Archive for September, 2013

Science Education – Critical Thinking

His first BEST lesson explains what he believes is what science education SHOULD BE!

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Posted by mark - September 30, 2013 at 12:55 pm

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Social Work and the Law


Registrant Name:Joseph R Smith
Registrant Organization:FloridaView Media LLC

Baltimore City Department of Social Services v Bouknight,

488 U.S. 1301 (1988)

A three month old infant was admitted for treatment in a hospital. It became apparent that the mother, Jackie Bouknight may have maltreated the infant. Consequently, the Department of Social Services (DSS) petitioned the Court to declare the child as a “child in need of assistance” and grant it the power to put the child under foster care (Baltimore City Department of Social Services v Bouknight, 488 U.S. 1301 (1988). The Court granted relief and it was agreed upon by the parties that Bouknight shall have the custody of the child subject to the conditions of supervised parenting and an undertaking of non-infliction of bodily harm and punishment on the child. At first, Bouknight complied with the conditions but later on she became uncooperative and refused to produce her son to the DSS.

The DSS in fear for the safety and well being of the child filed a case before the Court to compel Bouknight to produce her son. She failed to appear before the Court but was later on arrested. On her refusal to disclose the whereabouts of her son, she was found guilty of contempt and was ordered to be incarcerated until compliance with the order [In re Maurice, No. 50 (Dec. 19, 1988). 314 Md. 391, 550 A.2d 1135].

On certiorari, the Court of Appeals of Maryland ruled that the incarceration of Bouknight was an infringement of her Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination. According to the Court, the production of the son is testimonial in nature because by doing so, it only proves Bouknight’s “continuing control” over her son which may be utilized in a criminal proceeding. It ruled that there are acts of production deemed to have testimonial value citing the case of U.S. vs. Doe (Baltimore City Department of Social Services v Bouknight, 488 U.S. 1301 (1988).

The U.S. Supreme Court granted the stay of DSS pending the filing of the requisite petition for certiorari. The grant of stay was based on the fact that even assuming that the act of production of the child is testimonial in character, many line of decisions of the Court are clear that as between the public need vis-à-vis a single claim of an individual on constitutional privilege, the former is upheld. In this particular case, the safety and interests of the abused child must be upheld over Bouknight’s assertion considering that, in the hierarchy of values, the safety and welfare of the child takes precedence over other concerns (Baltimore City Department of Social Services v Bouknight, 488 U.S. 1301 (1988). Moreover, the information sought which is the whereabouts of the child is for the contempt charge and therefore civil in nature (Baltimore City Department of Social Services v Bouknight, 488 U.S. 1301 (1988).

The Fifth Amendment: Right against Self-Incrimination

The Fifth Amendment originated from England and derived from the Latin maxim “nemo tenetur seipsum accusare” meaning “no man is bound to accuse himself” (Levy, 1968). It was used in both the accusatorial and inquisitorial legal systems of England (Levy, 1968).

In the U.S., after the revolution the states ratified the Constitution with the inclusion of the privilege in the bill of rights. The original version of Madison was amended by the House to include “in any criminal case” (Schwartz, 1971). Thus, as it now stands, the Fifth Amendment provides, “. . . nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself . . .” (U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights). The primary purpose of its inclusion in the Bill of Rights is “to protect the innocent and to further the search for truth” [Ullmann v. United States, 350 U.S. 422 (1956)]. However, in subsequent line of decisions, the Court ruled that other privileges stated in the bill of Rights are more in the nature of adjuncts to the determination of truth such as the right to counsel or the safeguards afforded by the Fourth Amendment while the privilege against self-incrimination is primarily for “the preservation of the accusatorial system of criminal justice” [Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 460 (1966); Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757, 760–765 (1966); California v. Byers, 402 U.S. 424, 448–58 (1971)]. This maintains the integrity of the judicial system and protects the privacy of the individuals from government intrusion [Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 460 (1966); Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757, 760–765 (1966); California v. Byers, 402 U.S. 424, 448–58 (1971)]. The privilege is a guarantee against compulsion for testimonial evidence which consequently will result in the imposition of criminal penalty on such person making testimony.

The Court laid down the requirements necessary before a party can successfully invoke the protection of the privilege against self-incrimination. In the cases of U.S. v. Doe, (465 U.S. 605) and Doe v. U.S. [487 U.S. 201, 209 (1988)], the Court enumerated the three (3) requisites that should be present for the Fifth Amendment to apply, namely: a) “that the statement be testimonial; b) incriminating; and, c) compelled.” According to the court, ‘testimonial’ refers to all communications whether express or implied which “relate to a factual assertion or disclose information” (Ashby, J., 2006 citing Doe v. U.S., 487 U.S. 201). The statements or communications made whether verbally or in writing fall within the privilege (Ashby, J., 2006) and is not limited by the forum where it was elicited, i.e. before the court, administrative proceedings or before the law enforcement office [Lefkowitz v. Turley, 414 U.S. 70 (1973)]. The second requirement, ‘incriminating’ refers to statements that can be used as a basis for a finding of criminal liability under a penal law or “provides a link to the chain of evidence for prosecution under a criminal statute” [United States v. Hubbell, 530 U.S. 27 (2000)]. The third requisite is the compulsion to give a statement. The Court explained that this requisite refers to “circumstances that deny the individual a free choice to admit, to deny, or to refuse to answer” (Ashby, J., 2006). Additionally, the Court ruled in the case of Fisher v. United States that these three requisites should all concur and be present so that the privilege can be successfully invoked [425 U.S. 391(1976)].

