‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ is a legal maxim meaning that if a legal remedy is available for a party that has suffered some injury, but is not forthcoming promptly, it is effectively the same as having no remedy at all.
This principle is the basis for the right to a speedy trial and similar rights which are meant to expedite the legal system because it is unfair for the victim to have to sustain the injury with little hope for resolution.
The following are the factors which are arguably responsible behind the delay in justice:
- Corruption: Widespread corruption, particularly in lower judiciary, often results in higher pendency of cases in the courts. The corrupt judges may deliberately don’t announce their judgment or grant unfair adjournments to the party they favour. There may be personal bias or belief to sustain the judgment.
- Continuous Vacancies: There are persisting vacancies against the sanctioned strengths of courts and in the worst performing states those vacancies have exceeded by the substantial amount of percentage.
- Abysmal state of subordinate judiciary: Apparently, district courts in our country are suffering owing to the inadequate infrastructure and dismal working conditions.
- Government, the Biggest Litigant: Poorly drafted orders have resulted in contested tax revenues equal to 4.7 per cent of the GDP and it is rising.
- Inadequate budgetary allocation: The budget allocated to the judiciary is between 0.08 and 0.09 per cent of the GDP. Only four countries — Japan, Norway, Australia and Iceland have a lesser budget allocation; but they do not have problems of pendency like India.
The following are the steps that can be taken to improve the prevailing situation of the judicial system:
- Augmentation of the strength of Judicial Service: One of the effective solutions can be to substantially increase the strength of the judicial services by appointing more judges at the subordinate level.
- An optimum level of budgeting: Various appointments and the necessary infrastructure require the funds and this need can be met with the adequate Level of budgeting.
- Correcting Historical Inequalities: Reforms in Judiciary should also encompass addressing social inequalities within the judiciary. Women judges, and judges from historically-marginalised castes and classes must finally be given a fair share of seats at the table.
The recommendations of the Fifteenth Finance Commission and the India Justice Report 2020 have raised the issue and suggested ways to earmark and deploy funds. Courts are sitting on a pendency bomb and it has never been more urgent to strengthen the subordinate judiciary.
So, purse strings must be loosened and necessary policy decisions must be effectuated rapidly at both Centre and state levels, if access to justice is to be meaningful in the years to come.