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Report No. 14

16. Suggestions.-

Jurisdiction under special Acts like the Land Acquisition Act, Succession Act etc., which is at present exclusively exercised by the District Judges and Additional District Judges should be conferred on subordinate judges. We were told that on account of the increasing development activities of the State Government, a large number of cases under the Land Acquisition Act had been referred to the courts of District Judges. This class of cases can be advantageously transferred to the subordinate judges. The enhancement of the pecuniary jurisdiction of munsifs to Rs. 5,000 and the increase in their small cause jurisdiction will give considerable relief to subordinate judges.

17. Supervision.-

According to the Rules of the High Court, the District Judge is expected to inspect each subordinate court once in a year or if that is not possible, at least once in eighteen months. The High Court also inspects the District Judges' courts once in two years if the state of work permits it. Recently the practice of making surprise visits to the subordinate courts has also been adopted by some of the District Judges. The rule regarding the periodical inspection of subordinate courts is, however, not observed strictly. We found that in some cases Subordinate Courts had not been inspected for three years. Many of the inspection reports were not satisfactory. The impression left upon us was that the supervision of the subordinate courts needs considerable improvement.

The inspection reports were all in a stereotyped form and might have well been written by an intelligent ministerial officer. They did not show that any attempt had been made by the inspecting officer to go into the reasons for the accumulated pending cases, to examine the records of old cases and to indicate to the subordinate officials the way in which they could have avoided the unnecessary delays.

We also feel that a more effective use can be made of the returns of pending cases sent up by the subordinate courts to the High Court. At present these returns are consolidated by the High Court office which puts up a comprehensive note. The note is repeated with slight variations by the Assistant Registrar incharge of the returns who sets out against the name of each officer the amount of work done by him during the period of review.

The Assistant Registrar also notes whether the work of the officer in question is adequate, satisfactory, below average or commendable. The papers are thereafter put up for the orders of the judge incharge of the English Department. Generally the order passed by the judge as appeared from the few returns which we scrutinised is to write 'approved' or 'yes' or merely to affix his signature to the Registrar's note. No attempt whatsoever appears to be made on the part of anyone in the High Court to examine the explanation given by the officer for the delay in the disposal of cases which require explanation under the rules. We are of the view that far more effective supervision is needed and that a personal interest on the part of the Judge entrusted with the task of supervision is essential.

18. Execution Munsifs.-

Wherever there is concentration of Munsifs' courts, Execution Munsifs are appointed to deal exclusively with execution matters arising out of the decrees passed by other Munsifs. Such Munsifs are generally invested with jurisdiction upto Rs. 4,000 and all the execution matters of other Munsifs are transferred by the District Judge to this court under section 24 of the Civil Procedure Code. We understand that this system is working quite satisfactorily. The principal advantage of the system is, that with the concentration of execution work in one court, other Munsifs are relieved of much of their miscellaneous work, and they are able to devote their time continuously to the regular work in their courts. We recommend the adoption of this system, in places where a large number of Munsifs' courts are concentrated.

19. Registrar system.-

Another peculiar feature about the civil courts in Bihar is the adoption of the Registrar system, following the recommendation of the Civil Justice Committee. Under this system a Munsif, generally a senior officer is appointed at the District Headquarters to assist the District Judge and other Judges in their administrative duties, leaving them free to devote their time to judicial business. Some of the principal functions exercised by the Registrar are the effective daily supervision over the work of the ministerial establishment and process-serving staff of the civil courts, and the performance of the duties of attention to miscellaneous business and the supervision and inspection of offices and subordinate courts.

Though the Registrar has no power to receive plaints and petitions and deal with suits and cases upto the trial stage, as recommended by the Civil Justice Committee, nevertheless the system as it obtains, relieves the District Judges and other Judges of a good deal of their administrative duties, leaving them free to devote more time to judicial work. The system has been permanently introduced in the judgeships of Patna, Monghyr and Muzaffarpur. It has also been extended on a temporary basis to the judgeships of Saran, Shahabad and Bhagalpur. We understand that the State Government has decided to extend the system to other judgeships also as soon as financial conditions permit and the High Court has already indicated the order of priority of judgeships, to which the scheme is to be extended.

20. Provision of stenographers.-

We were informed that a large number of Munsifs have been provided with stenographers. We trust that all officers will be provided with such assistance.

21. Separation of Judiciary and Executive.-

The progress of the separation of the judiciary from the executive in this state has been slow. The State has introduced what is called a "partial" scheme of separation of the judiciary from the executive on an experimental basis in the districts of Patna and Shahabad in 1950, in Gaya, Saran and Monghyr in 1951, and in Muzaffarpur in 1952. Recently the scheme has been extended to six more districts namely, Champaran, Darbhanga, Bhagalpur, Saharsa, Purnea and Hazaribagh. It is now in force in twelve districts in the State.

The principal feature of the scheme is that the criminal work is done by munsif magistrates i.e. munsifs invested with magisterial powers or by judicial magistrates belonging to the executive service who are lent to the High Court for doing criminal judicial work. While working as judicial magistrates they are under the control of the High Court through the District and Sessions Judges. Their work is supervised and inspected by the District and Sessions Judges who also maintain their confidential records. Their postings are in charge of the Government who act in these matters in consultation with the High Court. In investing them with judicial powers the District and Sessions Judges are consulted.

