Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Whoosh! 260 cases on a day ! - Telegraph

A junior district judge in Andhra Pradesh has disposed of 260 cases on a single day, setting what some lawyers saluted as a record but also raising concern that he may have taken procedural shortcuts.
In Nellore’s Venkatagiri town court, judge Yesurathnam is being called “Judge Dredd”, a character played by Sylvester Stallone who hands out summary justice in the futuristic, eponymous Hollywood film. The sleepy weavers’ town, jolted awake by the judge’s feat, is jokingly referring to last Friday as “Judgment Day”.
On that day, Yesurathnam tackled 157 criminal and 103 civil cases (mainly property and tenancy suits) in 13 hours, working from 10am to 11pm, giving each case an average of three minutes.
Of the criminal cases ---- mostly thefts, street brawls, road accidents and domestic quarrels ---- he dismissed 102 for lack of evidence, jailed the accused in 13 and handed out fines (totalling Rs 73,500) in 42.
“I’m not trying to enter any record book, Guinness or Limca,” the judge told TV channels, basking in his feat. “It just so happened that the cases were listed together and were easy to decide.”
Some senior lawyers and retired judges, however, said such “breakneck speed” could impact the quality of judgment. The state government and Andhra Pradesh High Court are planning a review of some of the 260 cases, a law department spokesperson said.
“We want to know the procedure he followed,” he said. “His methods (if found valid) may be repeated in other courts to clear the state’s backlog of 1.2 lakh cases.”
Some lawyers said the Indian judiciary, groaning under a backlog of 3 crore cases, should learn from Yesurathnam. “It’s been a great relief for all — the accused, witnesses, advocates, victims and the police,” said C.V. Prasad, circle inspector of Venkatagiri.
An accused ordered to pay a compensation of Rs 5,000 in a road accident said: “I had running about the police stations and the courts for a year; I’m glad it’s ended.”
A petty thief fined Rs 900 said: “I have been in jail waiting for trial for nearly seven months just for this.”
It isn’t clear if any of the plaintiffs or defendants felt the judge had handled their cases too summarily and planned to appeal in higher courts citing the pace at which the rulings came.
Even before his Friday feat, Yesurathnam had made a name for himself in Nellore, having disposed of over 600 cases since being posted to the Venkatagiri court four months ago. Earlier, a civil judge at Mangalagiri court in Guntur had disposed of 111 cases in a day and a sessions judge at Kaithal in Haryana clocked 148 cases at one ago, working 18 hours at a stretch.

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