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Report No. 14

21. Link system of courts.-

On account of inadequacy of judicial personnel, the High Court of Madhya Pradesh was obliged to establish the link-system of Courts, a sort of circuit system in the lower courts. This system has been in vogue for several years. What is done is, that whenever the file of a court is heavy, that court is linked with another court, with a comparatively lighter file and the judge of the latter court camps at the seat of the former and disposes of suits pending in that court. The principal object of this system is to afford timely relief to a court with a heavy file. In this way courts are frequently grouped and re-grouped with a view to expediting the disposal of cases. This system is not however satisfactory as considerable judicial time is wasted in travelling and day to day hearing often becomes difficult.

22. Evidence Block.-

A special feature about the system of trial of civil suits in this State is, the nature of the arrangements made to ensure that the hearing of a civil suit generally takes place from day to day. A certain number of days in a month, say 10 or 15, are earmarked for dealing exclusively with cases that are ready for final hearing. This period is called the "Evidence Block". During these days no other work is taken up and the entire period is devoted to the recording of evidence in the cases. When a suit is ready for final hearing, it is set down in the "Evidence Block" according to its turn.

Once it is taken up it is heard continuously until the evidence of all the witnesses, who are present, is recorded. Rules framed by the High Court insist that once a witness is called and he appears, he must be examined and discharged. In the case of witnesses who are not present, ordinarily no adjournment of the case is allowed. But if a party insists upon an adjournment for this purpose he is required to satisfy the court that the witness is not present for a valid reason; he must also furnish the court with a memorandum of what the witness will state. The witness is, when called, strictly confined to the memorandum and is not allowed to travel beyond, though he may be cross-examined in regard to matters outside it.

The trial is adjourned only after all the witnesses who are present have been examined and discharged. The principal advantage of this system is, that there are no piecemeal hearings, adjournments are infrequent and witnesses are seldom sent away on the ground that the court is busy doing something else. The litigant is not harassed by having to appear every fortnight or every month as in some other States. We have earlier quoted a former Chief Justice of this State on the working and merits of this system. This State has long had an enviable record for the expeditious trial of suits in subordinate courts. This earned the commendation of the Rankin Committee.

We trust that this tradition of expeditiousness will extend from the Mahakoshal area to the whole of Madhya Pradesh as reconstituted.

Another special feature is that subordinate appellate courts are enjoined to make full use of the provisions of Order XLI, rule 11 and dispose of appeals even at the stage of admission. Delay in delivering judgments is controlled by a salutary rule that the arguments have to be heard and judgments delivered within fourteen days of the close of evidence and explanations for delay are not accepted easily.

23. Separation of judiciary and executive (Madhya Bharat, Bhopal, Mahakoshal and Vindhya Pradesh).-

There is a complete separation of the judiciary from the executive in the Madhya Bharat, Vindhya Pradesh, and Bhopal regions of the new State of Madhya Pradesh. In the Madhya Bharat region, the magistracy is divided into two classes, namely, the judicial magistrates and the executive magistrates; the latter deal with cases arising under the Criminal Procedure Code. Judicial Magistrates function under the administrative control of the High Court. In the regions of Bhopal and Vindhya Pradesh, the civil and magisterial work is done by the same judicial officer called the "Munsif­Magistrate".

These officers are also under the administrative control of the High Court. In the Mahakoshal region, however, there is no separation of the judiciary from the executive. We were told that a proposal for separation came up for consideration before the Government in 1950, but it was decided not to introduce complete separation at that time. It was later decided to divide the scheme into several stages and only the first stage of the scheme has been implemented in that in some districts judicial officers doing criminal work have been separated from the executive officers.

They continue to be controlled by the District Magistrates. We were, however, told that the Government was contemplating the introduction of a scheme for complete separation on the same pattern as in Madhya Bharat. It was stated that the powers of District Magistrate were to be conferred on the Additional District Judge who would function as an Additional District Magistrate within the framework of the Criminal Procedure Code.

24. Large Number of acquittals.-

There was general comment in this State on the large number of acquittals in criminal cases. We find from the administration report for the year 1952 that the percentage of acquittals in cases in the Court of session was 56.3 and in appeals to the High Court 17.5. It was stated that the high percentage of acquittals in such cases was mainly, due to faulty investigation by the Police.

