New Delhi: Frowning upon routine adjournments, the Supreme Court has said that speedy disposal of cases was the "primary morality of justice and ethical fulcrum of the judiciary".
"The foundation of justice, apart from other things, rests on the speedy delineation of the list (of cases) pending in courts," said the apex court bench of judges KS Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra in a recent verdict.
"It would not be an exaggeration to state that (speedy justice) is the primary morality of justice and ethical fulcrum of the judiciary," the two judges said.
"Its profundity lies in not allowing anything to cripple the same or to do any act which would freeze it or make it suffer from impotency," Justice Misra said, speaking for the bench.
Holding that the "virtues of adjudication cannot be allowed to be paralyzed by adjournments and non-demonstration of due diligence to deal with the matter", he said: "One cannot be oblivious to the feeling necessities of the time.
"It is devastating to expect infinite patience. Change of attitude is the warrant and command of the day."
The court said this while taking note of 10 years taken by the Rajasthan High Court in deciding whether an appeal in a civil matter pertaining to a piece of land involved a substantial question of law.
The case was instituted in 1990. On September 12, 1997, the civil judge (junior division) of Nohar in Hanumangarh dismissed the suit and decreed in favour Noor Mohammad.
The additional district judge of Nohar July 10, 2001 dismissed an appeal against the lower court order by appellant Jethanand.
This was challenged in the high court July 27, 2001. The appeal was dismissed as no one appeared on behalf of Jethanand.
The apex court noted that in 2004 an application was moved for the restoration of the dismissed appeal. This was allowed Jan 9, 2006.
"As the order sheet would reflect, time got comatosed for more than six years and eventually ministerial order of restoration was recorded on 11.5.2010," the apex court noted.
The apex court said: "The proceedings in the second appeal before the high court, if we allow ourselves to say so, epitomizes the corrosive effect that adjournments can have on a litigation and how a list can get entangled in the tentacles of an octopus.
"It is also astonishing that the lawyers sought adjournments in a routine manner and the court acceded to such prayers..."
The judges observed that "unfortunate characteristics of endemic delays have to be avoided at any cost."
"One has to bear in mind that this is the day, this is the hour and this is the moment when all soldiers of law fight from the path. One has to remind oneself of the great saying, "Awake, Arise, 'O' Partha"."
Referring to its earlier judgments, Justice Misra said: "This (apex) court, in different contexts, had dealt with the malady of adjournment and expressed its agony and anguish. Whatever may be the nature of litigation, speedy and appropriate delineation is fundamental to judicial duty."
Noting that in a democratic set up, "intrinsic and embedded faith in the adjudicatory system is of seminal and pivotal concern", the judges said: "Delay gradually declines the citizenry faith in the system."
Holding that the access to speedy justice was a human right, the court said: "It is faith and faith alone that keeps the system alive. It provides oxygen. Fragmentation of faith has the effect potentiality to bring in a state of cataclysm where justice may become a casualty.
"Timely delivery of justice keeps the faith ingrained and establishes the sustained stability."