Report No. 14
41. Supervision at the High Court level.-
So far as the returns showing the work done by the magistracy are concerned, the former practice was that the detailed scrutiny was made only at the district level. The High Court was merely supposed to see that the district magistrate had performed his duties of supervision. In the High Court, the returns for a district used to be reviewed only by the judge in administrative charge of the district concerned. Frequently, however, the judge in administrative charge had little experience of the working of subordinate courts and no inclination for administrative work. In the result, the work in the district suffered considerably.
Recently this has been set right. The scrutiny of all criminal returns has been entrusted to one judge with considerable district and administrative experience. The returns go in the first instance to the judge in administrative charge of the district; but whether or not he has scrutinised them, they are nevertheless submitted to the judge in charge of criminal returns (not necessarily the administrative or portfolio judge in charge of appointments) who systematically examines every explanation for delay submitted by the magistrate.
If the judge finds that cases have been unnecessarily delayed and that the district magistrate has not noticed the delay, the district magistrate's explanation is called for. In other words, systematic supervision at the High Court level by a judge familiar with administrative work, ensures that district magistrates do not neglect their duty of seeing that all the criminal courts in their districts are working satisfactorily.
42. Additional staff.-
If a particular court accumulates arrears owing to heavy filing the district magistrate and the High Court promptly move for the appointment of additional magistrates and such requests are generally accepted by Government.
Inspections are also a regular feature of criminal judicial administration. The district and sub-divisional magistrates regularly inspect all courts in their jurisdiction once a year. If the conditions in a particular court are unsatisfactory more frequent inspections are made till the conditions improve. The court of the district magistrate is also annually inspected by the sessions judge, who is also authorised to inspect the court of any judicial magistrate in the district if he thinks fit.
43A. Witness-Avoidance of harassmen.-A common complaint by members of the public is, that witnesses 'are asked to attend court on a number of occasions and are then sent away without being examined. Considerable harassment is thus caused to the witnesses and unnecessary work thrown upon the police who have to serve the summonses. To prevent this happening, the High Court has provided by rules that no witness should be detained for more than three days. Once a witness has attended court in obedience to a summons his evidence must be recorded and he must be discharged within three days.
The period of three days includes Sundays also. A return has to be submitted every quarter to the High Court showing the number of witnesses who have been detained for more than three days, together with explanations for such detention. The three days referred to in the rule do not mean three consecutive days. If a witness has been asked to attend Court on more than three occasions the operation of this rule is attracted. The returns are scrutinised and serious notice is taken of any avoidable hardship inflicted on witnesses.
44. Non-appearance of witness and service of summons.-
The long pendency of criminal cases is frequently due to the non-appearance of witnesses. The police blame the magistracy and the magistracy blame the police for the failure of the witnesses to appear. To ensure that summonses are sent to police sufficiently in advance to enable them to serve the witnesses and also to impress upon the police the necessity of serving all processes promptly, a register is maintained in every magistrate's court showing among other things the date on which processes are issued to a particular police station and the date on which they are received back.
The circle inspector concerned has been authorised to check this register periodically with a similar register maintained by the police. If there is delay in the issue or process on the part of the magistrate's office then the inspector points it out to the presiding officer. Where the police itself is at fault the inspector takes necessary action.
Delays sometimes occur in the service of processes by reason of the time taken in the transmission of summonses and warrants from the court to the police station. To avoid such delays, instructions have been issued that whenever a police constable is present in a court, he should be asked to stay on till the end of the day when all processes which are intended for service from his station should be handed over to him. This practice results in the saving of two or three days which are usually taken in transmitting processes by post to the police station.
45. Manual of instructions.-
Recently a manual of instructions for the guidance of the magistrates has been prepared by a senior sessions judge and after scrutiny by the High Court, it has been issued to all the magistrates. This manual is extremely helpful and the instructions contained in it, if followed, should go far to avoid delays and make for the quicker disposal of criminal cases.
