Overcrowding of Petitions u/s 482, Cr.P.C. in the High Court.

Whether problems being faced by litigants in lower judiciary , causing non access of justice to poor litigants must be overcome at the earliest.
28
January 2016
20:43
Systemic
Problems in District Courts Resulting in Overcrowding of Petitions u/s 482,
Cr.P.C. in the High Court.
Analysis of Judgment of the High Court of Bombay 1 M/s.
Pricewaterhouse Coopers Pvt. Ltd. v. Mr.C. Anthony Louis
2
 In the High Court of
Judicature at Bombay Coram: R.C. Chavan, J.
The
Bombay High Court in this judgment while enquiring into the causes of flooding
of High Court with petitions under section 482 CrPC explored some systemic
problems at subordinate court level.3 are directly filing writ petitions in
High Courts for stay or quashing of the filing of FIR/trial processes without
going in revision before the concerned Sessions Court. This is creating huge
backlog of such petitions in High Courts and consume the precious judicial time
of High Court without any compelling reason as such remedy are also available
at the Sessions Court level under section 482 CrPC. The High Court concluded
that immediate rush to High Court by the petitioners without first taking
recourse to the revision before concerned Sessions court is a practice which
should be discouraged and such petitions should be allowed in exceptional
circumstances only:
“To sum up, inherent powers of the court are not
ousted as a rule when an alternate remedy exists and existence of alternate
remedy is more a matter of self restraint. But they can be invoked only when
there is a glaring abuse of process of Court or instance of failure of justice
staring in the face of the Court which cannot be effectively dealt with by
having recourse to the available remedy.
It is doubtful, if they could be invoked simply because the
accused is not ready to wait for the stage to put forth his defence, or when,
abuse of process does not stare in the face of the Court, or an illegality is
not apparent on the face of record. These cases would require a careful
scrutiny of rival positions, which must, in my humble view, await exhaustion of
remedies available, particularly, in the present flooding of the Court with
applications under Section 482 of the 1 By Rajesh Suman, Research Fellow,
National Judicial Academy. 1. Criminal Application No.584 of 2010- Pronounced
On: 22 March, 2012 Total 10 criminal applications under Sections 482, CrPC were
clubbed together and disposed of accordingly: The citation of one of the
petition is – M/s. Pricewaterhouse Coopers Pvt. Ltd. v. Mr.C. Anthony Louis and
others: [Criminal Application No. 584 of 2010-Pronounced on: 22nd March, 2012]
Ibid, para 61
The High Court scrutinized the reasons for such a rush
towards high courts for revision instead of going to Sessions Courts which is
an immediate appellate forum for revision of trial process and said that
indiscipline and deviations from procedures at the subordinate court level are
major cause for such practices by litigants:
“65. Before this Court could restrict easy recourse
to inherent powers, it may be necessary to address the causes which propel
litigants to rush to this court, and treat the deviations from prescribed
procedures in order to speed up trial processes & make them less painful.
Once steps to ensure that a criminal trial is held with minimum invasion on his
pursuits, a litigant, who is served with a process of Criminal Court may prefer
to go through a quick trial, and come clean, rather than spend time on
questioning if indeed the process issued is an abuse or is legally untenable.”
“66. The causes of delay in criminal trials have been examined by various
committees and academicians and have also been discussed in various judgments.
A few which hurt the system are: 1
. Trial magistrates list a large number of cases
every day when they cannot physically pay attention to all those cases
personally. This requires them to waste time on calling work or roll calls only
to adjourn the cases to next dates.
2. Cases being required to be adjourned because prisoners
are not produced from prisons. 3. Witnesses not being present though served or
not being served well in advance. 4.
Dilatory tactics of prosecution or defence. 5. Inept handling of Court
administration by inefficient or inexperienced judicial officers.
” “67. Trial
Courts allow trials to merrily proceed at such pace as parties or lawyers would
desire, leading, at times, to dozens of adjournments even in cases triable
summarily.
This
clutters their cause lists and increases the time required for reaching a
decision, since not just Judicial Officers, but lawyers would have to read the
entire evidence again months after recording began. Same holds good for warrant
trials and sessions trials which drag on merrily for years together. This is
against express provisions of the Code as also administrative instructions
issued from time to time. This adversely affects the legal profession too as it
allows concentration of work in a few hands.” “68.
All these
ills could be checked by taking small but firm steps to reinforce discipline in
matters of trials.
It
could be easily seen that none of these causes need any legislative treatment,
or amendment to rules of business.
If all the stake holders simply comply with the
requirements of procedural law and instructions already issued, the causes will
vanish.
The problem
is not one of not having a law but of black coats deviating from the law. Since
this involves taking a responsibility to undertake unpleasant steps at the
ground level, everybody is content at doing nothing, expecting committees to be
appointed for reform & suggesting legislation, forgetting as to what
happened to the legislative mandate that lawyer being busy cannot be a ground
for adjournment. While there can be no doubt that a ruthless implementation of
strict schedules may result in injustice in an exceptional case, the zeal of
superior courts in giving full latitude & opportunity to parties
discourages enforcement of discipline and the larger cause of justice is the
casualty.” The High Court also highlighted several procedures of CrPC which are
generally overlooked by the trial court resulting in delay and denial of
justice. The High Court here emphasized the need of seriousness in adhering to
the following sections of CrPC and making proper planning for trial process.
200. Examination of complainant 202. Postponement of issue of process 205.
Magistrate may dispense with personal attendance of accused 242. Evidence for
prosecution 292. Evidence of officers of the Mint 293. Reports of certain
Government scientific experts 294. No formal proof of certain documents 295.
Affidavit in proof of conduct of public servant 296. Evidence of formal
character on affidavit 309. Power to postpone or adjourn proceedings 317.
Provision for inquiries and trial being held in the absence of accused in
