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Report No. 14

23. Court of Session.-

There are large number of cases pending before the Court of Session. The statement given earlier shows that the existing strength of the Sessions Judges, Additional Sessions Judges and Assistant Sessions Judges is just able to cope with the sessions work. The average duration of 139 days for a sessions case in 1953 was the highest in India in that year. There are quite a few magistrates, who are invested with powers under section 30, Cr. P.C. The increase in the strength of the higher judiciary and the enlargement in the powers of the First Class Magistrates recommended by us should help to get rid of the delays in the Courts of Session.

24. Non-attendance of witnesses.-

Judicial officers engaged in the trial of criminal cases, including Sessions Judges, Additional Sessions Judges and Magistrates, pointed out that police officers did not attend the courts on the dates specified in the summons and that large number of cases, including Sessions cases had for this reason to be adjourned from time to time. One of the Additional District Judges stated that the percentage of cases adjourned on account of non-attendance of witnesses was as high as 75 per cent. in his court. It was said that the police officers did not even acknowledge the service of process so that it was not possible to issue coercive processes against defaulters.

As regards the sessions cases, the practice was that the summons for appearance in the Court of Session was issued by the Committing Magistrate, but the fact of service or non-service is never intimated to the Court of Session. Thus neither the Public Prosecutor nor the court could be sure of the attendance of the witnesses. This invariably resulted in piece-meal hearings which lead to inordinate delays in the disposal of criminal cases. We were given to understand that the matter had been taken up by the High Court with the Government on several occasions, but without any substantial result.

Although emergent work may sometimes be a valid explanation for not attending court on the specified date, there can be no justification whatsoever for continued and repeated defaults in appearance. This would be particularly so in sessions cases where the dates of hearing are fixed well in advance. In order that the court of session may know whether processes have been served or not, we would suggest that processes might be issued by the court of session itself or in the alternative that the committing magistrate who summons the witnesses for attendance in the sessions court should send a report of service or non-service to the court before the trial actually commences.

It was conceded that difficulties also arise by reason of the same police officer being required to attend different courts on the same date. This difficulty, in our opinion, can be met by a systematic distribution of work between the courts. At the moment cognizance of cases is taken by the sub-divisional magistrates who thereafter transfer them to other subordinate magistrates for disposal. Such transfer is often made in a haphazard fashion. If sub-divisional magistrates transferred all cases arising from one police station only to a particular magistrate hg_would be in a position to post cases with the minimum of inconvenience to the police officers concerned.

The police officers themselves will also not be faced with the difficulty of being summoned to appear in the court of more than one magistrate on the same day. It would be even simpler if magistrates other than the sub-divisional magistrates were also empowered to taken cognizance of cases on a police report. If this is done, the jurisdiction of the magistrate might be so fixed as to cover the area covered by one or two police stations. All police reports and charge-sheets coming from the particular police stations would be filed in his court.

Even if these measures be adopted difficulties might still arise if a police officer is required to attend both a magistrate's court and the sessions court on the same day. In such a case the officer should attend the sessions court and intimate his inability to attend the other court to the trying magistrate as soon as he can.

Most of these difficulties can, in our opinion, be settled at the district level itself by the sessions judge, the district magistrate and the superintendent of police getting together and discussing the matter.

25. Honorary Magistrates.-

The system of Honorary Magistrates has prevailed in the State for a long time. They are appointed on the recommendation of the District Magistrate and before the State Government finally appoints them, the High Court is also consulted. A similar procedure is adopted when the term of their appointment is extended.

26. Trial by Jury.-

The system of trial by jury prevails in ten out of seventeen Districts of the State, in respect of certain specified offences under the Indian Penal Code. Originally trial by jury applied to a very large number of offences. Owing however, to criticisms about its unsatisfactory working a committee was appointed to go into the working of the system. The committee made a large number of recommendations and some of them have been accepted and the scope of trial by jury has been curtailed. Nevertheless there does not appear to have been any noticeable improvement in the system of jury trials and our recommendation for abolishing jury trials applied to this State also.

27. Panchayat Courts.-

Panchayat Courts called "Gram Kutcheries" have been constituted under the Bihar Panchayat Raj Act, 1947 (Act VII of 1948). We have earlier set out the powers and jurisdiction of these courts. The following Table indicates their growing popularity and value as instruments of conciliation and adjudication.

Original Cases

Year

Total available for disposal

Institutions

Total disposal

No. of cases compromised

No. of cases pending at the end of the year

1

2

3

4

5

6

Civil

1951-52

..

4387

3345

2037

1036

1952-53

9651

8475

7318

4787

1176

1953-54

9857

8,68 1

6989

4204

1613

1954-55

11620

10007

8630

4404

1773

Criminal

1951-52

17262

31089

11401

3105

1952-53

22972

19867

16239

11974

2887

1953-54

33647

30760

25855

19285

4422

1954-55

39996

35574

30229

20926

5735

Appeals

Year

Institutions

Total disposal

Compromised

1

2

3

4

Civil

Civil

1951-52

363

362

218

1952-53

218

228

73

1953-543

243

267

85

1954-55

506

526

89

Criminal

1951-52

1121

1363

263

1952-53

1542

1612

476

1953-54

1146

1068

266

1954-55

1,2433

1243

358



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