Judicial Magistrates have no power to take cognizance of cases; they try only those cases which are transferred to them by the sub-divisional magistrates, who receive all the complaints and police charge-sheets. The Sub-Divisional Magistrates are competent to scrutinise complaints and petitions with a view to dismiss summarily such of them as are frivolous. To avoid any practical difficulty that may arise in regulating the transfer of cases, the Sub-Divisional Magistrates are required to transfer cases, according to the schedule drawn up by the Sessions Judge in this respect.

Certain types of minor offences in which the accused generally plead guilty, such as offences under the Indian Railways Act, the Motor Vehicles Act, Police Act, and cases under the District Board and . Municipal Acts, the Bengal Vaccination Act, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and the Bengal Irrigation Act, 1876, are tried by the executive magistrates. Cases under Chapters VII, X, XI, XII, XXXVI of Criminal Procedure Code are also heard by executive magistrates. In cases of emergency, the District Magistrate is empowered to assign executive duties to the judicial magistrates with the prior approval of the District and Sessions Judge concerned. Some Subordinate Judges are also vested with powers of special Magistrates to deal with particular types of criminal cases.

This scheme of separation, though it is real so far as it goes, unlike the so called separation that obtains in Uttar Pradesh and the Punjab, is not complete. Owing to a dearth of personnel, the magistracy even in the separation districts consists of executive officers. Although these officers are for the time being placed under the control of the district judge and the High Court, yet the fact of their belonging to the executive service and the certainty that they will have ultimately to revert to their parent department is apt to deter them from displaying that zeal and independence in their work which is expected of a purely judicial officer.

This system of separation is also partial in the sense that the judicial magistrates and the munsif magistrates are not authorised to take cognizance of cases but instead try cases transferred to them by the sub-divisional magistrates who are executive officers. Further a large number of petty cases are tried by the executive officers. If separation is to be effective and complete, it is essential that all trial work should be entirely in the hands of judicial magistrates who should be empowered to take cognizance of cases on complaint or on a police report.

It is also necessary that officers of the executive service now working as judicial magistrates should be replaced as quickly as conditions permit by munsif magistrates or if found suitable, be absorbed into the judicial service.

We may also here notice a few of the difficulties experienced in the working of the scheme of separation in this State. It was stated that the less efficient officers of the executive service who had not come up to the required level were transferred as judicial magistrates and that the best men continued to be retained in the executive service. This appears to us to be only a passing phase which will disappear when ultimately munsif magistrates take over of the duties at present discharged by judicial magistrates.

The experience of this State confirms the existence of certain difficulties which we anticipated in our chapter on the separation of the judiciary. It has been found that the district and sessions judges under whom the magistrates are placed under the new regime do not find sufficient time to supervise their work. Such supervision, as we have already noticed, is essential. This difficulty can be met by appointing judicial district magistrates entrusted with supervision work.

It was stated that the munsif magistrates and the judicial magistrates tended to be rather theoretical in their approach to cases and did not show sufficient awareness of the difficulties experienced by the police in investigating crime and maintaining law and order. Magistrates in the separation districts of this State do not appear to have been given training in police work as suggested by us elsewhere. The representatives of the Government and of the police who gave evidence conceded that if the necessary training were given to these magistrates for a month, such difficulties were not likely to arise. We would recommend that training in the police department for a short period be prescribed for all munsif magistrates.

In the non-separation districts, the magistracy consists of Deputy Magistrates and Deputy Collectors who are members of the Bihar Civil Service and Sub-Deputy Collectors who are members of Junior Executive Service. A large majority of them are not law graduates. The bulk of criminal work is done by them, though some munsifs are also invested with magisterial powers.

22. Magisterial Courts.-

The total number of magistrates engaged in the trial of cases in April 1956, were 403, out of whom 77 functioned in the six separation districts and 326 in non-separation districts. The position has however somewhat altered on account of the extension of the separation scheme to six other districts recently. In the non-separation districts, the magistrates also perform executive functions in addition to the judicial work. The following statement shows the work done by the magisterial courts during the years 1951 to 1954.

Year

Pending at the beginning of the year

Instituted during the year

Disposal during the year

Pending at the end of the year

Average duration in days of criminal cases

Case under I.P.C.

Cases under Special and local laws

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

1951

17812

98324

93572

22553

39.4

61.2

24.8

1952

23840

103533

103115

24224

43.4

63.1

28.6

1953

24224

105006

104329

24899

51.6

82.3

28.9

1954

24899

101858

100953

25792

55.8

82.4

35.1

This statement shows that there has been a progressive rise in the number of pending criminal cases. The average duration has also shown an increase. In April 1956, on an analysis of the pending work in the magisterial courts it was estimated that, while the strength of judicial magistrates was sufficient to cope with current institutions in separation districts, it was necessary to appoint at least 94 more magistrates in the non-separation districts to deal with current institutions. It was also pointed out that it was necessary to appoint 24 more magistrates in separation districts and at least 50 magistrates in non-separation districts for one year to clear off the arrears of criminal cases. We trust that the appropriate authorities will take steps to recruit the necessary personnel as early as possible.



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