Report No. 14
21. Periodical inspections.-
We accordingly recommend that all the subordinate courts should be invariably inspected by the district Judge at least once a year and the district courts and at least one subordinate court in each district be inspected by a High Court judge at least once in two years.
22. Guidance to be given in inspection reports.-
It is essential that the supervision of the courts should be very thorough and should cover all the aspects of the court's functions. The inspection reports therefore should show a correct picture of the state of each court, point out the defects in its working and give instructions to the subordinate officers for their guidance. We had occasion to pursue some of the inspection reports and reviews that were made available to us in some States. The impression left upon our minds was, that a large number of them were perfunctory and might well have been written by an intelligent ministerial officer.
They failed to indicate to the subordinate officials the way in which they could have avoided unnecessary delays in the disposal of cases and often referred to the conditions in the office but gave no information about the judicial side of the work or the way in which the judicial officers had handled it. It is essential, that the inspection reports should not only be informative but should also be instructive.
23. Role of the District Judge.-
We think, that the High Court should make it clear to the district judges, that the primary responsibility for supervision lies on them. We were surprised to find that in the State of Kerala the district judges exercised practically no supervisory powers over the subordinate courts. The review of the work of the subordinate judicial officers is done by the High Court and the district judge merely compiles and forwards like a post office the figures collected by him. He inspects the subordinate Courts only as a nominee of the High Court. We were told that all postings and transfers of even the ministerial and the last grade staff were attended to by the High Court.
We think, that in relation to the subordinate courts, the district judge, being the man on the spot, is in a much better position than the High Court, to be able to exercise relatively more effective control and supervision over the courts within his jurisdiction. It should be pointed out to the district judges that they should not expect the High Court to do the work of supervision which ought to be their main responsibility. If it becomes necessary for the High Court to point out delays on the part of subordinate courts, which the district judge has failed to notice, the district judge would certainly have been remiss in the discharge of his duty of supervision and control.
24. Need for personal contract.-
Another important feature which needs emphasis is the need of personal contacts between district judges and the presiding officers of subordinate courts. It is a wholesome practice for district judges to call the presiding officers and discuss with them their problems and give them suitable guidance. Such a practice will greatly assist the district judge in understanding the problems of the subordinate courts and in devising suitable measures for solving them. If he finds that a particular judge is overburdened, he could withdraw some cases from his file, transfer them to others and re-arrange the distribution of work. He would in this manner not only be in a position to instruct the presiding officer, but also have control over the pending litigation in all the courts within his jurisdiction.
25. Judicial conference.-
We may also refer to a practice that prevails in Bombay. The High Court has framed a rule to the effect that once a year the district judge should call a judicial conference of the judges subordinate to him for discussion of doubtful matters and for consultation as to the conditions of each court. The senior pleaders practising in the district are also invited to the conference. The civil judges are thus encouraged to freely consult the district judges who on their own part again freely consult the High Court on matters of importance affecting the judicial administration.
The district judges are instructed to endeavour to cultivate a personal acquittance with the civil judges and keep themselves closely informed of their needs and of the progress of the work in their respective courts. A district judge can thus make such a conference a convenient opportunity for discussing the affairs of each court with the civil judge concerned, for examining the state of his files and for ascertaining the progress of his work, his need for assistance and other allied matters.
We think that this practice of a periodical "get-together" is a very healthy practice and should be adopted in all the States in the country.
26. Circulation of statement of work.-
We should also suggest that the district judge should circulate monthly to the judicial officers in the district a statement showing the individual out-turn of work of all officers so that good work done by some officers may serve as a stimulus to others to emulate them.
27. Supervision of criminal courts.-
Strict supervision by superior courts is all the more necessary in the case of the magistracy. Under the Criminal Procedure Code, magistrates are invested with such large discretionary powers, that in the absence of a constant and strict supervision by the superior officers, it is likely that their powers may be abused. As the decisions of the magisterial courts affect the liberty of the individual, the need for such supervision cannot be over-emphasized.
28. In non-separation States.-
In States, where the judiciary has not been separated from the executive, all the magistrates are subordinate to the district magistrate who exercises administrative control over them under the instructions of the State Government. He is also expected to inspect and supervise the courts of magistrates. We understand that in some of these States, the sessions judge also occasionally inspects the courts of magistrates, but the scope of their inspection is limited. Any deficiency or irregularity noticed by them is conveyed to the district magistrate, for taking suitable action.