25. Delays in criminal cases.-

In marked contrast to the civil courts the working of the magistrates' courts is characterised by delays, an accumulation of old cases, frequent adjournments and piecemeal hearing. At the end of 1956, about 20,000 cases under I.P.C. were pending in the magisterial courts, of which, about 3000 were more than one year old. The average duration of a criminal case (including cases under minor enactments) in Magistrates court was 48.2 days.' We have not been able to appreciate the real causes of such a state of affairs. If private parties are able to produce their witnesses on the specified date in a civil case and the civil judges are able to examine the witnesses present, and hear the case from day to day, there is no reason why the State as prosecutor should not show the same diligence as ordinary litigants, and magistrates work as methodically as civil judges.

Recently rules have been framed empowering the District and Sessions Judges to inspect the Courts of Magistrates, but this by itself is not sufficient. The utility of an inspection by an officer who has no administrative control over the offices whose work is inspected is limited.

A possible reason for these delays may be the combination of judicial and executive duties in the same officer. The irregular calls of executive work which takes precedence over court work is in a great measure responsible for piecemeal hearings. But this cannot be the only reason for delays which must in a large measure be attributable to the indifference of the executive magistrates to their court work and the neglect of the duties of supervision of the magisterial courts by the district magistrates and other superior executive authorities.

The speedy separation of the judiciary from the executive, the assigning of a certain number of magistrates exclusively for the trial of cases till separation is effected and a more intensive supervision of magisterial work are the remedial measures.

26. Honorary Magistrates.-

The institution of Honorary Magistrates has been abolished in the State since the year 1947.

We also learn from the Administration reports that the trial of sessions cases is sometimes delayed due to the non-receipt of the report of the chemical examiner who is said to be stationed in Agra. If the delays persist it would be necessary for the State to have its own chemical examiner with the necessary staff. A useful system in vogue in the old Madhya Pradesh which may usefully be adopted elsewhere is that of requiring civil judges to undergo training in magisterial work before being invested with sessions powers. Before a civil judge is promoted and begins to work as an Additional Sessions Judge, he is invested with the powers of a magistrate and is required to try a certain number of cases. His magisterial judgments are scrutinised by the Sessions Judge and appropriate instructions given to him. Sessions powers are conferred on him only if his work as a magistrate shows him to be suitable for his proposed new duties.

27. Panchayat Courts (Mahakoshal, Madhya Bharat and Vindhya Pradesh).­Nyaya Panchayats were constituted in the Mahakoshal area under the Central Provinces and Berar Panchayats Act, 1946 (1 of 1947). Panchayat courts existed in Madhya Bharat and Vindhya Pradesh also prior to reorganization. In Mahakoshal, the members of the Nyaya Panchayat (which consists of 3 to 5 members), are nominated by the Collector from the members of the Gram Panchayat who are elected on the basis of adult franchise.

There is one Nyaya Panchayat for about 30 to 40 villages or for a population of 10,000. In the Madhya Bharat region, the members of the Nyaya Panchayat-their number varies from 5 to 11-are elected by the panches of the Gram Panchayats from amongst themselves. In Vindhya Pradesh, a Nyaya Panchayat has within its circle about 3 to 5 Gram Sabhas, each Sabha electing 5 panches to form a panel of 20 or 25 people for the trial of petty civil and criminal cases.

In all these regions, the Panchayat Courts have practically the same powers. They are competent to try suits of a simple nature up to Rs. 100. In suitable cases their jurisdiction may be enhanced to Rs. 500 by the State Government. Their criminal jurisdiction extends to the trial of petty offences under the Indian Penal Code and other minor enactments. They cannot award a substantive sentence of imprisonment, but can impose a fine up to Rs. 100. There is no provision for an appeal against the decisions of the Panchayat Courts, but a revision lies to the District Judge. The following statement shows the criminal and civil work done by the Panchayat Courts in the old State of Madhya Pradesh during the years 1954-1956.

Statement Showing The work Done by Panchayat Courts During The Years, 1954-1956

Year

Pending at the beginning of the year

Disposal

Balance

1

2

3

4

Civil

1954

33087

43264

34034

1955

34034

40726

28196

1956

28196

38341

16907

Criminal

1954

19099

27484

20022

1955

20022

28242

18456

1956

18456

27741

11677

It will be seen that quite a large number of civil and criminal cases are disposed of by Panchayat Courts. From the figures given to us by Divisional Welfare Officer, we gathered that in about 31 per cent. cases the orders of the Nyaya Panchayats were quashed by District Judges. This is very unsatisfactory and points to the need for giving a relatively small jurisdiction to these courts in the first instance and subjecting the members thereof to a proper system of training.



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