Report No. 14
3. The Judicial System
1. Efficiency of Judicial machinery essential.-
The powerful impact which the system of Courts and judicial administration has on a vast number of citizens needs to be pointed out, so that, it may be appreciated that the reform of the system is a matter of vital importance, not only to the lawyer and the judge but also to the State and the average citizen. The smooth and speedy operation of the Courts of law is essential to the progress of the country and the growth of its economic and industrial stature.
2. Volume and value of civil litigation.-
The vast volume of ordinary original civil litigation in the country during any one year is shown in the accompanying Table I which relates to 1954. We refer to it as ordinary civil litigation as opposed to disputes of a special kind, arising under special enactments or determined by special courts. In terms of money, the value of such ordinary litigation (excluding cases which cannot be valued in terms of money of which there is a large number) approaches the order of one hundred crores of rupees in a year.
The number of suits instituted in the civil courts exceeds ten lacs, and of these, nearly nine lacs of cases involve disputes relating to sums of rupees one thousand and below. The majority of these actions affect persons to whom these sums of one thousand rupees and less represent all or a major part of their belongings. It would, therefore, be wrong to regard them as petty litigation not worthy of consideration.
3. Proceedings before special tribunals.-
This Table does not take into account the appellate proceedings in appeal courts, nor does it include original proceedings before special tribunals constituted under several enactments. These special tribunals function more or less in the same manner as courts. They determine disputes between citizen and citizen and between citizen and the State. Their decisions affect the rights of parties. In general, such tribunals are accorded exclusive jurisdiction in matters placed within their purview. Their decisions are final subject to appeals of revisions wherever provided and are also subject to the appeals or revisions wherever provided and also subject to the writ jurisdiction of the High Courts. A very large number of citizens appear before these tribunals in disputes determinable by them.
4. Rent Control Acts, Land Reform measures and the like deal with determinable by special agencies constituted for that purpose and these agencies perform the functions which would otherwise have fallen upon the ordinary civil courts. No figures are available to show the number of persons concerned in these special types of litigation but having regard to the far-flung nature of recent legislation, it is probable that the number exceeds those concerned in ordinary civil litigation.
5. Number of persons before criminal courts.-
Table II gives an indication of the vast number of persons brought before courts as accused persons and witnesses every year. Complete figures of these are, however, not available. In addition to the immense number of persons actually brought before the courts, an even larger number is probably examined by the police or other departmental agencies during the investigation of offences.
6. Number of persons before the ordinary courts.-
The broad facts set out above do not, however, portray a sufficiently clear picture of the impact of the volume of civil litigation upon the citizen. Each action concerns at least two persons, a plaintiff and a defendant. In cases which go to trial, which are nearly half of the total number, a large number of persons appear on either side as witnesses. After making allowance for different methods of disposal such as disposal ex parte, disposal on admission, disposal on a compromise and disposal without trial, to a conservative estimate of the number of persons who have attend courts in any one year as parties and witnesses in the ordinary Civil Courts would be about twenty lacs.
The number in criminal cases would exceed eighty lacs. If we further take into account the number of persons examined by the police and persons concerned in appellate and other proceedings (such as execution and insolvency) in the regular courts and special tribunals, the total may exceed two crores which amounts nearly to five per cent. of the total population of the country.
7. Proceedings to enforce constitutional rights.-
In addition to the subordinate courts, where only, generally speaking, original trials of causes take place, the highest court in the State possesses special jurisdiction, which has assumed great importance in the post-Constitution period. The upsurge of national consciousness which led to Independence has to a great extent altered, the psychology of the citizen. The change of his status from a subject in a dependency to a citizen of a democratic republic has reacted largely on the citizen's social, economic and political life.
He is proudly conscious of the rights guaranteed to him by the Constitution; of his right to social and economic justice; and of his claim to equality of status and opportunity. In the context of his new freedom, the citizen displays a keenness in the assertion and protection of his new born rights which one would not have expected from him a decade ago. The attitude of the citizen has been encouraged by the changed aspect which the State has assumed. What formerly was a static machinery functioning largely for the purpose of the preservation of law and order, has now changed into a dynamic organisation ordering the social and economic life of the citizen.
The constant interference by the State with the everyday life of the citizen however well intentioned and beneficial, comes into repeated conflict, real or apparent, with the guaranteed freedoms and the citizen is naturally not content till he has the matter adjudicated upon by the courts. Thus, these recent changes in our constitutional, social and economic structure bring an increasing number of citizens to the courts.
8. Frequent attendance in Courts.-
It may also be observed that not all cases, civil or criminal get disposed of at the first hearing. In practically all civil suits disposed of after full trial, there are several adjournments; on each of these dates of hearing, the parties have in any case to appear in the courts. Witnesses also have to appear in the courts on several occasions as the courts do not always find time to record their evidence on the days fixed. In the result, a fair proportion of the large number of the persons who attend courts have to do so on more than one occasion.
9. Importance of judicial reform.-
What has been said above is enough to show the vital importance of the proper functioning of the courts to the country. In the social welfare State towards which we are said to be moving, laws and tribunals which administer them will have a constantly growing role to play. The fanciful ideas of a few, who would abolish courts and lawyers, are but an idle dream. Not only must courts continue to exist, but they will have larger and an increasing number of functions to perform. A strenuous endeavour must therefore be made to ensure the discharge of those functions efficiently, and so as to cost the suitor and the witnesses, the least expenditure of their time and resources.