President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday expressed concern over judicial delays and commended the government, which is a major litigant, for taking steps to reduce the number of pending cases. He also called upon the Bar Council of India to consider giving greater autonomy to private law schools.
Speaking at a conference organised by the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association, Kovind said that “judges are overburdened by the sheer volume of cases” and consequently, the “Indian legal system is marked by long delays”.
“There are many reasons for such delays. There are infrastructure gaps and considerable vacancies, particularly in subordinate courts,” he said, and referred to the “culture of seeking adjournments”. He said he has been told that the judiciary was now trying to curb this, adding that lawyers should not seek adjournments “except in absolutely unavoidable circumstances”.
Kovind pointed out that various governments and government agencies are party to many cases of litigation, and commended the “government of India for making a sincere effort to reduce this number”.
Referring to some of these measures, he said the government had enhanced the threshold for filing appeals in tax disputes in various tribunals and courts. In the Supreme Court, the threshold had been revised from Rs 25 lakh to Rs 1 crore. The government had also decided to withdraw many pending appeals, he said. There has been a conscious rationalisation of tribunals, he added.
Attorney General K K Venugopal called upon lawyers not to resort to strikes. “Strikes are only for trade unions,” he said.
Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra endorsed this and said the AG was the leader of the Bar and when the leader of the Bar makes such a request, it should be taken as a command.
Without adequate infrastructure, we cannot realise our commitment to justice for all, he said. “Judicial infrastructure includes infrastructure for the Bar and litigant and is the backbone of the justice delivery system,” he said, adding that steps must be taken to plug the gaps in infrastructure before its too late.
Delivering the valedictory address, Justice Kurian Joseph said members of the Bar must take up societal causes and not just their briefs.
He said, “The moment I cease to think of others, the moment I keep silent when something around me goes wrong, the moment I see inequality and refrain from taking any action, the moment I find discrimination and don’t raise my voice… well as Dante reminded us, the hottest place in hell is reserved for those who take a neutral stand in a time of moral crisis”.