29. In separation States.-
In Bombay, where the judiciary has been separated from the executive, the entire administrative and supervisory control over the judicial magistrates has been vested in the district and sessions judge. In Madras, on the other hand, the administrative control and the task of supervision of the magistracy is vested in the district magistrate (judicial) who is under the control of the High Court. The Code has been amended to enable him to hear criminal appeals from second and third class magistrates.
He is himself a first class magistrate. Thus in his capacity as district magistrate (judicial) he performs three principal functions: as a court of trial, he tried cases which are normally triable by a first class magistrate; as an appellate court he hears appeals from the decisions of the second and third class magistrates, and administratively, he supervises the work of all the judicial magistrates functioning in his district.
In Andhra Pradesh, in the initial stages the posts of district magistrates (judicial) were created on the pattern prevailing in Madras; but after the passing of the Central Act, XXVI of 1955, amending the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Government of Andhra Pradesh abolished the posts of district magistrates (judicial) and appointed in their place additional district and sessions judges to afford relief to the district and sessions judges. This was done, among other things, to facilitate the disposal of appeals from the decisions of the second and third class magistrates which had to be heard by the court of session and also to help in the exercise of supervisory functions over the subordinate magistracy.
30. Assistance to district judges in their supervisory work.-
It has been said that the district and sessions judge is, on account of his very heavy judicial work, unable to find the time necessary for supervising the subordinate magistracy, particularly as he has to supervise the work of the civil judiciary as well. In fact, we had evidence before us in Bihar that the pressure of judicial work had prevented the district and sessions judges from adequately discharging their supervisory duties. It has been estimated that in the States where the supervisory functions are adequately performed by the district magistrate (judicial) such duties take about a third of his time.
It is obviously more economical that these duties for which considerable time is needed should be performed by a lower paid officer like a district magistrate (judicial) rather than by a highly paid district and sessions judge. Further, we also apprehend that an additional district and sessions judge appointed for this purpose, will very likely be utilised for sessions and civil appellate work which is largely in arrears so that the work of supervising subordinate criminal magistracy will suffer. We have referred to this aspect of the matter in the chapter on Criminal Appeals.
31. Judicial district magistrate necessary.-
In our view, it is therefore necessary in order to ensure adequate supervision over the criminal magistracy to retain district magistrates (judicial) in all States, as has been done in Madras and Kerala. In addition to inspection and supervision of the subordinate Courts, the district magistrates (judicial) could also be a first class magistrate and try the more important and difficult criminal cases himself. Administrative supervision of the working of the subordinate criminal courts would be principally in his hands; while in the judicial set up, the sessions judge would continue to be the highest judicial authority in the District.
The advantage of this system is demonstrated by the fact, that in the Madras State where the supervisory duties are adequately performed, there are very few criminal cases more than two months old in the magisterial courts. It may be thought, however, that it would add to the cost of administration if a district magistrate were to be appointed for this purpose. experience has however shown that such additional cost is more than compensated for by the resulting efficiency. The utility of a system of supervision in reducing delays needs to be appreciated.
32. The Madras example.-
A striking example of its success is afforded by what happened in the State of Madras where the system has been in force for a long time. In June, 1953 the number of criminal cases pending for more than two months in the Trichy district was 496. Among these were cases instituted in 1951 and 1952 and two committal cases of the year 1951.
On the 31st March, 1956 after separation and the rigid enforcement of supervision, the number of two months old criminal cases pending in that district were only thirteen and on the 20th April, the district magistrate was able to report to the High Court that out of these thirteen cases, eleven had been disposed of leaving only two, which had not been disposed of because at stay orders issued by the High Court. This remarkable improvement was attributed by the judges of the High Court and the officers concerned solely to strict and effective supervision at the district level and by the High Court. The method of supervision is set out below.
33. Madras system of supervision of criminal courts (Time Limits).-
The High Court had laid down standards of the maximum time which an average criminal case should take. The instructions issued by the High Court lay down that no case triable by a magistrate should be pending for over two months. Similarly, committal proceedings have to be disposed of within six weeks and sessions cases within three months. In all these cases, the time is reckoned from the date of the apprehension of the accused.
34. Judicial diary.-
Various returns have been prescribed to ensure that this schedule of time is adhered to. Every magistrate has to maintain a court diary showing the actual time spent by him every day in court work and full details of the actual judicial work during the day. Recently the High Court has directed that the number of witnesses examined by a magistrate in a day should also find a place in it.
