'Put right person in right place'

'Put right person in right place'

On mounting pendency...

Insufficient infrastructure is the main reason for delay in justice delivery. Government being the main litigant, it takes years to even make its stand clear. The government should evolve a mechanism so that, as a litigant, it does not waste the time of the court. In my opinion, the lower courts are not really the reason for delay because they are directly under the control of high courts. HCs should be made responsible if there is delay. Each subordinate court’s presiding officer must undergo a refresher course, which  HCs should organise. Tests should be held and only if they pass them, they should be promoted.

During my time in Supreme Court, backlog came down from one lakh to 18,000 as only deserving cases were entertained. Hardly any SLP (special leave petition) was admitted. Proper scrutiny was done. It is all thanks to Justices Kuldip Singh, J S Verma and A M Ahmadi. May be SC is turning more liberal now.

One of the reasons for delay is the appointment of persons to higher judiciary, incapable of discharging the load. If a judge who has never handled  a criminal case is on a criminal bench, he will take more time.

On reforms...

The government initiative is welcome. As for the target of reducing the pendency of cases by 2011, I will be happy even if it comes down by one-third. The law minister says 5,000 posts will be created. It will not solve the problem unless you appoint the right person to the right place. In appointments to higher judiciary, why should only seniors be elevated to  Supreme Court? Those with merit should be elevated. Justice Kirpal’s judgement said merit should be the prime consideration in judges’ appointment.

On commercial courts...

It is a fine idea but it must be manned by persons with commercial experience. These courts should first take up cases pending in SC and HCs, otherwise backlog will mount.

On arbitration, mediation...

The Arbitration Act was amended for speedy disposal of cases. But three-member tribunals find it very difficult to find dates as co-arbitrators are busy. Sole arbitrator would be better. Conclusion of hearing and culmination of award should be time-bound. The tribunals must function like courts. In some cities, proceedings are held only in the evenings.

Mediation may be taken recourse to but in my experience of eight years, only one case was resolved through mediation. It is possible in commercial litigation but not in cases where people fight for honour etc.

(As told to B S Arun)

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