Speedy And Inexpensive Justice
The state has its most pivotal and prime function in the dispensation of justice to its citizens, wherever they may be, at the earliest and without burden of any expense in any shape, as it is not for the people to just ‘get’ justice, but to ‘receive’ justice. It is an established principal of equity that, “justice delayed is justice denied”.
Unfortunately, it is observed that a trial of cases can take years and years, even generations. The afflux of litigation is supposed to be one reason, which should not be used as a justification for the delays, rather it should be seen as a positive sign in a society that people know their rights or at least have the knowledge of having a direction available for their grievance. Therefore, the need of the hour is the administration and dispensation of justice which necessarily involves, but is not limited to, the criteria of selection of judicial officers, their training, their staff’s training, monetary needs, condition of the courts; though all of these are indispensable but much more is needed to provide complete assistance in speedy and inexpensive justice.
It is also important to note that, periodically we do make amendments in centuries old laws, but we end up not following them fully and in letter and spirit. For instance, during litigation, a general law may provide certain steps that are to be completed within a certain time, but this could take up to years unless there are special courts following a special law, but we need to understand that we cannot just keep on making special courts for every set of case. There are many types of rights within a certain field of law, would we make a separate court for each type? The answer is certainly NO we cannot, because it will further intricate the dispensation of justice. Furthermore, even those time-tested laws cannot provide a solution to the ever increasing complex challenges of the present age. Speedy and inexpensive justice can only be ensured by following a new set of ways and rules and a new system of administration and dispensation of justice, keeping in view the need of the ever increasing population and for these new set of ways and rules to reach the masses.
Moreover, the working of courts needs to be reassessed by revising the powers and functions of judicial officers and through ensuring certain amendments in procedural laws. I may not be able to devise a whole system of working but during my practice for over 12 years I have noticed a few areas that need attention and I felt the need to make the following declarations:
- Delegation of certain judicial powers at Union Council level especially family disputes, rent matters and local disputes like easements, right of way, etc. (but other than title of property).
- Training of the head of the Union Council / Nazim by senior District judicial officers so to decide cases judiciously with justice, equity and fairness.
- Delegation of judicial powers to District Officers especially those heading a specific department e.g. Registrar, Joint Stock Companies etc.
- Training of the District Officers / Public Office Holders by senior District judicial officers.
- It be made mandatory that the alleged claimant must seek remedy before the concerned public or private department / corporate entity; before approaching the court of law. All public or private departments / corporate entities be mandated to devise a system to address grievances internally.
- In courts of law, it be ensured that learned judges exercise their jurisdiction firmly and procedural laws are followed strictly without any external pressure whatsoever or leniency. It should be mandatory to comply with certain steps during litigation within specified time.
- Pre-trial stage be introduced, in which a newly filed case shall be scrutinized by the learned judge himself or any other junior officer(s) who must have practiced law for a certain period. It should be scrutinized whether or not such a suit is specifically barred by some law or is maintainable under law, so that only the suits which are triable reach the trial stage. However, final authority should rest with the judge if junior officers have decided.
- E-culture be introduced by a public or private department / corporate entity to redress grievance of parties, which would make it easy for any affectee to just forward his/her complaint to the concerned department. The same be replied to accordingly and the complainant be only asked to appear in person if necessary, not otherwise. This will not only save time but will also be much cheaper. Further, with passage of time this can also be introduced in courts and this can change the complex nature of the judicial system and can make it much more expedient and cheap.
- Transfers of judicial officers should not be carried out in continuous regular intervals rather they must remain in office for a longer time and the positions must not remain vacant for more than a few days. It has often been observed that while a case proceeds towards its logical conclusion, the judge is transferred and then the new incumbent naturally has to take up the matter from scratch which becomes a tedious exercise even for the senior judge and much troublesome for the parties and their respective counsels.
- Alternate dispute resolution must be encouraged, rather mandated e.g., mediation or arbitration.
It must be noted that speedy and inexpensive justice will not be stirred up with some magic wand; it requires serious, rigorous, sustained and continuous efforts over a long time. It demands moral and intellectual growth of not only a few officers but of the society at large. However, taking one necessary step in right direction can be equal to many journeys.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any organization with which he might be associated.