SC stresses need for less sophistry in judicial verdicts and timely delivery

Although our country’s judiciary has accomplished remarkable achievements in the past 70 years, the realm between ideal and reality has grown wider and more distinct over time. A significant proportion of the major issues confronting our justice system are the slow delivery of justice, ineffective disciplinary mechanisms, and unwanted sophistry in legal proceedings that are beyond the general public’s comprehension. In the anticipated post-COVID era, owing to the significant increase in the number of pending cases, K RAVEENDRAN emphasises the importance of addressing and dealing with the judicial proceedings in a timely fashion and also incorporates simplifying legal verdicts for better understanding.


THE Supreme Court issued yet another verdict demonstrating that it will always try to side with the common man. A three-member bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Dinesh Maheshwari, and Hrishikesh Roy refused to strike down the Delhi Assembly’s summons to Facebook India Head Ajit Mohan. 

Referring to the Delhi riots, the bench said that the judicial system exists for the common man; and expressed grave concern over the unduly long time taken for arguments, counter-arguments, and court proceedings.   

The court also highlighted the importance of judges writing “more crisp, clear, and precise” judgments that litigants can fully comprehend.

The court’s provocation for some unusual remarks resulted in an excessively long four-month delay in issuing the case’s decision after it was reserved. 

The hearing lasted 26 hours, which the court described as a ‘huge fraction of judicial time’. The court also stated that it was consciously bringing this issue before the legal fraternity so that there could be a debate on “the importance of succinctly framed written synopsis in advance, and the same being adhered to in course of oral arguments to be addressed over a limited time, and more crisp, clear, and precise judgments so that the common man can understand what is the law. After all, the judicial system exists to serve the common man, the court stated.

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The Indian Judiciary’s Excruciating Pace over the years

The court stated that delays in legal proceedings have been a scourge in our country, and there cannot be a refusal to abandon old practices, especially when they have outlived their usefulness. The costs of our complicated and lengthy adjudicatory process are borne by the litigants. The judges hold the responsibility of ensuring speedy justice by writing ‘clear and brief judgments that litigants can understand’. 

It emphasised the importance of returning to the fundamentals of communication and even referred to the Wren and Martin principles of precis writing. 

The judges also expressed their opposition to citing voluminous judgments in support of a line of argument where it could have been avoided without affecting the relevance of the argument and believed that if the proposition of law is not questioned, there is no need for a precedent unless requested. In this regard, they noted that frequent references are made to Privy Council judgments or earlier years of the Supreme Court.

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The conflict between sophisticated court verdicts and common man understanding

It is a common sentiment that judges often write their verdicts as if they were literary works. A well-written judgement is, of course, a pleasure to read and often reveals the personality of the judge who dictates it, and it is also true that some of our judges were also excellent writers. However, this should not be a source of frustration for the litigants, who are frequently victims of virtual sophistry in legal proceedings.

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The existing snail’s pace of judicial decisions and its impact on the post-COVID era

The court stated how both parties liberal filing of pleadings, written synopses, additional written synopses, rejoinders, and responses contributed to the unreasonable delay. Contrary to their intended purpose, the convenience compilations themselves were rather huge. The bench also expressed concern that if the proceedings continue in this manner, it will be extremely difficult to deal with the post-COVID period, which is expected to see a rise in the number of cases pending adjudication.

The judges noted that the Supreme Court had 67,898 pending cases as of May 1, 2021, and that the time spent on routine matters leaves little time to settle legal principles pending before larger benches that may have an influence on the judicial system in the future.

Another cause of concern is the duration of interim proceedings. Even bail issues in criminal proceedings are argued for hours at a time and on multiple levels. 

The situation is very similar in civil proceedings, where considerable time is spent at an interim stage when the primary objective should be only to safeguard the parties’ rights by a short order and spend the time on the substantive proceedings instead. In civil proceedings, interim orders have no contextual relevance. This is why, according to the postscript, we have become courts of interim proceedings where final proceedings conclude after ages—only for another round of civil proceedings of execution to begin. (IPA Service)