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Early disposal of pending cases by the High Court

In multiple cases across multiple courts, the constitution of India recognises the need and right to speedy justice, which can only be achieved by quick disposal of cases from the court. In the past years, there has been an increase in the sudden need for speedy justice due to the increasing number of pending cases at all levels of the judiciary, starting at the lowest and going up to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has recognised a matter of fundamental right as a speedy trial, but there is no such redressal. By 2021 more than four crore cases were pending in the Subordinate courts.[1] There is a state of helplessness amongst the courts and the people due to the lack of a substantial number of judges and the large pendency of courts. The concept of speedy trial roots in the idea of a reasonably expeditious trial that follows all the essentials of a trial but is faster than the usual course of litigation. In this case, the judiciary would need centuries to clear its backlog. With the tremendous backlog in pending cases, the legal and judicial systems have agreed that the judicial system cannot cope until the number of judges is expanded by two or three. It looks as though it has been decided that a legal system capable of delivering timely justice is improbable.

Speedy Justice and Judiciary

Lord James Bryce once said that “There is no better test of excellence of a government than the efficiency of its judicial system, for nothing more merely touches the welfare and security of average citizen than his sense that he can rely on the certain and prompt administration of justice”.[2] Faith in the judiciary as an essential organ of the government stems from its cost-effective, accessible and speedy administration of justice. Speedy justice should create a sense of security among the citizens by assuring them that the one who does the wrong or goes against the laws of the country will be punished, and all their just grievances will be redressed so that they may not be tempted to resort to violent self-help and take law in their own hands.

The courts and tribunals of the country, in multiple cases, have established that it is essential as a matter of right of its people that speedy justice is rendered to them. However, to put into the context the utter practicalities of the functioning of the courts, the case is subjective, and so is the idea of speedy justice. This idea or right of speedy justice is primarily discussed in the context of Criminal cases, especially when imprisonment or custody is involved. It is crucial and necessary to maintain a reasonable balance between the considerations of speed and justice. A speedy trial of cases favours both the prosecution and the accused. It favours the prosecution as it does not face the problem of the disappearance of witnesses, evidence, etc. And it is in favour of the accused because if he is innocent, he will not suffer for a more extended period.  There have been cases in the past that have emphasised the need and importance of the right to Speedy justice: -

  1. In the case of Vakil Prasad Singh v. State of Bihar[3], the court has emphasised the judicial protection of the right enshrined in the constitution under Article 21 through speedy investigation and speedy justice. They believed that it is essential for the right to life and personal liberty to be protected, especially in the judicial sense and, as previously mentioned, to put into context the criminal cases pending before the courts.
  2. In the case of Santosh De v. Archana Guha,[4] the court observed that the case had been going on for 14 years, and hence, they were quashed. Furthermore, there was an unexplained delay for eight years, and the court held that it infringed the right to a speedy trial. This case well explained the need for speedy justice in such cases where there is no advancement in the proceedings for an extended period, and the accused/convict has been suffering due to the lag in the proceedings in regards to their case, which violates a person's fundamental right to life and personal liberty.
  3. In the case of Raghubir Singh v. State of Bihar[5], the court held that the infringement of the right to speedy trial could not be inferred merely from delay in the police investigation. The court pointed out that the delay was due to the nature of the case and the general situation prevailing in the country. Through the way of this case, the court rightly mentioned the need for more judges throughout the fraternity along with better redressal mechanisms and alternate redressal forums for disputes of different regards so that it can reduce the burden of the courts and increase their efficacy of work along with the lessened pendency of the cases and better quality of the judgement, since, the court will have more time to pay attention to disputes grave in nature.

Assume an in-depth examination of the evolution of swift justice. In that case, it highlights a highly pertinent and unresolved issue of pendency and a sense of confusion among the courts regarding the gravity of cases and which ones do and do not require a more rapid functioning of the law, which is caused by the judiciary's overwork at the subordinate levels. As a result, measures were enacted allowing a party to petition the High Court for an order directing the early disposition of a matter in the interest of expedited justice.

Procedure to move to HC for fast disposition of a case

There have been multiple tries to lessen the burden of the courts and the pendency of the trials, so there has been increasing focus on the idea of speedy justice in recent times. Such emphasis on this matter was done taking the help of the upper courts to help with the problem of delayed justice.

In the case of Anil Rai V/s. State of Bihar,[6] the Hon’ble Supreme Court laid down that if the judgment, for whatever reason, is not pronounced within six months, any of the parties to the case shall be allowed to bring an application before the Chief Justice of the High Court with a motion to withdraw the said matter and to hand it over to any other Bench for new arguments. It is up to the Chief Justice to grant the abovementioned petition or give such a different ruling as he thinks proper under the circumstances.