35. Calendar statements.-
Rule 292(g) of the Madras Criminal Rules of Practice directs that superior courts should be particularly vigilant over unnecessary delays in the trial of cases in subordinate courts. In order to help the superior courts to exercise such vigilance, rule 307 provides for the submission of what are commonly known as "calendar" statements.
Except in the case of extremely petty offences, every second and third class magistrate has to submit to the district magistrate through the sub-divisional magistrate, a statement containing certain particulars relating to every case tried by him. The statement has to set out the dates of (1) the offence, (2) the report, or complaint, (3) the arrest, (4) the release on bail, (5) the commencement of trial, (6) the close of the trial and (7) the sentence.
The calendar statement and the judgment has to be sent within two days of the date of the judgment together with an explanation for the delay in the disposal of the case if more than two months have elapsed between the date of the apprehension of the accused and the final disposal of the case. Similarly, the calendar statements of first class magistrates are submitted to the sessions judge by the district magistrate together with a copy of the judgment in every case. An examination of the statement immediately shows whether there has been any avoidable delay and if so whether the delay occurred at the investigation or the trial stage. Since the Calendar statements are submitted separately for each case and court-they enable the progress of cases to be watched more closely than consolidated monthly returns.
36. Monthly statements to the district.-
Similarly all magistrates in a district have to submit to the district magistrate by the eighth day of the month a statement of all the criminal work done by them during the previous month giving in a consolidated form all their calendar statements (as explained above) together with an explanation of the delays which have occurred. In these returns they have also to show separately cases which have been disposed of by transfer to other Courts or by a transfer to the register of long pending cases, i.e., cases in which proceedings have been taken under section 512, Cr. P.C.
37. Methods of scrutiny.-
The High Court has recently directed that these returns should be systematically reviewed and scrutinised both by the sub-divisional magistrate- and by the district magistrate. The district magistrate is particularly instructed to see that the calendar statements of cases which are shown as pending in one monthly statement, and as disposed of in the next, have been received in his court.
38. Quarterly returns to the High Court.-
Quarterly returns have to be submitted to the High Court by all district magistrates in Form 38 (Administrative Forms) prescribed by the High Court, which is in effect a consolidated summary of all the calendar statements. Among other things these returns show the average duration of cases, the pendency in days of the oldest case on file, the explanations for delay furnished by the magistrates together with the district magistrate's own review or remarks on the working of the courts in his district.
39. Scrutiny at district level.-
These statements were no doubt being submitted by all magistrates for a long number of years, but nevertheless, during the war and the post-war years the pendency of criminal cases increased considerably. It is not so much, therefore, the insistence on returns but their careful scrutiny and examination accompanied by disciplinary action in cases of slackness, which have brought about the satisfactofy state of the criminal courts now obtaining in Madras.
For some years during and immediately after the war the supervision was completely ineffective. It was almost abandoned in many districts but in the one district in which it was maintained, the state of work in the criminal courts was fairly satisfactory.1 Repeated and stringent instructions had to be issued by the High Court with regard to the separation districts and by the Board of Revenue in non-separation districts to the district magistrates concerned insisting upon close and effective supervision. As a result, supervision is now fairly effective.
1. Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Working of the Scheme of the Separation of the Judiciary from the Executive, p. 127, para. 438.
40. Perusal of judgments-its value.-
The judgments which every second class magistrate submits to the district magistrate along with his calendar statement are perused by that officer and if the subordinate magistrate has adopted an erroneous or incorrect procedure, the district magistrate corrects and guides the inferior magistrates. Whenever necessary he draws the attention of the High Court to a judgment which appears unsatisfactory to him so that the revisional powers of the High Court may be used to correct it.
Further, where cases have been delayed owing to the fault of the magistrates, the scrutiny of the calendar statements draws attention to them and the magistrates are reprimanded by the sub-divisional magistrate or by the district magistrate as the case may be, if on the other hand delays have occurred owing to the fault of the prosecution, (for instance their failure to produce witnesses) the district magistrate takes up the matter and writes a demi-official letter to the district superintendent of police drawing his attention to it.
The judgments of first class magistrates are subjected to similar scrutiny not only by the district magistrate but also by the sessions judge and appropriate instructions and advice given. The system of submitting judgments for the perusal of superior courts has at least one virtue. It ensures that cases will not be disposed of without a judgment being written. It is capable however of serving many more useful purposes. A perusal of the judgments enables the superior magistrate to judge the quality of the work of the subordinate magistracy, and point out its defects. It also helps to make the revisional jurisdiction effective by making it easy for the district magistrate or sessions judge to make references suo motu.