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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 75
July 5 , 2008

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Human Rights Analysis
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Court corridor

'Justice delayed is justice denied'

Sultan Mohammad Wohid

'Justice delayed is justice denied' is a very common adage in the judicial domain. It is one of the most burning problems in the administration of justice. This system of justice is so ambiguous and miserable for the mass people that it cannot be explained in a word. There are many instances that poor people who went to court to address their grievances after selling off their lands and property to meet the expenses of the court, but did not get justice in their lifetime. At present, the only demand of mass people is the speedy approach to justice. Certainly 'speedy approach to justice' is gradually getting the status of an important human right which is also denied by some administrators in justice and the underprivileged people continue to be dominated by them. This day, the judiciary organ is an independent organ in our country from the executive. So, it is high time to adopt effective steps to dispense our justice as early as possible.

How much pain the delay process of justice involves need not be explained. This picture of justice is very much dreadful for our poor citizens. It is generally seen that a case is still hanging in court, which began more than one decade ago. There are many victims who don't easily think of going to court seeking justice because they know it will take years to prove a clearly visible wrongdoer is the actual criminal. Moreover, the impact of this unusual delay in disposal of cases falls on the victims. Due to delay in litigation, people become annoyed to obtain proper justice at any stage and also develop a negative outlook in their mind about the total judiciary schemes including judges, lawyers, associates and the administration of justice etc.

The process of delay in litigation is equally known to all and nevertheless it may sound inconsistent with due process of law. The fact remains that the very cases are misused and abused in order to delay cases for an indefinite period and ultimate success in the cause often proves false. Now, law is an effective weapon in the hands of the state to mitigate the social needs by ensuring proper justice in time. Such effort of law is liable if justice fails to mitigate the misery of the mass people due to delay in litigation only and the faith in justice can never be instilled in the mass people if the state doesn't ensure the speedy process of justice.

In the field of justice, delay in litigation is traditionally practiced in our country as like at the same time as denying due process of law. The result is that cases are piled up in all the courts hugely day by day. Basically, the delay in litigation is incredibly practiced in civil courts. Our civil courts are governed by the Civil Procedure Code 1908 which was enacted during the British reign. But, after the independence, the government of Bangladesh had taken an attempt to accelerate the civil procedure system. The problem of delay in litigation including arrears of cases has been engaging the attention of the Law Commission for a long time and as a result of its recommendations made from time to time, reasonably wide changes have been made in the provisions of the Code in 1983 by making an Ordinance with a view to removing the causes of delay. Before such amendment Ordinance, there was no limitation to submit the court-fees and other relevant documents. But, by this Ordinance, the parties to a suit have to submit the proper court-fees with all relevant documents within 21 days after issue of summons and the plaintiffs have to submit all documents at the time of institution of the suit to focus on the cause of action. On the other hand, there was no specific time for examination of the defendants/witnesses and in framing of issues before such amendment. But, after promulgation of the Ordinance, no time is be allowed for examination of the defendants/witnesses after 2(two) months and the court is bound to frame the issues within 15 days after examination of the defendants/witness. However, by the blessing of this Ordinance, the court is also bound to give the judgment of a case within 127 days from the framing of issues. While 120 days is fixed for hearing and after hearing, rest 7 days is fixed for giving the judgment. But, these changes seem to have had little impact.

Actually, delay in litigation is still prevailing in the field of civil justice. On the other hand in criminal area, it is usually seen that a person, from the date of arrest, is in custody without any trial for many days though it is not proved whether he is an offender or not. Crime increases only when the justice is delayed or do not take place. So, it is obviously a vital issue to change the present scheme of our legal procedure. A number of causes seem to be responsible for creating this crippling situation in the way of our justice. An attempt has been made here to pinpoint some of the causes and suggest measures to remove them. It appears that the main causes of delay are as follows:
* Lack of good lawyers. The attitude of some of the lawyers is also to some extent responsible for delay.
* Accumulation of cases.
* Insufficient number of judges.
* Lack of proper observation of the provisions of the Codes.
* A large number of cases that come before the Supreme Court cannot be concluded hastily due to interpretation of legislative enactment in question.
* Delay in proper investigation or inquiry in a litigation.
* Variety of laws on a particular issue.
* Inadequate office equipment and machinery.
* Unreasonable absence of witnesses.
* Cumbersome execution procedure of decrees in civil cases.
* Lack of utilization of modern technology in keeping records and documents.

Actually, delay in litigation is practiced in our judicial domain for many days. So, it can't be removed in a day. But, it is as much crucial an issue that our Government has to take immediate steps to diminish this problem. However, from my view, following steps can be adopted to change the current character of administration of justice:
* The atmosphere of justice must be corruption free.
* Adequate number of judges should be ensured.
* Justice administration system should be easy and not much expensive. Although the Constitution guaranteed equal rights for all citizens in getting justice, in practice a vast majority of the people, who are economically weak, do not enjoy this right. Even, the poor and disadvantaged groups in the rural areas cannot think of moving to higher courts to seek justice and get remedy for violation of their rights because of expensive higher judiciary.
* Justice should not become the hostage of a class.
* In preserving various records of the courts modern technology should be widely used.
* Multiplicity of laws on a particular issue should be evaded.
* It also seen that the lawyers may not be ready to argue the case and hence regularly submit 'time petitions'. So, frequent taking of time by the lawyers must be stopped. In Bangladesh constitution, there is a provision for getting speedy trial of every accused person of criminal offence as per Article 35(3). Besides, as per Article 22 of this constitution the judiciary is separated from executive organ, which has already been executed from 1st Nov, 2007. Now, our expectation is much more from the judiciary than before. So, we are looking forward to see that the judiciary organ is how far responsible to accelerate our prior procedure in litigation to remove the misery of the inhabitants of Bangladesh.

The writer is Advocate of Judge's Court, Chittagong.


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