The Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court is to be hailed for responding so expeditiously to the letter written to him by Assam Chief Minister Sarbanda Sonowal on March 26 urging him to consider setting up of fast-track courts for day-to-day trials of cases of rape and murder of women and children and for early disposal of such cases and prompt punishment of the culprits. The Chief Justice of Gauhati High Court lost no time in responding positively to the Chief Minister’s request. At a meeting held at the office of the Chief Justice on Wednesday, an administrative committee of the High Court, comprising its Chief Justice and several judges, resolved to approve the matter of setting up fast-track courts to render justice to rape and murder victims. The committee also resolved to work out the modalities as required and submit a report within three days. According to reports, in his letter to the Chief Justice, Chief Minister Sonowal had expressed grave concern over the brutal rape and murder of a minor in goan district recently and also over similar cases of rape and murder taking place across the State. He had also expressed remorse over the fact that even though women had traditiolly enjoyed a high position and respect in Assamese society, such incidents of savagery against them were beginning to take place in the State. In his letter, Chief Minister Sonowal had also praised the efforts of the Gauhati High Court to try cases under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1971 that had led to speedy conviction of culprits, which eventually had led to decrease in poaching cases in the State.
With this positive response of the Chief Justice of Gauhati High Court to Chief Minister Sonowal’s request, there is every reason to believe that there will be a welcome change in the entire attitude of the judiciary to the handling of cases relating to heinous crimes like murder and rape—especially to crimes committed against women and children. The unfortute experience of people living in Assam and in the other northeastern States of the country is related to the law’s delay, whereby the well-known adage “justice delayed is justice denied” has taken a deep root in the psyche of the people to the extent that the general expectation is that justice is generally very late in coming from our law courts, and in some cases, one might even be regarded as fortute if justice is delivered during one’s lifetime. What is indeed surprising is that quite often crimil cases move as slowly in our law courts as civil cases. It is well known that in the Calcutta High Court and in quite a few high courts, a civil case might take over 40 years to come up for hearing. There are known instances of crimil cases in Assam taking well over 10 or 12 years for sentence to be delivered. Such extensive delays of the law turn our legal processes and initiatives into farces that work in cruel ways with elderly people being forced to seek justice in their seventies and eighties. This is a state of affairs that promotes crime and motivates crimils into taking greater risks with crimil activities because they are well aware of the law’s delay. Most of them count on their ability to escape any kind of punishment in their lifetime.
It is high time we recognized the effect of the law’s delay on the mental make-up of the crimil and the extended life-span he is able to give himself because of delay in pel action. The judicial machinery helps in giving crimils many more opportunities for crime by failing to deliver justice expeditiously and efficiently. Is this what hardened crimils should be entitled to expect from civilized societies? There can be no justification in the judiciary and the bar conniving at ways to keep the law’s delay uttended when we have crores of long-delayed cases pending in our courts. The judiciary needs to take a pledge to end the law’s delay in view of the people’s suffering it has led to over the decades.