Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: A Division Bench of Joymalya Bagchi and Suvra Ghosh, JJ., while denouncing the conduct of lawyers who had called a strike, directed and that prompt steps shall be taken against the offenders obstructing Judges, police personnel or public servants from discharging their dues.

The Court was considering an application for bail under Section 439 CrPC. The Court was informed that due to lawyer’s strike, police personnel were unable to enter the Court premises and produce the original case diary.

The High Court, in its order, cited observations of the Supreme Court in:

(i) Harish Uppal v. Union of India, (2003) 2 SCC 45, wherein the Constitution Bench has held that lawyers have no right to go on a strike or call for bandh or even a token strike. Only in rarest of rare cases where the dignity, integrity and independence of the Bar and/or the bench are at stake and a protest abstention from work not more than a day may be entertained and to do so, the President of the Bar must consult and seeks permission from the Chief Justice or the District Judge in the matter.

(ii) Hussain v. Union of India, (2017) 5 SCC 702, wherein the Court recognised that frequent strikes, abstention from work by lawyers or frequent suspension of court work after condolence references are one of the prime reasons for the delay in disposal of criminal cases.

(iii) Krishankant Tamrakar v. State of M.P., (2018) 17 SCC 27, wherein it was reiterated that every resolution to strike and abstain from work is per se contempt and necessary mechanism to enforce the mandate of the Court needs to be put in place till proper legislation to remedy the situation is enacted.

In the instant case, noted the High Court, the striking lawyers not only brought the administration of justice to a standstill but also, in a flagrant manner, obstructed the police personnel from discharging their official duty.

The Court directed the Superintendent of Police, Paschim Medinipur, to enquire into the matter and take necessary steps so that police personnel, litigants, lawyers and all stakeholders in the administration of justice are permitted to enter the Court premises and discharge their duties. It was further ordered that any obstruction to Judges, police personnel or other public servants in that regard would amount to cognizable offence and prompt steps shall be taken against the offences.

The matter is now listed to be heard on 08-01-2020, on which date, the Superintendent of Police shall submit his report before the Court. [Aijul Gharami v. State of W.B., 2019 SCC OnLine Cal 5529, decided on 23-12-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Noticing that where death sentence could be one of the alternative punishments, the courts must be completely vigilant and see that full opportunity at every stage is afforded to the accused, the 3-judge bench of UU Lalit, Indu Malhotra and Krishna Murari, JJ has laid down the below mentioned norms to ensure the same.

  • In all cases where there is a possibility of life sentence or death sentence, learned Advocates who have put in minimum of 10 years practice at the Bar alone be considered to be appointed as Amicus Curiae or through legal services to represent an accused.
  • In all matters dealt with by the High Court concerning confirmation of death sentence, Senior Advocates of the Court must first be considered to be appointed as Amicus Curiae.
  • Whenever any counsel is appointed as Amicus Curiae, some reasonable time may be provided to enable the counsel to prepare the matter. There cannot be any hard and fast rule in that behalf. However, a minimum of seven days’ time may normally be considered to be appropriate and adequate.
  • Any learned counsel, who is appointed as Amicus Curiae on behalf of the accused must normally be granted to have meetings and discussion with the concerned accused.

The Court was hearing a case where the Amicus Curiae was called upon to defend the accused at the stage of framing of charges on the very day he was appointed. The Court was, hence, certain of the fact that the Amicus Curiae did not have sufficient time to go through even the basic documents, nor the advantage of any discussion or interaction with the accused, and time to reflect over the matter. Thus, even before the Amicus Curiae could come to grips of the matter, the charges were framed. Not only this, but the trial itself was concluded within a fortnight thereafter and the accused was awarded death sentence in the offence relating to murder of a 9-year-old girl.

The Court, hence, said that though expeditious disposal is undoubtedly required in criminal matters and that would naturally be part of guarantee of fair trial, however, in the pursuit for expeditious disposal, the cause of justice must never be allowed to suffer or be sacrificed.

“What is paramount is the cause of justice and keeping the basic ingredients which secure that as a core idea and ideal, the process may be expedited, but fast tracking of process must never ever result in burying the cause of justice.”

It was hence, held that the Trial Court on its own, ought to have adjourned the matter for some time so that the Amicus Curiae could have had the advantage of sufficient time to prepare the matter. The approach adopted by the Trial Court may have expedited the conduct of trial, but did not further the cause of justice. In the process, the assistance that the appellant was entitled to in the form of legal aid, could not be real and meaningful.

“the entire trial was completed in less than one month with the assistance of the prosecution as well as the defense, but, such expeditious disposal definitely left glaring gaps.”

The Court, hence, set aside the conviction and directed a de novo consideration of the matter.

