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Right to Justice soon to be a Fundamental Right
The Union Law Ministry's proposal to make Right to Justice a guaranteed right under the constitution, will entitle every citizen of the country to time-bound justice, ensuring right to acquittal if trial does not start within a specified time pe

The new year holds out hope for the aam aadmi as the UPA government quietly gives the final touches to its most ambitious piece of legislation so far, barring probably the Right to Food Act. It is learnt that the Union Law Ministry has finalised the draft of the proposal to make Right to Justice a fundamental right.

While the Supreme Court, in a number of rulings, has stressed the need for right to speedy justice and free legal aid, successive governments have failed to translate the court’s orders into legislative acts.

“The government intends to ensure that receiving justice is the right of each and every individual, irrespective of his or her caste, colour, creed, social and financial status.

“We intend to place the draft before the Cabinet soon. While the Constitution does have certain provisions regarding need for speedy justice, there is no specific provision confirming justice as either a fundamental right or constitutional right,” Law Minister M Veerappa Moily told The Indian Express.

“We want to bring a law to make Right to Justice a right guaranteed under the Constitution, like the Right to Education. We want no poor citizen to be deprived of his rights due to absence of a mechanism to provide legal aid to him or his failure to make use of available options due to illiteracy. We feel every act of injustice corrodes the foundations of democracy,” he said.

Sources said the Ministry plans to make court cases time-bound, with a fixed time frame within which each court will have to decide a case; institutionalise the public interest litigation; and streamline the system of ‘letter petition’, which refers to the process of a citizen activating the court by simply writing a letter in matters concerning violation of fundamental rights.

A striking feature of the proposed law is that an undertrial will be entitled to be released on bail after spending a specified time period in jail. Granting bail to an undertrial will no longer be the prerogative of a Judge.

However, the proposed law will not cover those who are accused of terrorist and anti-national acts or are accused under laws such as Arms Act and NDPS Act.

Although there is apprehension that the higher judiciary may not agree to the contentious issue of fixing a time frame for deciding court cases, it is learnt that the Law Ministry has decided to push ahead with this reform as it feels that litigants have the right to speedier and time-bound justice.

Law Ministry officials point out that even the Supreme Court, in a number of cases, has held that litigants have the right to speedy justice and free legal aid if they can’t pay lawyers’ fees.

The Government of India is already working closely with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on developing a web portal for ‘Access to Justice for Marginalised People”.

“When we talk of Right to Justice, it will involve a constitutional amendment for which we will talk to all stakeholders. But the time has come for India to emulate developed countries in making justice a right of the common man. We are also planning to improve the criminal justice system,” said Moily.

The proposed legislation will also set a time-table for the disposal of each case and develop a case management system. “Basically, we are planning to propose that the courts deal with similar cases as bunch matters and also fix a tailored time-table, taking into account the claims of the parties and time required to settle each law point,” explained a Law Ministry officer who is involved in drafting the legislation.

A three-tier case management system, which is in the works, provides for increase in the jurisdiction of small-claims courts, new fast-track courts for certain types of cases and a new, improved multi-track system for other types of cases.

Sources said the Ministry also intends to review the working of the legal aid system in the country as well as the alternative dispute redressal system.


Source: The Indian Express