Welcome judicial activism

A shameful blot on our criminal justice system is the phenomenon of undertrials rotting in jails for periods longer than the maximum punishment imposable upon conviction. One of the reasons is the inordinate delays in the trial inter alia because of lack of adequate trained Public Prosecutors (PPs). In this context, the anguished observations of a Bench of the Delhi High Court, comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Manmohan, were most timely. The Court suggested that in every magistrate's court there should be one PP and wondered how one prosecutor could handle more than three courts and satisfactorily manage cases. The Bench noted that lack of adequate number of trained PPs is a main contributory factor for the problem of undertrials. The judges rightly observed that a country governed by the rule of law cannot tolerate the pathetic situation about lack of PPs in courts. The Bench asked the principal secretary (home) and the law secretary of Delhi government to visit and inspect the working conditions of PPs in various courts of the city. If this be judicial activism, it is most welcome because it enforces the right of under-trials to a speedy trial guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution.

UK Supreme Court

The House of Lords has been replaced by the UK Supreme Court which is now the highest court of appeal in the United Kingdom. It was established by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. The Court is housed in a building opposite the Big Ben. The atmosphere in Court is genial, not forbidding. The court rooms are spacious and brightly lit. There is pin drop silence in the Court. Counsel respectfully answer occasional polite queries from the Bench without loud interruptions from counsel on the other side. The day I visited the Court it delivered an important judgment in which by a majority of 6 to 3 it ruled that the Human Rights Act 1998 did not apply to British armed forces on foreign soil, viz. Iraq. A noteworthy feature is that a concise press summary outlining the facts of the case, the legal issues involved and the reasons for the judgment is issued at the same time by the registry with the approval of the Court to "assist in understanding the Court's decision". Judgments of the Court are available on the same day. Adoption of this practice in our Supreme Court is worth consideration.

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