SrinagarHoping that the strength of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court would be raised to 25 soon, the outgoing Chief Justice of the state, Justice Badar Durrez Ahmad, said that judges in the JK HC had to hear four times the number of cases their colleagues in the Delhi High Court handled.
In his farewell speech after retiring on March 16, Justice Ahmad also expressed grave concern over what he termed as the states suboptimal criminal justice system, which, despite the judiciarys remarkably swift adoption of modern technology, was still bogged down by the lack of modern techniques and scientific procedures.
Justice Ahmad opposed calling the Jammu and Kashmir High Court a small court, saying that its pendency rate was akin to the Delhi High Court where out of a sanctioned strength of 60, 38 judges were in place.
This (J&K) High Court is regarded as a small court because our sanctioned strength is 17, out of which only 10 judges are in place. But the work load is very heavy, he said.
We have a combined pendency of about 62,000 cases which means that each judge has to shoulder the burden of 6,200 cases, he said.
In the Delhi High Court, the pendency is almost the same, 64,000 cases, but 38 judges are in place there out of a sanctioned strength of 60. So the Delhi HC has 1680 cases per judge, he said.
This implies that the judges of this court (J&K High Court) have to hear approximately four times the number of cases handled by the High Court of Delhi, he said.
Justice Ahmad praised his colleagues on the Srinagar and Jammu benches and members of the bar for the swift adoption of technology in the court room, saying that the introduction of paperless e-courts was the result of a huge collaborative effort.
The J and K High Court is now a front runner in the adoption and use of technology in the court rooms Like in any large venture, here too there are many behind the scenes players, Justice Ahmad said, naming the various court bodies and individual officers, including those from the divisional administration who, according to him, had contributed significantly in the projects swift completion.
Justice Ahmad expressed serious concern over what he termed as the suboptimal criminal justice system of the country in general and of the state in particular.
The first problem is with the quality of investigation, he said. Our investigating officers are intelectualy and infra-structurally ill-equipped, he said.
Modern and scientific techniques, which are available worldwide are not being used. Even earlier-used techniques like finger printing are rarely employed. Forensic science laboratories are dysfunctional, he said.
The pattern in almost every case is of alleged criminals easily confessing before police officers although such confessions are inadmissible, he said. Disclosure statements loose significance as the recoveries pursuant to such disclosures are not established by concrete evidence, he said.
The second difficulty is that even the course of trial is plagued by adjournments and consequent delays. As a result, the evidence, in most cases, is recorded several years after the crime, he said.
Even in this High Court appeals are not being disposed of as expeditiously as they should be. One of the main reasons, is the huge shortage of Judges. Another cause, though easily remediable, is the lack English translations of depositions of witnesses, he said.
Despite these road-blocks, I am confident that my colleagues would leave no stone unturned in ensuring that the older criminal appeals are taken up for hearing on a priority basis, he said.
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