Speedy trial is a fundamental right implicit in the guarantee of life and personal liberty, enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution. Anyone denied this right is entitled to approach the Supreme Court under Article 32.
Though the speedy disposal of cases is related to the fundamental rights, litigants are deprived of it in majority of the cases. One of the biggest hurdles in enforcing this right is unnecessary adjournments sought by rival parties on one pretext or the other. Adjournments on lame excuses have, particularly, become the bane of the judicial system in the country.
Whenever the law is enacted, the intention of the lawmakers is to provide speedy disposal of cases to the litigants, but these provisions are implemented by the members of the bar and the concerned parties. A party, which has a weak case, will always try to delay the disposal of the matter to harass the other party. Sometimes the harassment is to the extent that the other party is compelled to arrive at a compromise with the other party, outside the court. In various pronouncements of the apex court, the lawyers have been described as the officers of the court.
They are duty-bound to help the court in solving a dispute between the two parties and are not supposed to complicate the matter. But the observation of this duty is lacking to a large extent as the profession of advocacy is attached to livelihood which compels its practitioners to apply delaying tactics. Complexities are created deliberately and they fail to understand that the actual interest of their litigant is being jeopardised. This attitude of advocates is increasing the pendency of the cases and adding to the burden of the courts in the country.
It is experienced in civil litigation that injunction suits are termed as highly charged cases where both the parties are bent upon letting each other down. In such type of matters, if a stay is not granted to a party, the other party continuously intervenes to hamper the litigation with the help of adjournments. Similarly when the stay is granted, the party which gets it tries to prolong the litigation with the help of adjournments on flimsy grounds. Likewise, in criminal litigation also, the accused tries to delay the proceedings till the complainant arrives at a compromise and uses adjournments as the best instrument for this purpose.
While considering the serious sideeffects of this kind of attitude of the advocates, the legislators are now compelled to make laws in which the role of advocates is minimised. It is left to the discretion of the court whether the presence of an advocate is required in a particular matter. For example, in the Motor Vehicle Act 1988, the advocate cannot appear for a litigant without the permission of the court.
It is also seen that due to the complexities created in courts, the legislators are passing such type of laws in which the jurisdiction of the courts is expressly barred and separate tribunals are constituted. These tribunals are beyond the ambit of the bar and are actually controlled by the State.
This, certainly, challenges the independence of the judiciary. Another serious side-effect of frequent adjournments is that many people now refrain from taking legal recourse and try to settle their disputes by other means, many of which could be illegal.