By M Moneruzzaman |
The government has implemented only one of the 27 recommendations the Law Commission has put forward mainly to clear the huge backlogs of cases lying with the Supreme Court and the subordinate courts while the others remain to be carried out although seven years have, meanwhile, passed by.
Restoration of the parliament’s power to remove Supreme Court judges was also among the recommendations made by the commission chaired by former chief justice Khairul Haque on June 26, 2014.
The Supreme Court later revived the Supreme Judicial Council while the government sought a review of the decision.
But the other recommendations, largely for a speedy disposal of the outstanding cases, are yet to be put to practice, according to lawyers and court officials.
The parliamentary standing committee on the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs on May 21, 2014 requested the Law Commission to devise recommendations to reduce the number of cases pending with courts.
Of the commission’s 27 recommendations, 14 are related to the case backlog with the subordinate courts while the 13 others are for the Supreme Court.
The 14 recommendations for the lower courts include appointment of 3,000 additional judges, their supporting staff, stenographers for all judges and building more courtrooms with computer facilities in each district.
One recommendation is that the subordinate court judges should sit in the court at 9:30am and continue till 4:30pm with a one-hour launch break.
Another recommendation has asked for a bar on all district judges from leaving their work stations without prior permission from the Registrar General of the Supreme Court as most of them leave their workplaces on each weekend and sit in the court late on Sunday.
The district and metropolitan sessions judges need to hold four conferences every year with their subordinate court judges while the chief judicial magistrates and the chief metropolitan magistrates have been advised to hold one conference each month with their subordinate judges to address their problems.
Pronouncement of the judgement in a criminal case in the next seven days after the completion of the case hearing has also been suggested by the commission for a speedy disposal of trial cases.
One of the recommendations requires the government to enact a law to ensure protection of the prosecution witnesses as the lack of their security might lead to acquittal of offenders.
An equitable distribution of cases among sessions courts, appointment of honest and competent retired judges on a contract basis in consultation with the Supreme Court and posting of honest and competent judges to the rank of district judge have also been recommended to lessen the backlog of cases.
The commission’s recommendation to establish a ‘permanent investigation agency’ in the interest of fair probe is also yet to be implemented.
The commission has observed that the investigation officers of a police station cannot finish probes they are assigned to within the stipulated time, as stated in Section 167 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, because they have to remain busy with other matters of the police station.
The 13 recommendations the commission has placed for the speedy disposal of cases by the Supreme Court include the formation of a cell with the chief justice in the chair to monitor the reasons for increase in filing new cases and the delay in disposing of pending cases.
The judges have been advised to examine the merit of a case before its hearing and reject summarily if they find no merit of it, according to another recommendation.
The chief justice has been advised by a recommendation to strictly monitor the case disposal rate by each bench and to introduce the system of ‘summary disposal’.
The Law Commission feels it necessary to take action against a judge for misconduct if it seems to the chief justice that the judge has issued a ruling in a case without merit.
One of the recommendations has suggested that the chief justice, except taking part only in special and urgent case hearings, should spend most of his time in the monitoring of all courts and in taking decisions about administrative affairs.
The commission has alerted the judges that no under-trial criminal case can remain unsettled with the High Court or the lower courts for an indefinite period contributing to the backlog of cases.
The commission has said that it is not desirable that a criminal case should remain stayed for an unidentified period pending the investigation.
It has recommended that a new case should be listed for hearing serially by maintaining the date of its filing to do away with the bench officers’ scope for manipulating the serial of the cases.
As there are corruption allegations against HC bench officers they should be monitored on a full-time basis and transferred from one bench to another regularly while the Anti-Corruption Commission should be allowed to independently conduct probes into allegations against them.
The parliamentary standing committee in 2014 asked the Law Commission to make recommendations as there were some 28 lakh cases pending with the lower courts then — nine lakh of them with magistrate courts — and 3.25 lakh cases with the High Court.
There were 1,700 subordinate court judges and 90 High Court judges in 2014 while, as of July 29, 2021, the number of subordinate court judges was 1,764 and that of High Court judges 92.
As of December 31, 2020, a total of 39,33,186 cases were pending with the country’s courts — 34,64,998 of them with subordinate courts, 4,52,963 with the High Court and 15,225 with the Appellate Division, according to official statistics .
Asked to comment about the non-implementation of the Law Commission’s recommendations for resolving the case backlog problem, law minister Anisul Huq said that handling the Covid situation was now the first priority of the government.
‘Could we do anything except on the Covid issue in the last two years?’ the minister said.
The government has increased the number of lower court judges as per one of the recommendations, Anisul said, adding that the government has a plan to appoint more lower court judges soon.
Law Commission chairman Khairul Haque declined to comment about the matter.”