Apex court judge mourns inconsistency in judgments

Saturday, November 13, 2010

LUCKNOW - Expressing concern over inconsistency in judgments, Supreme Court judge R.V. Raveendran said Saturday that such anomalies had led the common man to lose faith in the judicial system.

“People are afraid of courts because of various anomalies in the practice of laws and filing special leave petitions (SLP) before apex court is regarded as a huge gamble,” he said, delivering the 10th Justice J.K. Mathur Memorial Lecture at the Ram Manohar Lohia Law University on “Anomalies in Law”

“The common man is often bewildered why he loses a case with identical facts, when another litigant gets relief,” he said.

According to Justice Raveendran, “these anomalies can be categorised in three groups - those arising out of defective drafting of various laws, those arising out of inconsistent judicial pronouncements and those due to failure of the legislative machinery to review and revise statutes in accordance with the changing needs of society.”

He said people are apprehensive of going to courts because of the inordinate delays in the judicial process, high costs and lethargic enforcement of court orders.

“If such a situation prevails people will refrain from seeking adjudication of civil disputes. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh are glaring examples having seen a sharp slide in the number of civil disputes,” he said.

Lamenting that personal prejudices and whims of judges have, of late, begun to influence their judgements, he said: “Well, we hear that such and such judge is pro-government or anti-government or for that matter a liberal or a conservative judge.”

He went to the extent of citing the case of a Supreme Court judge who never gave any judgement in favour of employers or landlords.

Stressing on the need to review and amend outdated laws, Justice Raveendran referred to the penalty of Rs.1,000 and an imprisonment of just six months for offenders charged with food adulteration.

“The amount of fine was determined way back in 1860 when IPC (Indian Penal Code) was enacted. Sure enough the amount is grossly disproportionate to the seriousness of the crime and that Rs.1,000 fine 150 years ago was equivalent to Rs.10 lakh today.”

Citing the facts of a case in which a Jharkhand party’s members were given a clean chit by the apex court, he said: “There should be no immunity for taking bribe, therefore, such views need to be given a fresh look,” he said.

Allahabad High Court Chief Justice F.I. Rebello said: “Law in books is different from law in action.”

Citing examples of kangaroo courts and child marriages, Rebello stressed the need to transform society.

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