To expedite the process of justice despensation and desperse number of pending cases in the courts, we should get away with the British legacy of long vacations for courts, argues Sant Kumar Sharma
To expedite the process of justice dispensation, it will indeed be in the interest of the litigating public if the courts do not close at all for long vacations.
Come the month of June, all hot and humid in the Indian plains, and all the courts close for summer vacations. Be it the district courts or courts at other levels, all of them close for a good number of days for summer vacations. The Supreme Court and the High Courts in the states are no exception. All closed, judges and lawyers enjoying the holidays. Clients and the public have to then wait!
Compulsorily, whether they like it or not, the litigating public in need of succour, justice, for this reaon or that, has to then wait for the judges and lawyers to return after the vacations. Of course, there is a provision of vacation judges in the courts. But this barely helps as the courts remain essentially deserted.
If the matter is urgent for the litigant, he/she needs to knock at the doors of the vacation judge. And definitely a lot many lawyers are not available during the vacations, limiting the choice of litigating public for a service they need, and want. If we think, this tradition of long vacations is more of a British legacy than anything else. The British judges, when the English ruled us before Independence on August 15, 1947, had their homes very far away from India, in Britain. They needed to travel long distances and there was no air travel then, initially at least.
Later, air travel to Britain became possible but it was mostly natives (read Indians) which constituted the bulk of the litigating public. Court cases involving the Gora Sahibs (the British themselves) were very few, rather miniscule. To think of the welfare of these natives was the thing farthest from the minds of these judges. They wanted to escape from what they found to be stifling heat of the plains. And the summer vacations came handy then.
At present, we have long pendency of cases of different descriptions in the courts at all levels, be it the District Courts, High Courts or the apex court. It is believed that by a conservative estimate, around one lakh cases are pending in the two wings of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court alone. What will be the total number of pending cases in all the courts of the country? It will run in crores, without a doubt.
To expedite the process of justice dispensation, it will indeed be in the interest of the litigating public if the courts do not close at all for long vacations. The judges can, and should get the same number of holidays that they are getting now, but they can proceed on leave by rotation, and not together which leads to a closure of the courts, as happens now because of the long holidays.
In fact, a call on the total number of holidays admissible to judges can be taken by the relevant ministry, the administrative department concerned etc. If the total leave or holidays are to be reduced, after rationisation, so be it.
The lawyers, who want to visit some place, should also be helped by seeking and allowing adjournments. The process of seeking an adjournment of a case is fairly easy even at present. Making it even more so, or institutionalised, on account of the lawyer saying on record that he wants adjournment because he will be vacationing on a particular date should be allowed.
The Law Commission had, in its recommendations, said that long court vacations should be scrapped. But these recommendations are being ignored so far. The Union Ministry of Law & Justice should take the initiative and the courts at all levels should observe a similar pattern of holiday. The Supreme Court calendar usually shows week-long vacations for festivals like Holi, Dussehra, Muharram and Diwali, apart from fortnight-long winter vacations for Christmas.Does any other section of the society enjoy such a facility of long festival-breaks? Why should this privilege be there for the courts?
Sant Kumar Sharma
(The writer is a freelance journalist based in Jammu)