Excellent Opportunity for Law Courts to Reduce Pendency
Opportunities come along with every threat.   The same holds true for corona virus (COVID-19) because of which time has come to a standstill due to the unavoidable lockdown. 
 
An office order dated 15 April 2020 announced that the functioning of the High Court of Delhi and all courts subordinate to it shall remain suspended till 3 May 2020. The hearing dates for all matters earlier listed between 16th April and 2 May 2020 have been adjourned en bloc by two months. 
 
Exceptions have  however been made for taking up urgent matters, especially regarding those involving the right to life and liberty which is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
 
District and sessions judges have been empowered to allow judges and court staff to work from home wherever possible. To decongest the courts, hearings must preferably be done through video conferencing. 
 
Similarly, the High Court of Punjab and Haryana has limited its functioning to hearing only urgent matters and those too through video conferencing.  All cases listed between 15th April and 1st May have been adjourned en bloc by one month.  All officers/officials of the HC will be required to work from home till further orders.
 
Clearly the schedules of the courts have gone haywire.  As of July 2019, more than 3.5 crore cases were pending across various courts in India. This figure will balloon up further due to the current limited functioning of the courts caused by reasons beyond anyone’s control. Urgent steps are needed to mitigate the hardships being faced by the litigants and ensure that delivery of justice is not delayed.
 
Simple Initiatives to Reduce Pendency In Courts
 
The High Court (HC) of Delhi has taken the lead by announcing vide its order dated 13 April  2020 that the HC as well as all courts subordinate to it will function during the month of June 2020 and forego their summer vacations. 
 
At the time of writing this article, the Supreme Court (SC) was yet to take a similar decision. If the SC and other HCs also decide to work in the month of June 2020, it would immensely help to make up for the lost time.
 
As stated above, High Courts of Delhi and that of Punjab and Haryana have adjourned cases en bloc by two months and one month respectively. A cursory glance at the website of HC of Delhi reveals that this includes many cases which were already fixed for orders.  Some of these even pertain to fundamental rights of the citizens. 
 
This approach needs urgent review. To use an old cliché, one size does not fit all. Extraordinary times also call for extraordinary measures.
 
It is imperative in the interest of justice that orders must be pronounced, even during the lockdown, in cases where final arguments have already been concluded.  Because of the limited functioning of the courts at present, the judges and their staff must make full use of the luxury of extra time at their disposal to finalise and pronounce the orders and bring down the number of pending cases. 
 
The understanding of the merits of the cases, which are currently fresh in the minds of the judges must not be allowed to be diluted.  This will also obviate the possibility of   transfer of cases from one judge to another in the interim which only results in waste of precious judicial time and public funds.  Pronouncement of the orders during the lockdown will not be prejudicial to interest of either party. 
 
Besides ensuring timely justice, it will also position the courts to tackle efficiently the surge in fresh cases once the courts resume normal functioning.  
 
Filling of vacancies in the courts is another step which can be worked upon constructively during the current conundrum. 
 
Opportunities for All
 
The opportunities in the current scenario to reduce pendency, increase efficiency and implement the law effectively are not limited to the courts alone. Other agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigations, the Serious Frauds and Investigations Office and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) must also utilize this opportunity to conclude, wherever possible, their investigations in the ongoing cases. 
 
In my earlier article, I had highlighted how the Wadhawans of the Dewan Housing Finance Ltd (DHFL) had made a mockery of the law by evading  summons from the ED and then travelling from Khandala to Mahabaleshwar even during the lockdown. Although a little late, the ED has now moved the High Court of Mumbai for cancellation of the bail granted to Kapil Wadhawan.
 
Taking even a few cases to their logical conclusion is the best way to ensure compliance with the law and deter other offenders. 
 
(Sarvesh Mathur is a senior financial professional, who has earlier worked as CFO of Tata Telecom Ltd and PricewaterhouseCoopers.)
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    COMMENTS

    raviforjustice

    6 months ago

    Thanks to the author for raising this issue ML for publishing it. The more citizens question our courts the better it will be for rule of law.

    Kumar123

    6 months ago

    A little surprised. No offence but a finance professional sharing his advice on reducing pendency in court during lockdown? Suggesting CBI etc to work during lock down? Is it an opinion piece? On what standing.

    REPLY

    raviforjustice

    In Reply to Kumar123 6 months ago

    This is weird logic. Do you need to know how to cook before you can appreciate good food? Or direct a film before criticizing one? In any case, justice and hence the performance of the judiciary affects us all, doesn't it? And last but not the least ignorance of law is not an excuse, except, may be, for the advocates and judges. Or why should there be advocates at all as middlemen between litigants and judges; the litigants should be knowing the facts at least and the judges, the law, for sure.

    Kumar123

    In Reply to raviforjustice 6 months ago

    Sure I can express my view on food, and film as a layman. But does that mean, a popular publication should publish it? We expect credible / expert opinion on the subject - when we read something on a media site. There is a difference between me or you reviewing a film and Rajeev Masand reviewing a film. No offence, but what is there in the article above, apart from generalization. It can come in a self-blog but not here.