certain cases. 350. Summary procedure for punishment for non-attendance by a
witness in obedience to summons. The High Court has further deliberated on many
practices prevalent in the trial courts which encourage pendency and suggested
measures to remove those anomalies. For instance in some very notorious
practices, the High Court suggested the following: “82. Dilatory tactics by
stake holders could be sternly dealt with imposing heavy costs. Apart from
costs to be paid to person, who suffers on account of an adjournment, every
adjournment in a magistrate’s Court ought to attract costs of Rs.500/- which is
less than the amount actually spent in listing a case before a magistrate and
cost of time of the Court in deciding to adjourn it.” “83. Inept handling of
cases by some judicial officers could be dealt with by adequately training
them. In any case, since process of appointing professional managers in trial
Courts is already undertaken, problems on account of mismanagement will be
reduced in course of time.” “84. The key to disposal of cases with minimum
number of adjournments lies in drawing up programs for trials. Courts would
have to commit themselves to some schedule for hearing each case so that
stakeholders know as to when they may expect which stage to be over. The
difficulties expressed in formulating such schedules are illusory. The
administration could ask the authors of computerized Court information system
to auto generate a likely schedule of the case, the moment a case is filed,
which could be refined after consulting all stake holders and adjusted from
time to time according to the developments/events that may take place.” Finally
while disposing of the petitions, the High Court observed that such remedy is
also available in the Sessions Court and criticized such practice of
unnecessary consumption of the judicial time by affluent people which corners
the poor convicted prisoners and denies them the timely availability of
judicial process for whom High Courts are the only available appellate forum.
In para 95 of the judgment, it was observed: “Just as rich eat up &
encroach upon all natural & other resources available at the cost of poor
& needy, the applicants in these three cases have encroached upon the scarce
judicial time to which those languishing in jails for years, or those bearing a
hanging sword of conviction over their heads for decades were entitled.”
Another thing which can be gathered from this case is that a victim or a
complainant in the trial court are denied justice when the accused have
sufficient resources to approach the High Court by filing stay petitions
against filing of FIR or other trial processes. Such stay petitions remained
pending for years and it ultimately result in denial of justice to victims or
complainants who generally are at lower level of power equation between the
parties. Such practices result in delaying the regular appeal case and this
result in benefit to convicted prisoners who manages to get bail and detrimental
to convicted prisoners who languish in prisons for many years. For instance the
above discussed Bombay High Court judgment observes the following in this
regard: “In this roster, cases of many convicts who are in jail and who have
suffered nine out of ten years of their imprisonment, many of whom have
suffered more than half of their sentences, and some who have already suffered
the whole sentence are being heard. As if this is not enough, cases of
convicts, who are on bail right from the year 1994 are pending. A person, who
ought to have been in jail is roaming freely for all these years and when the
turn to dismiss his appeal comes, the argument of his having lived in the
shadow of conviction for all these years comes up. Appeals against acquittals
are pending since nineties & God alone knows when they could be heard. Many
matters are rendered infructuous due to death of parties. Revisions or criminal
applications in which proceedings in trial Courts have been stayed cannot at
all receive attention of the Judge.”5 The above case exposes some of the very
deep malaise in our justice delivery system which jeopardizes the objective of
the Constitution to provide justice to all as mentioned in Preamble of the
Indian Constitution. Such serious introspection on the part of judiciary shows
its greatness which frankly acknowledges the wrong practices prevalent in our
courts. This situation requires urgent actions on the part of all the
stakeholders of courts.
“82. Dilatory tactics by stake holders could be sternly dealt with
imposing heavy
costs. Apart from costs to be paid to person, who suffers on account
of an adjournment,
every adjournment in a magistrate’s Court ought to attract costs of
Rs.500/- which is less
than the amount actually spent in listing a case before a magistrate
and cost of time of
the Court in deciding to adjourn it.”
5
to convicted prisoners who languish in prisons for
many years. For instance the above
discussed Bombay High Court judgment observes the
following in this regard:
“In this roster, cases of many convicts who are in
jail and who have suffered nine
out of ten years of their imprisonment, many of
whom have suffered more than half of
their sentences, and some who have already suffered
the whole sentence are being heard.
As if this is not enough, cases of convicts, who
are on bail right from the year 1994 are
pending. A person, who ought to have been in jail
is roaming freely for all these years and
when the turn to dismiss his appeal comes, the
argument of his having lived in the shadow
of conviction for all these years comes up. Appeals
against acquittals are pending since
nineties & God alone knows when they could be
heard. Many matters are rendered
infructuous due to death of parties. Revisions or
criminal applications in which
proceedings in trial Courts have been stayed cannot
at all receive attention of the Judge.”5
The above case exposes some of the very deep
malaise in our justice delivery
system which jeopardizes the objective of the
Constitution to provide justice to all as
mentioned in Preamble of the Indian Constitution.
Such serious introspection on the part
of judiciary shows its greatness which frankly
acknowledges the wrong practices
prevalent in our courts. This situation requires
urgent actions on the part of all the
stakeholders of courts.
……………………………………………..
5
Ibid, para 14
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1 comment on Overcrowding of Petitions u/s 482, Cr.P.C. in the High Court.

  1. To sum up, inherent powers of the court are not ousted as a rule when an alternate remedy exists and existence of alternate remedy is more a matter of self restraint. But they can be invoked only when there is a glaring abuse of process of Court or instance of failure of justice staring in the face of the Court which cannot be effectively dealt with by having recourse to the available remedy.

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