22 Asian Journal of Legal Education 5(1)
an average, the time length of a case from the date of ling to the nal disposal crosses the life span of
the litigant; and in common folklore, it is asserted that litigations in India are handed down from one
generation to another as part of their heirloom. Under the separation of powers doctrine, the judiciary is
an integral part of the state, and adjudication of disputes is one of the core functions of the state.
Independence, fairness and competence of the judiciary are the cornerstones of the Indian legal system.
But the large number of pending cases has crippled the efcient working of the judiciary and has
adversely affected the right of the citizens to timely delivery of justice.
Right to speedy trial is an integral part of the principles of fair trial and is fundamental to the
international human rights discourse. Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has
recognized the right to free and fair trial as an integral part of human rights, and Article 9(3) of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has highlighted the importance of an individual to
be tried within a reasonable period of time. The Indian Supreme Court in several of its leading judgments
has highlighted the need of speedy trial. The concept of speedy trial is read into Article 21 as an essential
part of the fundamental right to life and liberty guaranteed and preserved under our Constitution.2
Speedy trial is considered as one of the essential facets of reasonable, just and fair procedure post Maneka
In a democracy, the administration of justice is for the benefit of the citizens, and the lawyers and
judges are important instruments in the fulfilment of that objective. Courts are deemed to be custodians
and protectors of citizen rights. In the words of Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer, ‘The true conception of
the administration of justice is that the lowly concerns of the least person is the highest consideration to
the state and the court.’4 Thus, the judiciary being an integral part of our democratic system, all the
constitutional values and implications must be imported into the judicial process. In a democratic society,
the courts play a crucial role in seeing that neither license nor absolutism becomes dominant; hence, the
various challenges faced by the judiciary need to be effectively met at the earliest. In the words of Justice
A sense of condence in the courts is essential to maintain the fabric of ordered liberty for a free people and three
things could destroy that condence and do incalculable damage to society: that people come to believe that
inefciency and delay will drain even a just judgement of its value; that people who have long been exploited
in the smaller transactions of daily life come to believe that courts cannot vindicate their legal rights from fraud
and over-reaching; that people come to believe the law—in the larger sense—cannot full its primary function to
protect them and their families in their homes, at their work, and on the public streets.5
Article 14 of the Indian Constitution guarantees to all citizens ‘equality before the law and the equal
protection of the laws’, and Article 39A mandates the state to secure that the operation of the legal system
promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity and to ensure that the same is not denied to any citizen
by reason of economic or other disabilities. The Constitution guarantees all individuals with equal rights,
but unfortunately a vast majority of our citizens are not able to enjoy the rights effectively due to lack of
ability to enforce them. From the citizen’s perspective, the enforcement of legal rights are done through
2 Kartar Singh v. State of Punjab, 3 SCC 569 (1994).
Refer also Hussainara Khatoon (I) v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar, 1 SCC 81 (1980); Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration (I),
4 SCC 494 (1978).
3 Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, 1 SCC 248 (1978).
4 V. R. Krishna Iyer, Democracy of Judicial Remedies, The hindu, 7 Jan. 2003, http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/2003/01/07/
stories/2003010700561000.htm (last visited July 26, 2016).