[Anokhilal v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1637, decided 18.12.2019]

New releasesNews

Science begins with counting. To understand a phenomenon, a scientist must first describe it; to describe it objectively, he must first measure it.

– Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies

These words, written by Mukherjee in his seminal biography of cancer, aptly characterise the principal purpose of DAKSH’s Rule of Law Project, which is to understand the justice-delivery system in India using a data-driven approach.

In 2016, DAKSH released a report, titled State of the Indian Judiciary (SoJR), in which we focused on the most visible face of the justice-delivery system in India — the judiciary. In evaluating the work of the judiciary, we considered its primary challenge — pendency in the courts — as a means to understand how delays in the progress of cases affect citizens and the economy. We also presented findings from our pioneering survey on access to justice, which recorded litigants’ perceptions of, and experiences within, the judicial system.

As we pondered on the composition of DAKSH’s second report, we decided to retain the two principal aspects of the SoJR — delays in the judicial system and access to justice — as the fulcrum of this year’s report also, but examine them both more deeply and broadly. While the SoJR explored the systemic issues of administration and accountability in the judiciary, this year’s report is an in-depth scrutiny of the performance of courts, with an emphasis on their workload, case flow, and efficiency. While the SoJR reflected on access to justice, and in particular, its institutional dimensions (mainly relating to the judiciary), this year, we consider ‘justice’ more expansively — in terms of its underlying ideas, its administration and delivery by non-judicial bodies, as well as the various approaches to it in India.

Shruti Vidyasagar and Ramya Sridhar Tirumalai in Introduction to Approaches to Justice in India (2017)

The complete report has been indexed on SCC Online here:

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench of the Delhi High Court comprising of Vinod Goyal, J, directed the trial court to expedite proceedings in a pending criminal case in exercise of it’s inherent powers under Section 482 of the CrPC.

The petitioners had approached the Court aggrieved by an inordinate delay in disposal of a criminal trial arising out of an FIR filed by the first petitioner’s late father for offences under Sections 419, 420, 468 and 471 r/w Section 34  IPC. The petitioners pointed out that out of 36 listed witnesses, the prosecution had not called forward even one. Further, it was stated that the matter had been dragged on for more than 17 years since the FIR. The counsel for the petitioners argued that justice delayed is justice denied.

The Court acknowledged that the right to a speedy trial is an indispensable extension of the right to liberty and right against arbitrary detention. The Counsel argued on the basis of landmark cases of Rattiram v. State of MP, (2012) 4 SCC 516 and Kartar Singh v. State of Punjab, (1994) 3 SCC 569 among others to establish the Supreme Court’s stand on the right to speedy trial.

The Court took careful note of the circumstances, namely, that the trial had not commenced even though the charge-sheet was filed on 17.08.2001. The petition was hence, disposed of with the direction to the ACMM (North), Rohini Court, Delhi, before whom the trial was pending to make all endeavors necessary and at his command to record the prosecution evidence and conduct expeditious trial. The petition was disposed of accordingly. [Bir Singh v. State of NCT of Delhi, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 10919, decided on 18.09.2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: A seven-Judge Bench of the High Court through an order in a suo-motu matter issued directions regarding? establishment of video conferencing facilities in all the district courts and jails of the State so as to provide better connectivity, installation of CCTV cameras for ensuring security in court premises, installation of independent power feeder lines to ensure uninterrupted supply of electricity during court hours and for enhancement of the strength of the district judiciary to meet directions which were issued by the Supreme Court in Brij Mohan Lal v. Union of India, (2012) 6 SCC 502. The High Court has issued these directions and taken up the matter suo motu in the wake of spurt of incidents resulting in obstruction and derailment of work in both the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad and in the District Courts across the State.

The High Court directed the State Government that the time lines which were indicated by the Chief Secretary and Finance Secretary of the State before the Court shall be strictly observed and the installation of video conferencing facilities in fifty district courts in any event shall be completed by 31 December 2015. It was also directed that while installing video conferencing equipment in the district courts, the equipment that is installed shall have the capability of preserving data records for a period of not less than sixty days so that any objections to the modalities which have been followed in a particular case can be dealt with by the Judge concerned on the basis of the recording which is preserved.

The High Court also directed that requisite steps should be taken to ensure that the working strength of the district judiciary in the State is enhanced to 2500 judges during 2016-2017 from the current strength of about 2000. The High Court further directed that in order to ensure that the projects relating to the district judiciary are duly and appropriately monitored, State Government should constitute a Monitoring Committee which should consist of at least two Principal Secretaries of the State Government besides the Registrar General of this Court to facilitate periodical monitoring and resolution of problems which may arise. [In Re: Zila Adhivakta Sangh Allahabad, decided on 29.10.2015]