Vs. State of Bihar  Insc 367 (6 August 2001)
Appeal (crl.) 387 of 2998 Appeal (crl.) 388 of 2998
the judgment drafted by Brother Sethi J. I am in full agreement with the
conclusions regarding the merits of the case. Regarding the aspect of delay in
pronouncing judgments after conclusion of arguments I wish to add a few words
on my own in support of all what Sethi J. has said about it.
1961 a learned judge of the Patna High Court expressed his anguish when a magistrate
took nine months to pronounce a judgment. The words used by him for expressing
his judicial wrath is the following:
magistrate who cannot find time to write judgment within reasonable time after
hearing arguments ought not do any judicial work at all. This Court strongly
disapproves the magistrates making such a tremendous delay in the delivery of
his judgments." Now when two judges of the Patna High Court took two years
for pronouncing a judgment after concluding arguments when the parties were
languishing in jail, the counsel appearing in this Court in challenge of the
said judgment asked in unison whether the exhortation made by the Patna High
Court in 1961 is not intended to apply to the High Court.
glimpse on the situation of the case as it remained in the High Court persuades
me to feel that what happened in this case is only the tip of the iceberg. When
the sessions court convicted nine persons on different counts including murder
as per his judgment dated 4.5.1991, all the convicted persons filed appeals
before the High Court of Patna. While remaining in jail the convicted persons
waited for their turn to reach for the High Court to get time to hear their
appeals. It took five years for such turn to reach. Advocates engaged by them
then addressed arguments before the Division Bench and learned judges on
conclusion of arguments on 23.8.1995, adjourned the appeals sine die for
judgment. The convicted persons while remaining in jail again waited for the D'
day. The members of their family would naturally have been anxiously waiting
for the same, but days and weeks and months and even years passed without
anything happening from the Court. In the meanwhile, one of the convicted
persons died in jail. By then even the anxiety of the other convicted persons
would have died down and appeals would have been consigned to records. It is
difficult to comprehend how the judges would have kept the details and the
nuance of the arguments in their memory alive after the lapse of a long long
the judges concerned had no concern until one of them reached near the date of
his superannuation. They then reminded themselves of the obligation of
delivering the judgment. It was thus that the impugned judgment had come out,
at last, from torpidity.
delay in pronouncing judgments occurred on the part of the judges of the
subordinate judiciary the whip of the High Court studded with supervisory and
administrative authority could be used and it had been used quite often to
chide them and sometimes to take action against the erring judicial officers.
But what happens when the High Court judges do not pronounce judgments after
lapse of several months, and perhaps even years since completion of arguments?
The Constitution did not provide anything in that area presumably because the
architects of the Constitution believed that no High Court judge would cause
such long and distressing delays. Such expectation of the makers of the
Constitution remained unsullied during the early period of the post Constitution
years. But unfortunately, the later years have shown slackness on the part of a
few judges of the superior Courts in India with the result that once arguments in a lis concluded before them the
records remain consigned to hibernation. Judges themselves normally forget the
details of the facts and niceties of the legal points advanced. Sometimes the
interval is so long that the judges forget even the fact that such a case is
pending with them expecting judicial verdict. Though it is an unpleasant fact,
it is a stark reality.
the situation continue to remain so helpless for all concerned. The Apex Court made an exhortation in 1976 through
a judgment which is reported as RC Sharma vs. UOI [1976(3) SCC 574] for
expediting delivery of judgments.
wish to repeat those words as follows:
an unreasonable delay between hearing of arguments and delivery of judgment,
unless explained by exceptional or extraordinary circumstances, is highly
undesirable even when written arguments are submitted. It is not unlikely that
some points which the litigant considers important may have escaped notice.
But, what is more important is that litigants must have complete confidence in
the results of litigation. This confidence tends to be shaken if there is
excessive delay between hearing of arguments and delivery of judgments."
Quarter of a century has elapsed thereafter but the situation, instead of
improving has only worsened. We understand that many cases remain in area of
"judgment reserved" for long periods. It is heartening that most of
the judges of the High Courts are discharging their duties by expeditiously
pronouncing judgments. But it is disheartening that a handful of few are
unmindful of their obligation and the oath of office they have solemnly taken
as they cause such inordinate delay in pronouncing judgments. It is in the
above background, after bestowing deep thoughts with a sense of commitment,
that we have decided to chalk out some remedial measures to be mentioned in
this judgment as instructions.
J. has enumerated them succinctly as follows:
Chief Justices of the High Courts may issue appropriate directions to the
Registry that in a case where the judgment is reserved and is pronounced later,
a column be added in the judgment where, on the first page, after the
cause-title date of reserving the judgment and date of pronouncing it be
separately mentioned by the court officer concerned.
That Chief Justices of the High Courts, on their administrative side, should
direct the Court Officers/Readers of the various benches in the High Courts to
furnish every month the list of cases in the matters where the judgments
reserved are not pronounced within the period of that month.
On noticing that after conclusion of the arguments the judgment is not
pronounced within a period of two months the concerned Chief Justice shall draw
the attention of the Bench concerned to the pending matter. The Chief Justice
may also see the desirability of circulating the statement of such cases in
which the judgments have not been pronounced within a period of six weeks from
the date of conclusion of the arguments amongst the judges of the High Court
for their information. Such communication be conveyed as confidential and in a
Where a judgment is not pronounced within three months from the date of
reserving judgment any of the parties in the case is permitted to file an
application in the High Court with prayer for early judgment. Such application,
as and when filed, shall be listed before the bench concerned within two days
excluding the intervening holidays.
the judgment, for any reason, is not pronounced within a period of six months
any of the parties of the said lis shall be entitled to move an application
before the Chief justice of the High Court with a prayer to withdraw the said
case and to make it over to any other bench for fresh arguments. It is open to
the Chief Justice to grant the said prayer or to pass any other order as he
deems fit in the circumstances.
chosen to reiterate the above instructions in this separate judgment only for
providing added emphasis to them. I make it clear that if the Chief Justice of
a High Court thinks that more effective measures can be evolved by him for
slashing down the interval between conclusion of arguments and delivery of
judgment in that particular court, it is open to him to do so as substitute for
the measures suggested by us here-in-before. But until such measures are
evolved by the Chief justice of the concerned High Court we expect that the
measures suggested above would hold the field. I may also mention that the
above- enumerated measures are intended to remain only until such time as the
Parliament would enact measures to deal with this problem.
the above words I respectfully concur with all what brother Sethi J. has said
in his judgment.