As part of my first court Internship, I attended and witnessed the court proceedings in two courtrooms of District Court Saket, New Delhi. Contrary to my imaginations, the court premises was decked in modern infrastructure, clean and pleasing ambiance with many young but erudite and charming Judges and lawyers busy in their proceedings in various courtrooms and chambers. In a country like India where government departments and public offices are generally known for their notorious procrastination, I saw hope and optimism of a new India which is efficient, smart and modern.
Courtroom 1– I was primarily there to witness a check-bounce proceeding but witnessed some other proceedings as well. Many counsels asked for adjournments and further dates when their turn came and in one case the judge got annoyed and told the counsel that this will be his last adjournment. He appeared careful so as to prevent happening of any kind of injustice due to successive adjournments and the resulting delay. Please mind that the Civil Procedure Code of India provides for at most 3 adjournments only (Order 17 CPC 1908).
Courtroom 2-Here I witnessed a cross-examination of a witness. It was a defamation case filed by a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law. Both complainant and respondent belonged to a weak socio-economic background. The counsel from defendant side cross-examined a witness produced by the complainant who was some distant relative of the parties. The shrewd lawyer tried to contradict the shabbily dressed poor witness who looked very innocent and confused. But the young lady judge was careful and circumspect in not letting the counsel put any unreasonable or annoying questions by promptly responding- it’s wrong to suggest so and so... I liked her demeanor, jovial nature and empathy she had for the parties. Please mind that S.151 and S.152 of the Indian Evidence Act 1872 prohibit putting indecent, scandalous or annoying questions to witnesses during cross-examination.
In both these courtrooms, I found judges taking an active interest in the cases before them and were eager to take them to their logical conclusions at the earliest convenience. Tarikh pe Tarikh appeared to be a thing of the past as both judges were reluctant to give adjournments and further dates without plausible and satisfactory reasons even though many lawyers displayed a keen interest in demanding more adjournments and dates. Contrary to the popular perception that in a common law jurisdiction judges only act as a passive referee and moot spectator while counsels on both sides do the bidding, I found these judges in commanding positions who were putting a series of questions and cross-questions to counsels and clients on both sides. And all of that did not appear to me mere procedural compliance but seasoned with good reasoning and logic. The Judges were smart and quick in detecting false excuses and lies put from any side. It was a beautiful learning and energizing experience to be a part of all of this and has certainly strengthened my faith in the Indian legal system and especially in the new entrants of the system be it Judges, lawyers or someone else. Last but not the least, I would like to say that if most courtrooms in India have started functioning in a similar manner as these two which I witnessed, then Indian legal system is certainly moving in a right direction and I wish it keeps doing so while strengthening its integrity, transparency, accessibility, and efficiency. Efficiency both in terms of cost and time and integrity in terms of honesty and good-faith should be the hallmark of any justice delivery system. Besides, we all know that justice delayed is justice denied.
Best wishes and regards!