46. General instructions (Adjournments).-
The High Court has prescribed, that every application for adjournment of a case in a day's list, should be made as soon as the court sits on that day to enable the magistrate to settle his work. Once the work is settled, the magistrate tells the parties and counsel in each case at what point of time on that day each case will be taken up. It has also been provided that adjournment should as a rule be avoided and that generally a party should be given only one adjournment for the purpose of engaging counsel.
Precise instructions have also been issued that a case should on no account be adjourned on the ground that all the witnesses who have been summoned are not present. On the other hand the presiding officers have been directed to examine all witnesses who are present on a particular day. Exceptions may sometimes have to be made, but it has been provided, that as far as possible, all witnesses present should be examined even if such an examination breaks the continuity of the case put forward by either party.
47. Absence of prosecutor (Hearing of arguments).-
The High Court has also provided in the instructions issued that requests for adjournments by a departmental officer in charge of prosecutions should be discouraged. It has also pointed out that in simple cases where the prosecution witnesses are present, it is not necessary to adjourn the case to enable a representative of the prosecution to attend. The magistrates could examine such witnesses themselves, with the aid of the memorandum attached to the charge sheet, which states the facts which each witness is expected to prove in a particular case. It has also been emphasised, that adjournments for the purpose of hearing arguments or for consideration should normally not be granted and that arguments should be heard immediately at the close of a case or in any event at the close of the succeeding day.
48. Posting of cases.-
Instructions have also been issued to the magistrates that all the cases prosecuted by particular departments other than the police like the Sales Tax, Forest or Prohibition Departments should as far as possible be posted on the same day after ascertaining the convenience of the departmental officer-in-charge of these cases. An arrangement of this kind tends to the convenience of all concerned.
49. Absence of the accused.-
A number of cases often remain pending for a time owing to the non-appearance of the accused. The magistrates have been instructed to issue in such case warrants for the arrest of the accused, in the event of their non-appearance to issue proclamations under sections 86 and 88 of the Criminal Procedure Code, to record the evidence under section 512 Criminal Procedure Code after obtaining the concurrence of the district magistrate and to transfer them to the register of long pending cases. Petty cases are, however, withdrawn by the administrative departments when the magistrate draws their attention to the long pendency and to the fact that there is no chance of apprehending the accused within a reasonable period of time.
50. Delivery of judgment.-
Delays in the delivery of a judgment in criminal cases have been prevented by a strict insistence upon the rule, that once a trial has been concluded the cases should be posted to a specific date for judgment and the accused if on bail should be bound over for appearance on that date. This avoids delays arising out of the necessity of ensuring the presence of the accused to hear the judgment pronounced. The High Court has also provided by its rules that in all criminal cases, judgments must be delivered within three days of the conclusion of arguments and that an explanation must be submitted along with the calendar statement in every case where more than three days have been taken for the delivery of the judgment.
We may in contrast consider some other States like Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan where a period of fifteen days is permitted for this purpose. Normally three days should be sufficient for the delivery of judgment even in a sessions case. In any case, under no circumstances need the time permitted exceed a week. We therefore recommend the immediate amendment of the rules in this regard and its strict enforcement.
51. Supervision of appellate work.-
For ensuring adequate supervision over the appellate work of magistrates and sessions judges a form has been prescribed known as Form No. 40-Administrative Forms. The Form shows the number of appeals and revisions presented to subordinate courts, the time taken for their disposal and the manner of their disposal. The average duration of these cases is also entered in it. These returns have to be submitted quarterly to the High Court. The rules provide that ordinarily judgments in criminal appeals should be delivered on the working day following the day on which hearing is concluded.
A rule providing that copies of all appellate judgments delivered by sessions judges and magistrates should be forwarded to the High Court within 5 days of the dates of such delivery ensures an appraisal of the quality of these judgments. This provision has also the additional advantage of preventing the lower appellate courts disposing of appeals without delivering written judgments.
We have examined the measures adopted in the State of Madras for the quick disposal of criminal appeals in the Chapter on Criminal Appeals.
52. Supervision of session judges.-
The work done by the sessions judges is scrutinised by the High Court, in the same way as that of magistrates, namely, by a scrutiny of calendar statements and a perusal of judgments. Every sessions judge has to send to the High Court a printed copy of his judgment in every criminal case within eight days of the delivery of judgment.
