Date with judges

The Supreme Court plans to introduce a system that will render unnecessary the regular presence of litigants in case hearings. This will offer some hope for those who have to go through years of a court case. Given the case overload in the SC and the long time that is needed to bring almost every case to a logical conclusion, the proposed arrangement will spare the litigants the hassle of taking frequent hearing dates till a case is decided. The proposal will first have to be approved in the full court before the SC moves to have the Supreme Court Act, 1991 and the Supreme Court Regulations, 1991, amended.

According to Til Prasad Shrestha, the SC spokesperson, implementation of this proposal would, besides removing various problems faced by the litigants, reduce irregularities in the judiciary. The giving or taking of hearing dates has been a difficult task, and the delay in this has been one of the various factors that have not done credit to the public image of the judiciary.

Even court officials, judges and lawyers admit that corrupt practices have proliferated in the business of hearing dates. Under the proposed system, the litigants will have to visit the court if and when it wants them, otherwise they will know the fate of their case only when the verdict is announced. If the likely demerits of the proposed system can be taken care of, the litigants will feel greatly relieved of the burden of attending every hearing of their case. Most of them have to come from far-off places, and one can just imagine the difficulties they face and the expense of money and time they have to incur just to be present at all the hearings. This ritual has bound many litigants, because they cannot go outside the country or become busy with some other important business, if this conflicts with the hearing date. It is reported that if the new idea works smoothly at the apex court it will be implemented at the lower levels as well — the appellate courts and the district courts.

There is also a view that the proposed system is likely to make the lawyers more accountable while representing their clients. It may appear so, but this will be known only after the idea is implemented. Many sound-looking ideas, when they were tried in the various organs of the State at various times, could not yield satisfactory results. There may also be a downside to this proposal. Without the involvement of the litigants once a case is registered and accepted in the court, what is the guarantee that the settlement of a case will not be delayed further than under the existing system. Or how can one remain assured that similar corrupt practices will not be repeated, through the agency of lawyers. It also remains to be seen whether, after the scrapping of the giving of hearing dates to the litigants, the judges will feel at least as much pressure as before to settle a case not later than under the existing arrangement.

The only certain and obvious advantage of the proposed system is that it will remove for the litigants the hassles encountered in taking hearing dates.

The leaders of the judiciary should not allow this benefit to be neutralised by their failure to ensure that irregularities and justice delivery are improved at the same time.