Written By: Anmol Gupta
Imagine a person living in Kishtwar whose small parcel of land was grabbed by a powerful local goon with the connivance of certain revenue officials (in the year 1998). The person after prolonged litigation did get a favourable judgment in the District Court in the year 2008 but consequent to an appeal being filed by the opposite party is currently fighting the case in the High Court at Jammu. Given the high number of cases pending in the High Court, the dates for hearing on many occasions are months apart. Still hopeful of justice prevailing, the person makes it a point to appear at the allotted dates and travels to Jammu every time for the purpose. On many occasions considering the large number of cases on the cause list, his case is not even heard (which is still justified) but on other occasions the hearing does not take place as the members of the Jammu BAR have suspended work.
The Jammu Bar Association had suspended work across the District and High Court on April 4, 2018 citing certain issues wherein the interests of Jammu were sacrificed by the Government. The strike called by the association continued for 8 days i.e. till April 12 resulting in hundreds of cases not being taken up and causing further delay in the delivery of justice. While the people of Jammu are thankful to the BAR for bringing important issues to the forefront but at the same time the lawyers need to be reminded that by failing to perform their core duties, they are actually doing Jammu a disservice.
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This is certainly not the first time that the lawyers in Jammu have suspended work. Earlier in the month of March, the lawyers had suspended work for a few days in view of the Jammu BAR’s Annual Sports Meet. Will HDFC Bank or Reliance Jio suspend operations because their employees want to play cricket? While sports and hobbies are important for building a holistic personality, pursuing them on holidays or before working hours will certainly present the lawyers in the city in a better light. Again on March 22nd, the work in courts was suspended by the lawyers demanding a separate district of Nowshera and eviction of Rohingyas. Prior to this in the last few months the work has been suspended demanding a holiday on the occasion of Maharaja Harisingh’s birthday, on the disappearance of a lawyer owing to personal reasons, on a lawyer being beaten up outside the court premises and on the retirement of judges of the High Court. One only wonders if State Bank of India was closed on the day its previous Chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya retired.
The problem for the common man is compounded by the high number of holidays in Law Courts during any given year. As per the website of J&K High Court (jkhighcourt.nic.in), the high court will have 35 holidays on account of festivals in 2018 (27 state and 8 provincial) in addition to 52 Sundays and 24 second and fourth Saturdays i.e. 111 sanctioned holidays. In addition, the high court had winter vacation from January 1 to January 25, 2018 and will have summer vacation from June 11 to June 29, 2018. Thus, the court will be closed for 44 additional days or 35 days if holidays and Saturday/Sundays during the period are deducted. Not to forget that the court also has a mini break during the month of October called the Puja Vacation. Therefore, we can deduce that the high court will not have more than 200 to 210 sanctioned working days during any calendar year. Incidentally a Nursery School also has the same number of working days in a year. And in addition, the judges are further entitled to casual leaves and ordinary/privileged leave during the course of the year. One wonders how right was the former Chief Justice of India, Shri Tirath Singh Thakur when he cried claiming the judges were overworked.
The Jammu BAR through its actions wherein it suspends court work at the drop of a hat is only increasing the troubles of the common man who has approached the judiciary in hope of justice. It needs to be asked that what do these calls for suspension of work or bandhs achieve. Will the lawyers not be better serving the interests of Jammu by filling cases against certain Government legislations and bringing in PILs to get justice for the region and its people? Why can’t the lawyers organise symbolic protests to raise awareness after working hours? Why can’t the association as a form of protest boycott all Government cases and Government work?
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The Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary are considered the three pillars of any democracy. Owing to certain landmark judgments the Supreme Court of India continues to enjoy a favourable opinion in the minds of the common man but those members of the public who have been involved in any kind of litigation do realise that there is little expectation of justice as far as Judiciary in India is concerned.
They say that justice delayed is justice denied. In the Indian context, with court cases often extending for decades little relief is forthcoming for the common man. Currently there are 3.25 crore cases pending across various courts in the country and at the current speed of disposal it is estimated that it will take nearly 200 years to dispose all the cases provided no new cases are filed. As on December 31, 2017 a total of 62,040 cases were pending in J&K high court while 160,154 cases are pending in the subordinate courts. If the BAR Association of Jammu really wishes well for the people then they should fight for clearing the pending cases on a war footing. They should boycott lawyers who deliberately use delaying tactics in order to prolong matters. The association should fight for reducing the number of holidays and press for the courts to work on weekends in order to reduce pendency.
The Chief Justice of India can cry at conferences and public forums, senior judges of Supreme Court can hold Press Conferences but the perception of the common man suffering at the hands of the judicial system is unlikely to change until the judges and the lawyers are ready to pin the blame of themselves for the current sorry state of affairs. Sadly that looks unlikely given their current focus.