Role of Media in ensuring that Justice Reaches
fact that the President of India cleared a mercy petition of a victim
who had been convicted 7 years ago by the highest Court of the land has
naturally made news. If the Executive which has to only review the facts
and circumstances based on the trials already conducted in three or four
different Courts needs 7 year’s time to decide yes or no on the mercy
petition, no body can blame the Judiciary which takes ages to decide on
the underlying cases.
Most criminal cases in
India get decided after the victim and his relatives are dead and gone.
Even murder cases are often delayed beyond the life time of the
immediate kith and kin of the victim who would have been very keen in
the beginning to see that the offender gets punished. By the time
justice is rendered, everybody would be aged enough to have shed the
initial enthusiasm and resign to fate. It is a great way of promoting
philosophy that nothing is in our hands and God sees the truth but
waits..sometimes into your next birth.
If this is the fate of
criminal cases, one can imagine the fate of Civil cases which many times
go beyond one generation into the next generation or two. If the
Grandfather has filed a property case, it gets settled in favour of the
grandchildren. In the meantime the Grandfather and the Father would
perhaps be reborn somewhere else and fulfilling their karmic destiny.
I have heard many
advocates being proud of getting adjournments and tell their clients
that even if I cannot win your case eventually, I will get you
adjournments and ensure that the case drags on for a decade. They also
place their faith on draining out the energy of the victims until the
time they come for a compromise. Like “Squatting” of property this is a
new method of gain which we may call “Justice Squatting”.
All persons who are
interested in Judiciary being respected must think on we can improve the
situation. The key to the answer lies in the Judiciary itself. It is the
Judges who grant adjournments without valid reasons who need to hold
themselves responsible for the delays in the Court. Advocates are
perhaps doing their duty the clients though they are often mistaken to
be serving the Courts for rendering justice. It is like the Indian
Cricket players who owe allegiance to their Franchise owners more than
the Country and their attitude is understandable.
There is however no
compulsion for a judge to grant needless adjournments knowing fully well
that every such adjournment is a pain to the other party. Some Judges
may try to compensate the victim through exemplary damages being given
in their favour in the end. But this is like letting an injury happen
and then apply medicine rather than prevent the injury itself.
Many times the
procedures of Civil Procedure Code are blamed for the delay. However,
more than the procedure itself, it is the way it is implemented that
causes a delay. For example, CPC clearly says that no adjournments
should be granted without valid reasons and if adjournments are caused
by reasons such as nonappearance of a party, the cost of the adjournment
should be borne by them. It would be interesting to see statistics if
this provision has ever been invoked.
Sometimes Courts admit
petitions without examining them in detail and grant interim stay on
proceedings elsewhere. In such cases one judicial authority actually
causes delay in the delivery of justice by a lower judicial authority
without even applying its mind. Even when the Court to which an interim
stay application is made is the appeal court which would naturally hear
the same case on appeal after the decision of the lower court, the Court
proceeds to admit a petition for stay and issue notices to the other
party delaying the process by 2 to 3 weeks. If the other party submits
any reply, time is again given to the petitioner to reply in the next
hearing which may be after a few more weeks. Then there may be arguments
and counter arguments, with adjournments in between and the process gets
delayed for nearly a year before the Court may come to the decision that
there was no case for admitting the petition in the first place.
In Civil cases where one
party is holding on to the property of the other party, every delay is
an opportunity for the wrongful holder of the property to enrich himself
before he is forced to repay the amount with nominal interest. In case
of Bank frauds, the Bank will be earning at 36% p.a. while in the end it
may pay back the money with interest 12% p.a. Every delay is therefore
an opportunity to earn at the rate of 24% .p.a. It is therefore a great
strategy for a Bank to let any dispute go to Court and let the victims
fight for years. Even if they lose the case in the end, they would have
gained by way of opportunity benefits.
It is in this context
that the role of Media in highlighting certain cases becomes useful to
the society. Though we may call it as “Trial by Media”, it often quicker
decisions. The need for such media intervention is therefore necessary
to ensure that the judicial system is not rendered more and more
inefficient due to lack of timely delivery of justice.