    Students can't be forced to deposit fees during lockdown: AICTE
    The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) in a letter to all the colleges and institutes providing courses on engineering, management, architecture and pharmacy has instructed them not to compel students to pay fees during the lockdown.
     
    The AICTE has issued a letter to these colleges on the instruction of the Ministry of Human Resource Development. The letter stated that students can't be forced to deposit fees during the lockdown. It also contains instructions to pay the salaries of teachers and not to sack them.
     
    A senior official of the Ministry of Human Resource Development said. "Instructions have been given to take this step keeping in mind the interests of students and teachers during the lockdown".
     
    AICTE Secretary Prof. Rajiv Kumar has issued the suggested guidelines. All colleges and educational institutions have been directed to provide this information on their website and notice board.
     
    Students, teachers and educational institutions have also been urged not to believe in any kind of fake news on social media, and trust the information available on the website of AICTE, UGC and Ministry of Human Resource Development.
     
    Also, the Prime Minister's Special Scholarship Scheme will also continue as usual. 
     
    Students who have not been able to do internship due to the lockdown can complete it online from home. 
     
    At the same time, the UGC committee is preparing the report on online examination and semester examination. Based on the report, the AICTE will release a new academic calendar for 2020 and a new guidelines for the annual examination.
     
    Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
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    Blacklist Media Groups That Terminated Employees & Announced Closures Amidst COVID19: Mumbai Press Club
    Coming out strongly against several media houses for shutting operations, firing staff and team and unilateral cuts in salaries of journalists and other employees, the Mumbai Press Club has asked the government to blacklist such media groups.
     
    In a release, the Mumbai Press Club urged the union government to blacklist all media groups that have carried out illegal terminations of employees and closures, and bar them from benefiting in any way from the government’s rescue package or tax waiver schemes, as well exclude these companies from being recipients of government advertising. 
     
    Mumbai Press Club says, "It has also come to our notice that despite this flouting of the law and killing of jobs by the media companies, they have on the other hand been appealing to government for aid. The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has written to the union ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B) on 9th April seeking waiver of 5% customs duty on newsprint, two-year tax holiday for newspaper establishments, 50% increase in advertisement rate of Bureau of Outreach and Communication and a 100% increase in budget spend for the print media."
     
     
    It says, "At a time when media employees are going through challenging times and braving the coronavirus to go onto the field, and risking their lives to keep operations going, they have been ‘rewarded’ for their loyalty by the handing out of pink slips. These firings and closure of departments are both contrary to the due process of law, as well as violation of the advisories put out by the central government."
     
    "There is no doubt that business operations during the current lockdown are facing a crisis. However, it is expected that these companies should stand by their employees in this time of extreme crisis; and review their operations only when the situation eases. It is also not the case that all the media companies are in bad shape. The bigger groups like the Bennett, Coleman & Company (BCCL) or the Times Group, HT Media, the Bhaskar and Jagran Groups and ABP Ltd are profitable and doing well. The few months of losses cannot be held against their employees, especially when for years these are the very journos and employees who have slaved for them to turn in a profit," the Press Club says.
     
    As per the release, Hamara Mahanagar shut operations on 18th March citing poor business viability, while Outlook and Forbes India suspended print operations on 30th March and 27 March 2020, respectively. About 15 journalists of the Sakal Group were asked to resign on 31st March, Indian Express and Business Standard announced salary cuts ranging from 30% to 50%.
     
    A section of journalists at Quint were asked to go on leave without pay, others were asked to take a salary cut on 9th and 10th April. News Nation laid off its entire English digital team of 15 journalists and Star of Mysore suspended print operations on 12th April. Nai Duniya owned by Dainik Jagran suspended print operations on 13th April.
     
    Some of the big groups including Times Group, HT Media, Network18 Group and India Today Group have cut back or abolished emoluments and perks and are planning the shut down some departments and supplements and retrenching staff to save revenue. If these go through, huge job losses are on the cards, it says.
     
    It may be recalled that the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment had issued a circular on 20 March 2020 advising both public and private employers not to terminate employees or reduce wages. In his address to the nation on 14th April, Prime Minister Narendra Modi again reiterated in his ‘Appeal No.6’ to businessmen and companies not to terminate their employees at the time of crisis. 
     
    "It is in flagrant violation of the government’s directions that media houses have gone ahead and sacked personal and closed operations. These actions are also in breach of the law which requires government permission for closure and notice pay and other compensation under Sections 25 (O) and (F) as well as other provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act before terminating employees," the Mumbai Press Club says. 
     
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    COMMENTS

    Meenal Mamdani

    6 months ago

    This is the time when the public needs more than ever truthful, dependable news and yet the media houses are putting profit ahead of their duty to their employees and the public.

    The public should take matter in its own hands and send the newspapers/magazines a letter denouncing this move and in protest discontinue their subscriptions.

    raviforjustice

    6 months ago

    There is a quip in Malayalam that would translate to 'removing the rafters when the house is on fire'. This is what seems to be happening everywhere in the time of this pandemic. Some people are yet to learn the biggest lesson that this season should be teaching us- of sharing, caring and the age old dictum of simple living and high thinking.

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