Bounced cheque cases clog Delhi courts, says study

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New Delhi, Jul 28 (UNI) Clogging of magistrates' courts in Delhi by a load of as much as 55 per cent of cases of dishonoured cheques is leading to endemic delays in criminal trials in the country's capital city, a study says.

A study published by a Hong Kong-based NGO says Delhi courts take between one to five years to complete cases, including those concerning crimes committed 20 years ago.

The study done by a practicing city lawyer found that on the ordinary working day of 16 November 2007, a single magistrate had the incredible number of some 74 cases to examine.

Mr Salar M Khan, in his study published by Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), found that in sessions courts, around 67 per cent of the pending criminal trials were one to five years old, 12 per cent six to ten years, 4 per cent 11-15 years, and around 2 per cent more than 15 years old.

Similarly, in magistrates' courts, about 51 per cent of cases were between one to five years old, 21 per cent six to ten years, 7 per cent 11-15 years, and around 1 per cent cases were pending for more than 15 years, said the 80-page report released last week.

ALRC executive director Basil Fernando said the Delhi study could be read as indicative of conditions across India, adding in many parts of the country these are far worse.

Mr Khan said 40 per cent of matters listed before sessions judges were not meant for trial, while the figure of such cases rose to ''an incredible 70 per cent'' in magistrates' courts.

The lawyer listed 55 per cent of cases of bounced cheques under The Negotiable Instruments Act, pending of 59 per cent cases at the stage of prosecution evidence, leading to culture of adjournment; low budgeting for judiciary and less number of working days among causes of delay in the judicial system.

He said that while Delhi government's budget increased by 61 per cent in the last two years, the rise for judiciary was 37 per cent.

Subordinate judiciary, he said, functions for an average of 220 days in a year in Delhi if leave and training period of judicial officers and their preoccupation with official functions are deducted from 280 working days.

On proposed amendments in criminal procedures to cut down delays and other flaws in the judicial system, Mr Khan said; ''Most of the proposed solutions are likely to undermine further the entire judicial system''.

''Many provisions (of the amendment bill) are either deficient or entirely incompatible with settled principles of criminal jurisprudence,'' he added.

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