The need for such
intervention is there not only in cases such as the 2G scam but also in
other cases where the victim does not have the resources to fight a long
legal battle against a powerful business entity. Such instances arise
frequently in Cyber Crime cases involving Banks where customers who have
lost their funds through frauds in the Bank arising out of the Bank’s
negligence file cases against the Bank. In the current context where all
Banks use electronic systems for account keeping, all such frauds come
under the purview of Information Technology Act (ITA 2000) (Current
version often referred to as ITA 2008), which was designed to provide
quick justice through a system of “Adjudication” and “Cyber Appellate
Those who framed the
initial laws and the rules for adjudication and appeal at the CAT gave
lot of thought to reducing the delays and complications of procedures
and designed a model system which was meant to bring positive changes to
the way civil judiciary could address such disputes. Hence there were
suggested time limits, suggestion to use video conferences etc. Though
the two agencies were given the powers of a Civil Court, they were freed
from the procedural hassles of CPC. Thus the infrastructure for a fast
redressal of disputes arising out of Cybercrimes was put in place in
India way back in 2000.
Though in recent times,
there is an attempt by some litigants to make these cyber judiciary
institutions revert back to inefficient systems used by the civil
courts, there is still hope that Cyber Judicial officers will not let
the systems degenerate and lapse into a state in which today our Civil
Courts find themselves in.
If the hands of such
honest judicial officers are to be strengthened, there is a need for
media to become more conscious of the cases that are before the Cyber
Judiciary. Unfortunately, despite huge national interests involved,
Cyber Crime cases of civil nature does not attract media attention.
Cases where there is pornography attracts media but cases where a
customer of a Bank has lost money due to Phishing does not appear to be
as sensational as the pornography case. Media is therefore losing an
opportunity to observing, reporting and catalyzing developments in the
Adjudication Offices across the country and the CAT. Many Journals send
their reporters routinely to Court halls to find out what is going on.
But most of them have no idea of what is going on in Adjudication
offices or the Cyber Appellate Tribunal.
If Media was more
pro-active and had been reporting the developments in the Adjudication
offices and the Cyber Appellate Tribunal, by this time lot of awareness
would have been created in the public for these institutions. We may
recall that one article in Ananda Vikatan (Tamil publication) resulted
in a spurt of complaints to the Adjudicating Officer in Tamil Nadu.
Today Tamil Nadu Adjudicating officer has already disposed of 4 cases
and is sitting on more than a dozen other complaints making it an icon
amongst Adjudication officers. Media need to study the reasons for such
phenomenal success and bring it to the notice of the public.
In fact Bangalore which
boasted of the first Cyber Crime Police Station in the Country is unable
to register even one case of adjudication indicating the value of what
Chennai Adjudicator has so far achieved. I wish the National Legal
Service Authority recognizes the service rendered by the Chennai
Adjudicating Office for the contribution made to the cause of judiciary
Similarly, media should
be reporting on the cases pending at the CAT where some cases are in the
final stages of disposal. Though the CAT came into being in 2007, it was
only in the last year that the first proper appeal was filed with CAT
and that is awaiting disposal.
The appeal which arose
out of an earlier adjudication in Chennai is being heard by CAT in a
sitting in Chennai itself on 1st
June 2011 which is likely to be the last hearing before judgment is
pronounced. Media should therefore keep its eyes and ears open for the
outcome of this hearing. Of course one of the parties to the case has
successfully delayed the proceedings of this case which ought to have
been otherwise completed by this time, using all the tricks known to
advocates and may try to see that the June 1st
hearing is also aborted without progress. Hopefully their efforts may
not succeed and we may see the culmination of one of the most celebrated
Adjudication case in the country which is today part of discussions in
The appeal when decided
is also expected to give rulings on many interesting aspects of Banking
law and practice in the digital era and is bound to be also a part of
every text book on Cyber Crimes from now on. It has the potential of
being an internationally celebrated judicial decision.
Hopefully, the vigilant
Chennai media will not miss an opportunity to follow the deliberations.
27th May 2011
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