Reducing congestion of cases

The judiciary found it beneath the dignity to dillydallying inaugurating digitisation. Hon'ble Chief Justice of Bangladesh inaugurated epoch making digitisation in judicial process on 2 March 2016 in Sylhet. "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." He inducted 'digitalised witness deposition system' by which the courts will not require to write down the testimony and cross-examination of witnesses manually, rather will be taken and stored in computer straight way. This is a promising step of our judicial system towards full digitisation. Digitalisation will contribute reducing cases' congestion in courts. Another big step for reducing cases' congestion is to bring the cases out of court and to solve the cases alternatively.

The Supreme Court's recent survey shows that about 1051 cases are unresolved from the cases filed in courts every day, the number of unresolved cases was about 31 lac. If no single case is filed from that day, it would take two and a half years to resolve the outstanding cases. One of the reasons of the backlog of cases is the shortage of judges. In the United States, one judge is for about 10,000 people, in India one for 67,000 people, whereas in Bangladesh one judge for more than 1 lac.

Furthermore, our judges and their offices are not furnished with modern technologies. Besides, our laws are not modern, which are contributing in congestion. The most important reason of congestion of cases is delay in resolving the cases. If our current judicial system is fully automated, it will reduce backlog of cases. Our judicial system should take steps to bring all the steps of a case under operation by software which should maintain and operate all steps from filing of the case till the end. We need to focus on e-filing procedures, along with 'Summary Disposal', to make paperless and less burdened court. Better case management also includes, efficient data entry and recovery, more effective data retrieval, fewer data errors, better case management tools, public access to case information and so on.

The day is not far off when the judges will draft their judgments through software. Judges will input the factual provisions in accordance with the pre-set legal principles and also will apply their own sense of equity and common sense, the judgments will automatically come out. The judges will have the chance to amend or modify the judgment. The lawyer's contribution in the congestion cannot be denied. The famous American lawyer John Davies said about lawyers: "True, we build no bridges. We raise no towers. We construct no pictures ... .But we smooth out difficulties; we relieve stress; we correct mistakes; we take up other men's burdens and by our efforts we make possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful state." If this is so, why should our negligence or willful delay will complicate the litigation?

There are ways to eradicate procrastination. The judges can draft the important national or constitutional judgments before going to retirement, less important judgments following the retirement may not hurt too much. We can import 'docket system' which Australia has taken in early 1990 where each judge was responsible for its own docket of cases in which they were conducting their cases properly. Criminal cases such as, petty theft cases, drug cases can be solved summarily by the system of 'Guilty Plea' giving fine or minor punishment. A survey of Washington in America shows that about seventy percent of the cases sent in 'Early Case Resolution (ECR) Program' can be resolved in two weeks' time. In Australia ADR method is applicable even in criminal matters. In our country in criminal matters if the police submit investigation reports rightly, promptly, with integrity and devotion, the number of cases could be reduced immensely. Civil suits are also engulfed in delay. Moreover, in relieving the courts from such backlog of cases, the ADR system should be encouraged. A good number of ADR Centres should be constructed in PPP basis.

It is not possible for any of the organs alone to reduce backlog. Judges, lawyers, court officers and clerks, the parties of the case together can reduce this backlog. The government can form a committee comprising the present Chief Justice and former Chief Justices to study on how to reduce cases congestion and to recommend a wayout. We need to initiate the process of reducing cases' congestion now.

The writer is a Barrister-at-Law.


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