"A lot of delays can be eliminated through the reform of procedures."
One of actor Sunny Deol’s most famous lines is from the movie Damini. In the movie, Deol plays a lawyer trying to get justice for a raped girl.
During the trial his encounters adjournments after adjournments by the court.
In frustration, he screams out in open court the now immortal words, ‘Tareekh Pe Tareekh, Tareekh Pe Tareekh, Tareekh Pe Tareekh Milti Gayi My Lord, Par Insaaf Nahin Mila….’ (Date after date after date has been given to us, my lord, but we haven’t yet gotten justice!)
These words accurately, and sadly, reflect the plight of many litigants across the country.
Eminent law academician N R Madhava Menon had said that everyone associated with the system, including the litigant, was responsible for such delays. “A lot of delays can be eliminated through the reform of procedures. Case planning and management is one example. Reducing adjournments by imposing a heavy cost on the defaulting party is another. Eliminating too many appeals and interim orders is yet another step,” he said, in a report in The Week.
Irked by constant delays and adjournments in a particular matter, Justice Gautam Patel, a Bombay High Court judge imposed a fine of Rs 4.50 lakh on a public charitable trust.
Justice Patel passed an order directing ‘Ram Nagar Trust’ to pay Rs 1,000 per day for a delay of 45 days to the defendant in the suit filed by the trust in 2009.
“The costs must be real. They must be sufficient to convey the message that non-compliance with our orders brings consequences; that these consequences are inevitable and unavoidable; and the consequences are not some piffling trifle,” Justice Patel said. He refused to accept the contention of the plaintiff’s lawyer that it was a charitable trust and that the suit pertained to land for educational purposes, as reported by Times Now.
Justice Patel went on to say, “I do not think that, in this day and age, and especially in this city, costs of Rs 1000 per day are at all unreasonable. Anything less than that is illusory and meaningless and the time has gone when a Court could, would or should pick up some utterly random figure like Rs 5,000 or Rs 25,000, a number wholly without a tether to the actual days of delay.”
Here’s hoping that this order acts as a deterrent to those seeking adjournments on frivolous grounds and that it reiterates the point that justice delayed is justice denied.