Sethi, J., has enumerated certain points as remedial measures that have to be considered as instructions for courts to be followed that are:

  1. Appropriate directions to the Registry may be issued by the Chief Justice of the High Court; in cases where a judgement is reserved and subsequently pronounced, a column be added to the judgement on the first page, after the cause-title, where the date of reserving the judgement and the date of pronouncing be separately mentioned by the court officer concerned.
  2. The Chief Justices of the High Courts should instruct the Court Officers/Readers of various Benches in the High Courts to provide a list of cases in which the reserved judgments have not been pronounced within that month.
  3. The concerned Chief Justice will bring the pending matter to the attention of the concerned Bench if the judgement is not pronounced within two months after the conclusion of the arguments. The Chief Justice may also determine that it is necessary to circulate the statement of such cases in which judgments have not been rendered within six weeks of the conclusion of the arguments among the High Court Judges for their information. This type of communication is sent in a sealed envelope with "confidential" written.
  4. Where a judgment is not pronounced within three months from the date of reserving judgment, any of the parties in the case is permitted to file an application in the High Court with prayer for early judgment. As and when filed, such application shall be listed before the Bench concerned within two days, excluding the intervening holidays.

Application to be made to the HC

A person can file an early application before the High Court, seeking to dispose of a certain case within a specific time limit. The High Court can give directions to the subordinate to dispose of the case quickly and can even prescribe directions to the subordinate to conclude a case within a certain time limit.

After receiving such directions from the High Court, the subordinate court considers such a case as a priority case and will make sure that such a case is disposed off at the earliest, without compromising the due care taken by the courts and following the requisite procedures. However, an exemption to this clause exists if the matter has been pending before the court for an extended period of time and has been stagnant or if the case has made no definitive progress.

The stage of the case is also essential because the application can only be moved after evidence has been gathered, cross-examination has been completed, and the case has reached its final argument stage. The Constitution of India under Article 227 empowers every High Court should have authority over all courts and tribunals in the territories over which it has jurisdiction.

Conclusion

To conclude, it is essential to mention that inordinate delay has become a common feature of the Indian legal system. There is a need to enact a new comprehensive law on the speedy trial of cases, and laws should be suitably amended to achieve the object of speedy trial of offences. There should be an awareness campaign for speedy trials of offences.

Delay in the dispensation of justice is not good for any society. It leads to distress, damage, and resentment. It can ultimately lead to anarchy and chaos. As a result, people take the law into their hands and try to be vigilant. So justice in general and speedy justice, in particular, is essential for the system to survive and run.


[1] https://prsindia.org/policy/vital-stats/pendency-and-vacancies-in-the-judiciary.

[2] https://thenationonlineng.net/imperative-of-an-independent-judiciary/.

[3] Criminal Appeal No. 138 of 2009.

[4] 1994 SCR(1) 549, 1994 SCC(2) 420.

[5] 1987 AIR 149, 1986 SCR(3) 802.

[6] Appeal (crl.) 389 of 1998.

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Synopsis of the Special Marriage Act in India

India is a diverse country where people of all faiths coexist peacefully while upholding the ideals of the Constitution. Marriage is a significant event in a person's life and is considered a holy bond between two people. Marriages in India are governed by religious laws such as the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 and the Christian Marriage Act of 1872.

While there is nothing wrong with having different personal standards for other religions, our Indian Constitution promotes a secular society that safeguards religious freedom and belief. Furthermore, Article 44 of the Constitution mandates that the State works develop a Uniform Civil Code for Indians.

The process under the Special Marriage Act of 1954

The Special Marriage Act of 1954, which extends to all Indians regardless of faith, can be reasonably assumed to be a precursor to the Uniform Civil Code. The law applies to all Indian citizens, irrespective of their religious beliefs. It also applies to Indian citizens who reside overseas. The Special Marriage Act allows for interfaith and intercaste marriages between two consenting adults, as long as the male is at least 21 years old and the female is at least 18 years old.

According to the legislation, the state government can designate one or more marriage officials for the entire or portion of the State. Any person wishing to solemnize their marriage under the Special Marriage Act must serve a written notification to the Marriage Officer according to Section 5 of the Act. Both parties to the marriage must file the notification, and one of them must have lived in the district of the relevant Marriage Officer for at least 30 days. This notification is included in the Act's Second Schedule.

Section 6 of the Act specifies that the notification mentioned above must be retained by the Marriage Officer and journaled in a 'Marriage Notice Book' and that this book must be available for examination by 'any' person who wishes to do so without charge.

