim at increasing the rate of disposal, which stands at a bare 45-50 percent according to figures collected for the past few years. A report by National Judicial Academy that studied the judiciary's performance during 2005 to 2007 has concluded, "Neither the courts disposed of cases within the time stipulated by law nor could they reduce the backlog as projected." 


Among the proposed reforms, equally important is the plan to employ and upgrade IT infrastructure. According to Supreme Court Registrar Ram Krishna Timilsena, there would be both intra-court and inter-court networking with high speed data transfer facilities.


"The reform will significantly speed up case processes and justice delivery," said the Registrar. He cited that the practice of transferring complex cases from one bench to another would no longer continue in the panel system, thereby encouraging their speedy disposal and secondly, with the same judges getting continuously hooked to certain cases from the very beginning, they would gain greater leverage in disposing them on time. (Excerpt from April 30 TKP)


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