Judges, lawyers join hands to fight backlogs

KATHMANDU, Jan 2: In their first meeting since their dispute in July last year, lawyers and judges of the Supreme Court on Sunday agreed in principle to take a number of measures to address backlogs and delay plaguing the country’s justice delivery system and the judiciary.

As per the agreement, hearing based on the panel system will be introduced for the first time in the Supreme Court with the aim to deal with mounting backlogs in the district courts, appellate courts and the Supreme Court, according to Nepal Bar Association (NBA) Vice President Hari Upreti, who participated in the meeting at the Supreme Court.

Experts said the panel system, which is in practice in many countries, would be effective in addressing backlogs as this measure holds member judges in the panel responsible for disposing cases allotted to him at any cost. At present, the number of unsettled cases in the courts across the country is 58,833, according to the latest Supreme Court report.

“This system is effective in other countries. However, it may not work in our country as it could encourage corruption since clients know who is going to take up their cases,” said a Supreme Court judge questioning the effectiveness of the new system.

The meeting, however, did not finalize the exact date when the new system of hearing would be introduced in Nepal.

“The Case Management Committee of the Supreme Court will take a decision in this regard after making necessary preparations,” Upreti said.

NBA and the Supreme Court judges had not met to discuss the problems facing the judiciary since the July 2008 conflict, one of the worst between them. The conflict had begun after NBA President Bishwa Kanta Mainali alleged that judgeship was a license to corruption. Then, the Supreme Court suspended the honorary senior title of Mainali license, prompting lawyers to boycott hearings across the country. Amidst widespread pressure on them to douse the conflict, they signed a truce on July 22.

Supreme Court Co-spokesperson Hemanta Rawal, who also attended the meeting, said both lawyers and judges have also agreed on managing time during hearings. It is widely believed in the legal community that justice is generally delayed as lawyers take more time during hearings.

“The practice of lead-lawyer will be applied during hearings,” Rawal said on another agreement. Under the lead-lawyer practice, the main (lead) lawyer is given more time during any hearing while other lawyers take time only when necessary.

Even in the past, the Supreme Court had tried to introduce time management during hearing but was unsuccessful due to non-cooperation by lawyers, said a Supreme Court official. It is common for lawyers to take even hours to plead during hearings.

Similarly, lawyers and judges also agreed in principle to introduce the concept of continuous hearing for the first time. Continuous hearing means the hearing continues till the case is finalized. It is the general practice in the judiciary to postpone hearing on a particular case for weeks and even months. This has made people feel the justice system time consuming.

Likewise, the lawyers and the judges have joined hands for addressing another major problem affecting the justice delivery system – delay in serving court orders and subpoenas. “We have agreed to introduce a new system of serving orders and subpoenas to lawyers of court clients to tackle the delay that generally occurs while serving orders and subpoenas” said Upreti.

Supreme Court Justices Min Bahadur Rayamajhee, Anup Raj Sharma, Ram Prasad Shrestha, Khilraj Regmi and Bal Ram KC were present while NBA President Mainali, Vice Presidents Upreti and Mukunda Poudel, Senior Advocate Harihar Dahal and former NBA President Shambu Thapa were present at the meeting.


Published on 2009-01-05 01:00:00