The Act also stipulates that anybody can object to the marriage being solemnized. After receiving the objection, the Marriage Officer has 30 days to conduct the inquiry and reach a conclusion, beginning when the objection was submitted. The marriage will not be solemnized until the Marriage Officer decides on the expressed concerns. Under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, the marriage officer has all the powers of a civil court while investigating. Also, under Section 193 of the Indian Penal Code of 1860, any procedure before him shall be deemed a judicial process.

Furthermore, to solemnize the marriage, the parties must sign a statement with three witnesses in the presence of the Marriage Officer, who will also sign the declaration. Suppose the marriage is not solemnized within three months after the parties' notice or within 3 months of the appellate court's ruling under section 8(2). In that case, the Officer will not be able to do so until a new notice is submitted to him.

Void and voidable marriage under the Special Marriage Act

Void marriages:

The Act specifies two reasons for declaring a marriage null and invalid, on which any spouse may submit a petition against the other spouse, namely:

  • Any partner violated the requirements set out in Section 4 of the Special Marriage Act. The respondent was impotent at the time of the marriage and continues to be so when the complaint is filed.

Voidable Marriages:

  • If the respondent has intentionally refused to consummate the marriage, the marriage is voidable.
  • The respondent was pregnant by someone other than the petitioner at the time of marriage, and the petitioner was unaware of it; the proceedings must begin within the first year of the marriage; and, finally, marital intercourse has not taken place between the couple with the petitioner's consent after the discovery of the ground for voidability.
  • The permission of either party was obtained via fraud or coercion, and the petition must be filed within one year after the coercion or the discovery of the deception. Finally, when the conditions mentioned above are identified, the petitioner must not be living with their spouse.

Divorce

The statute allows any party to file a divorce petition with the court for various reasons. A divorce petition can be filed if one of the parties has consensual sexual intercourse with someone other than their spouse. Similarly, if one of the parties has abandoned the other for more than two years, if one of the parties has been convicted of a crime that carries a sentence of seven years or more, or if one of the parties has a mental disorder.

The legislation also allows the wife to file a divorce petition because her husband was convicted of sodomy, bestiality, or rape after their marriage.

Special Marriage Act of 1954 and the Special Marriage Act of 1872

In many aspects, the 1954 Special Marriage Act differs from its predecessor in 1872. The most significant change was eliminating the requirement to renounce one's faith to solemnize a marriage under this Act. The permissible ages for the bride and groom were also raised from 14 to 18 and 21 years, respectively. If either partner has not reached the age of 21 for the solemnization of marriage, the legislation of 1872 included a clause requiring parental approval. The 1954 statute repealed this provision. The time period necessary to be completed as a resident of the Registrar's concerned district was 14 days under the Act of 1872. The Special Marriage Act of 1954 raised this to 30 days, and the Registrar was renamed Special Marriage Officer. In addition, under the Act of 1872, any individual had 14 days to file an objection to a notice issued by the registrar/special marriage officer. The Act of 1954 further expanded the time limit to 30 days.

Issues with the Special Marriage Act and Indian Courts' Reactions

This law was created to make interfaith and intercaste marriages easier, but it has now evolved into legislation that infringes an individual's fundamental rights. Section 4(c) of the legislation establishes an age limit for male and female consenting parties to the marriage, indicating that the law considers them adults capable of making life decisions.

However, Sections 5, 6, and 7 of the legislation nullify this provision by referencing the publication of a notice for 30 days, implying that their decision to marry is evaluated not just by their parents but by "anyone" who desires to.

In K.S Puttaswamy v. Union of India, the Supreme Court ruled unambiguously that the right to privacy is a basic right under Article 21. The right to privacy is also violated by this clause, which allows anybody to meddle in a marriage between two consenting adults. The freedom to marry with one's choice was supported in Shakti Vahini v. Union of India, and a person's decision was described as an essential aspect of dignity.

Conclusion

The Special Marriage Act was a forerunner of its time. It permits two consenting individuals from different religions to marry each other. The legislation, however, has its own set of issues, ranging from time constraints to lengthy procedures. Specific clauses of this legislation violate the Indian Constitution's Part III, which protects fundamental rights. The regulations that require providing notices exposing private information about married couples should be amended since they violate the right to privacy.

Additionally, the penalty for making false objections to a marriage should be significantly enhanced to dissuade persons from filing false objections and causing unnecessary delays in marriage registration. Many people's worries would be alleviated by these changes, improving the law's efficacy.

Anti-conversion legislation is a hot subject in India. As previously said, if we examine them in light of the Constitution and certain Supreme Court and High Court decisions, we will determine that they are not unconstitutional. However, when we evaluate them in light of recent court decisions upholding the freedom to select one's life partner and the right to privacy, these regulations appear to be problematic. It is necessary to resolve the ambiguities in these laws.

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