The judgment is perused by the judge in administrative charge of the district concerned, who is thereby enabled to assess the quality of the work of the sessions judge and to issue instructions to him if thought necessary. In suitable cases the Court exercises its powers of revision suo motu. The maximum period ordinarily permissible for the disposal of a sessions case is three months from the date of the apprehension of the accused.
53. We recommend that similar rules be framed in all other States. But we may emphasize that unless the proper observance of these rules is insisted upon-and that can be ensured only by continuous supervision-the mere framing of the rules will serve no useful purpose. On the High Court, as the highest court in the State, lies solely the responsibility for efficient judicial administration in the State. All machinery needs constant supervision and periodical inspection to ensure its smooth operation. The machinery for the administration of criminal law is complex and requires very close co-operation between the magistracy, the prosecuting agency and the public. Even a small detail which prevents such cooperation, may well throw the machinery out of gear.
What is necessary therefore, is not the mere framing of the rules but their observance. This can be enforced only by the method of a close and continuous scrutiny by the district officials as well as the High Court Judges. The Madras system outlined above has the merit of focusing the attention on all aspects which mainly cause delay. It may at first sight appear unreasonable to suggest that the valuable time of a High Court Judge should be devoted to work of this character. But, in our view, the end i.e. the speedy disposal of cases in all the criminal courts all over the State, is worth achieving even at that cost.
54. Summary of conclusions.-
Our conclusions regarding the superintendence and control of subordinate courts may be summarised as follows:-
(1) Many of the delays now prevalent in our system of judicial administration are capable of being remedies by adequate and effective supervision.
(2) The laying down of quantitative tests as to the amount of work to be done by a judicial officer tends to result in older and difficult cases being neglected and lighter suits being disposed of.
(3) All civil suits over a year old should be regarded as old suits and subordinate courts should be asked periodically to explain the delay in their disposal.
(4) All subordinate courts should be asked to submit returns showing the pendency of cases according to the year of institution together with their explanations for delay.
(5) For the disposal of other civil proceedings in subordinate civil courts, the standards set out in paragraph 8 ante should be insisted upon and explanations furnished in cases of delay.
(6) A time-limit should be fixed for the completion of arguments and the delivery of judgment in a case after the close of the hearing. Failure to conform to these time-limits should be adequately explained.
(7) The returns from subordinate courts should be systematically scrutinised by a Judge or Judges in the High Court and not be left to the Registrar. If necessary, the work of supervision scrutiny of returns and inspection should be divided among the judges to ensure that it is effective.
(8) The High Courts should make it clear to the district judges that the primary responsibility for the judicial administration of the district rests on them and that the task of supervision should on no account, be neglected by them.
(9) Inspection of subordinate courts is essential and should not be given up.
(10) All subordinate courts should be invariably inspected by the district judge once a year.
(11) All district courts and at least one subordinate court in each district should be inspected by a High Court Judge at least once in two years.
(12) The work of supervision and inspection may be divided among the Judges of High Courts each Judge being placed in charge of a district or group of districts.
(13) All judicial officers should be required to maintain a judicial diary, showing the work done by them in court every day.
(14) Inspection reports should contain adequate guidance and instructions to the officers of subordinate courts with regard to their work.
(15) The district judge should maintain a close personal contact with subordinate civil judicial officers in the districts and effect rearrangement of work whenever necessary. The practice of holding an annual judicial conference in each district on the line followed in Bombay as set out in paragraph 25 ante should be followed.
(16) The district judge should circulate monthly to the judicial officers in his charge a statement showing the out-turn of work done by each one of them.
(17) A district magistrate (judicial) should be appointed in the separation States to ensure proper supervision of the magistracy.
(18) A long time-limit like fifteen days for the delivery of judgment in a criminal case should not be allowed. Judgments should be delivered within three days and at any rate not later than a week.
(19) The methods of supervision of criminal courts in force in Madras set out in paragraphs 33 to 52 should be adopted in all States.