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Meaning of “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied”
The saying ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ is quite famous and used often. It has a deep and significant meaning which reflects true situations. It is a legal maxim which has historic origins.
Justice delayed is justice denied is a maxim which means that even if remedy against an illegal injury caused is available but not executed in due time, such a situation is comparable to having no remedy at all.
When justice is not provided to the injured party in timely manner, and is prolonged to an insufferable amount of time, it is a form of injustice to the injured party. Apart from the opportunity to get justice, it is also necessary for justice and remedy to be provided in a speedy manner.
There are many theories as to the origin of the phrase. One account suggests that the phrase ‘justice delayed is justice denied finds its roots in the Pirkei Avot, which is the teachings passed down by the Rabbis.
The phrase was also used in the famous charter Magna Carta. As long ago as 1215 CE, the phrase was reflected in clause 40 of the Magna Carta which reads as “To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice.” Therefore, the meaningful idea of the phrase is centuries old.
This popular and relevant saying has been used by various famous personalities to highlight various situations. It was first used by William E. Gladstone. William E. Gladstone was one of the most prominent politicians of Britain. Later, he became the Prime Minister of the country.
He said this quote to highlight the problem of delay in justice. Later, the phrase was also used by Martin Luther King Jr., the pioneer of black rights and equality in America. In his famous ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that “justice too long delayed is justice denied”.
He used this phrase to highlight the injustice and racism faced by the black community in America by the government and the ruling white community. Such a situation of injustice had been going on for far too long, leading to denial of justice to the one who had suffered.
Thus, he wrote this to highlight the bleak situation if gross violation of human rights of the black people which had been going on for a long time, which in a way, also amounted to denial of justice.
On the 15th of August, 1947, India finally got its freedom. It had been denied justice for far too long. India fought back, peacefully, and gained independence from the British colonialists who had no choice but to give in to the will of millions of Indians who provided a united front. But, the British had left India poor and struggling.
The justice system that India has today is a product of the British rule in India. The judiciary system of India is based on the British model. But the important fact is, this model is quite old and outdated. It is because of this outdated system of courts organisation in India, that there is a delay in providing of justice.
And when that delay is prolonged for far too long, it amounts to the denial of justice itself. Is such a system healthy for the largest and perhaps the most vibrant democracy in the world?
Let’s take the example of case of a motor car accident. In this accident, the victim has suffered huge loss because of the negligence of the defendant. Due to the accident, the victim is no longer able to provide to her family. As she was the sole bread earner of the family, the family is left destitute and devastated.
The case is pending before the court. Due to delays, backlogs, fees, etc., the case is tried for 10 years. Only after period of ten years is compensation provided to the victim. Is the compensation of any use now? The victim and his family suffered for 10 years.
The children could not get proper education and the family became destitute. Such a situation is not reversible. Justice, in this case, is denied due to the delay in providing it.
In fact, the Indian Judiciary is so infamous for delays that people prefer not to seek court remedy if they can avoid it. Is such a mindset good? This would ultimately result in people having no faith in their own Judiciary. Such a situation would be quite dangerous.
Then, why are there so many delays in the delivery of judgments? In India, there are about 10,000 courts. We have one Supreme Court which is the highest branch of Judiciary in India, twenty- one High Courts in various states, 3150 District Courts, one in each District of India and about 3825 Magisterial courts divided into First class and Second Class.
Apart from this, we also have various tribunals, Lok Adalat’s, etc. According to a recent survey, there are more than 34 Lakh cases which are pending in High Courts and more than 4 crore cases that are pending in District Courts. This is the situation of the Indian Judiciary. Many of these cases will take years to finally resolve.
Apart from the number of courts, the number of judges is also inadequate. With a population of over a billion, India needs a lot of judges for speedy disposal of cases.
But, this has not been done in India. For example, in Mumbai which is the economic capital of India, there are 50 magisterial courts, serving more than 12 million people. Therefore, a court serves a population of over 2 lakhs! Such is the situation in just one city.
The scenario in all of India is just as bleak. According to a survey, a population of about 10 lakh is server by a mere number of 12 judges in India.
Not only this, many judges that are appointed are incompetent and ineffective. If lawyers give proper advice and judges give proper judgement, the problem of delay will be solved.
Lawyers are also a cause of delay in providing justice. Some keep on extending the case to extort money from their client while others keep delaying the dates of hearing to harass the other party of the case.
In some cases, the accused is kept in prison till her trial is on- going. If after a lot of delay, it is finally proved that the accused is in fact not guilty, will it not be injustice? She spent years rotting away in prison when she was not even guilty.
Because of delay in providing justice, her life is over. Other delays are also caused by corrupt officials and judges. Judges are appointed not by the Judiciary but by the Executive. The party in power appoints judges who favour them, which leads to corruption and mal- practices.
Then, what can be done? To make sure there is no delay, the number of courts and judges should be increased. The mechanism to file a case should be simplified and made less costly. The judges should be appointed according to stringent requirements and guidelines. This would only be a starting step. There are many other measures that need to be taken.
Dr. Cyrus Das rightly said that, “Justice is a consumer product and must therefore meet the test of confidence, reliability and dependability like any other product if it is to survive market scrutiny. It exists for the citizenry, at whose service only the system of justice must work” Thus, delay in justice cannot be tolerated.
Our constitution protects us against injustice. As humans, it is our basic right to get justice. When this justice is denied, it leads to many problems which are often irreversible. Thus, it is indeed true that when justice is delayed, it is denied. This should be the basic guideline of all governments in the world to better serve its citizens.