Legal NGO wants ban on lawyers’ strikes

TIMES OF INDIA

KOCHI: Fiat Justicia, an NGO working in the legal field, has approached the Kerala high court seeking a ban on strikes by lawyers. The strike by lawyers on July 11 and 12 led to gross miscarriage and delay of justice and is against the specific directions of the Supreme Court in the matter, the petition filed through advocate M R Hariraj said.

Lawyers in Kerala had stayed off courts on July 11 and 12 as a mark of protest against the High Education and Research Bill and alleging encroachment upon the functions of the Bar Council of India as well as the State Bar Councils by the ministry of human resources development. The decision to support the strike was adopted by the Bar Council of Kerala in a meeting of the state council and all bar associations on July 1.

According to the petition, the court must restrain lawyers from resorting to strike and impose penalty on those engaging in it. It is also alleged that the Centre, state and high court didn’t take any action to avert the strike. It resulted in adjournment of over 90% of cases and is a violation of the directions of the Supreme Court in various judgments, the NGO contends. The NGO also points out that a representation was made to the chief justice of India demanding initiation of suo motu proceedings against those who conducted the strike.

The high court should issue specific directions to lower judicial forums that fall under the high court’s administrative superintendence as the supreme court held in Harish Uppal vs Union of India case in 2003 that damage caused by illegal call for strike by lawyers to parties must be compensated by suo motu action by the concerned courts.

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Fixing time limit for speedy trial will prove harmful: SC

SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

DHANANJAY MAHAPATRA IN THE TIMES OF INDIA

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court may have declared in numerous judgments that speedy trial was intrinsic to right to life of an accused, but on Wednesday the court said it was apprehensive about fixing a time limit for completion of a criminal trial as it could be misused by intelligent criminals.

This comment came from a bench of Justices H L Dattu and C K Prasad during the hearing on a petition by advocate Ranjan Dwivedi, who has sought quashing of the trial proceedings against him in the L N Mishra murder case on the ground of inordinate delay saying the 37-year-long trial has blighted him personally, physically and socially.

Senior advocate T R Andhyarujina said Dwivedi was 27-year-old when the bomb blast at Samastipur railway station killed Mishra on January 2, 1975. The trial has dragged on for no fault of his, and now the accused is a frail 64-year-old. He said there was a grave danger of immense prejudice during the trial of Dwivedi as 31 of 39 defence witnesses cited by him to prove his innocence have died. As many as 22 judges have handled the trial at various stages.

“It is a unique case. The apex court has declared that right to speedy trial was a requirement under Article 21 guaranteeing right to life. But, the trial has dragged on for 37 years. In 1992, the Supreme Court had directed day-to-day trial in this case for a speedy conclusion. Two decades later, we are no where near the end,” Andhyarujina said.

“Whether the accused would get convicted or acquitted is immaterial. The question important here is whether any judicial system would tolerate such inordinate delay? Should the Supreme Court allow it to continue any more,” he added.

The bench said there was no denying that delay had been frequent in the judicial system in India. “Delay will continue to happen given the system we have. Delay definitely affects the trial but can the Supreme Court fix a time limit for completion of a criminal trial. The SC had earlier in a judgment specifically struck down fixation of a time limit for completion of trial,” it said.

“It is a unique case. But if we quash the proceedings, we may be sending a wrong signal, which may be used by an intelligent accused at a later date. We do not want this to happen because of our order,” the bench said.

The court was apprehensive that if a time limit was fixed on the trial, then an unscrupulous accused could deliberately delay the trial by challenging every order against him in higher courts and thus designed delay the trial to seek its quashing after a decade or so.

The bench said since the trial has reached the fag end after dragging for nearly four decades, it could ask the trial court to complete it in the next three months by holding proceedings on a day-to-day basis refusing adjournment on any ground to the accused and prosecution. It asked Andhyarujina and additional solicitor general Harin Raval to give their views to expeditious completion of the 37-year-long trial by Thursday.

Role of Ananda Marg was suspected in the case, and several people were arrested. The chargesheet was filed against several people, including Dwivedi. The trial was transferred to Delhi by the Supreme Court in December, 1979, after the attorney general alleged that Bihar government was interfering with the trial. Charges were framed against the accused in 1981. Dwivedi was granted bail in 1978.