Legal and Ethical Issues and their Impact on Social Work Practice

The main legal issue in the case of Baltimore is whether the circumstances surrounding it would fall within the ambit of the privilege against self incrimination and consequently, Bouknight may successfully invoke it and prevent her from being compelled to produce or furnish the whereabouts of her son lest be incarcerated for contempt.

The Supreme Court allowed the stay of the decision of the appellate court for overturning the ruling of the juvenile court and in finding that the compulsion for Bouknight to produce her son squarely fell within the privilege and therefore ordered her release (Alderman and Kennedy, 1992). The appellate court found that the act of production is testimonial and therefore its compulsion, is a violation of the privilege. Furthermore, the interest of the government in the safety of the son cannot outweigh the observance and respect for the privilege against self incrimination as provided in the Bill of Rights (Alderman and Kennedy, 1992). In other words, the three requisites concurred, i.e. the act of production or of furnishing information as to the whereabouts of her son are incriminating and testimonial in character; and, there was also compulsion because if she failed to disclose information sought she would be incarcerated for contempt as what had happened.

The Supreme Court through Chief Justice Rehnquist predicated his discussion on three major points, namely: a) The Court of Appeals passed upon a controversy concerning the federal Constitution which logically can be properly resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court (California v. Riegler, 449 U.S. 1319); b) The act of production does not fall within the ambit of the privilege citing the cases of U.S. v. Doe, Fisher v. U.S. and Schmerber v. California. In these cases, the court ruled that the act of production of the documents is not ‘testimonial’ and therefore does not infringe upon the privilege considering that their existence and location are already known to the Government. In fact, responding to a subpoena have been considered legal and acceptable even if compulsion is present [Fisher v. United States, 425 U.S. 391 (1976)]. Moreover, when an accused is required to furnish his handwriting sample, this had been held not to violate the privilege because it is not ‘testimonial’  but merely evidentiary United States v. Flanagan, 34 F.3d 949 [10th Cir. 1994]). The third point c) is by using the balancing of interests test or balancing the public need vis-à-vis ensuring the individual’s constitutional civil liberties, public need prevailed considering that the disclosure of information was non-criminal and not directed at a particular group as was held in the case of California v. Byers, 402 U.S. 424 (1971) where the validity of a law requiring disclosure of the name and address at the scene of a vehicular accident. Similarly in the case of New York v. Quarles where the Fifth Amendment rights have to give way to a public safety exception and therefore in the case of Bouknight, “the public safety exception to the Fifth Amendment was justified because its interest was in protecting children like Maurice, not in prosecuting” (Alderman and Kennedy, 1992).

In sum, the privilege against self-incrimination is not an absolute right. Albeit the civil liberties accorded under the Bill of Rights safeguards undue government intervention and restraint to its power, there are instances when these rights would have to give way to compelling interests of the society that would warrant Government intervention and intrusion such in the case of protecting and ensuring the safety of infants or children from physical abuse. Once it has been established that a child is abused, it becomes the duty of the State to take over and protect.

The judicial pronouncement in the case of Bouknight has a pervading and far reaching implication on social work practice. This gives the social workers a great burden and responsibility to follow up sharply abused children in foster care or those released under an order of protective supervision. Admittedly, there is an apparent lack of strict protocols in the present system of child welfare agencies (Parks, 2005). A set of guidelines must be crafted to govern exigencies of missing children from foster care like supervised visits and court orders in cases of abduction like what have occurred in Maryland with “Ariel” who had been abducted by his mother Teresa B (Parks, 2005). Guidelines should also be drawn to address the coordinated efforts both with the law enforcement and child welfare personnel.

Tarasoff v. Regents of University of California,

17 Cal.3d 425

A graduate student from India, Prosenjit Poddar went to the University of California Berkeley to study naval architecture. It was there that he met Tatiana Tarasoff. A few kisses made him believe that they have a special relationship until Tarasoff bragged about her many relationships with other men. Poddar suffered depression until he sought professional help from Dr. Moore, a psychologist of the University Health Service. He confided to the doctor that he intended to secure a gun and to kill Tarasoff. On the strength of a letter request of Dr. Moore, Poddar was taken by the campus police, however upon assurance that Poddar was reasonable he was released. Upon the return of the University Health psychiatrist from his vacation, he ordered the destruction of Dr. Moore’s letter and did not recommend any further action on Poddar’s case.

When Tarasoff returned from her vacation, she was stabbed and killed by Poddar who at that time moved in with her brother already. The parents of Tarasoff sued the Regents of the University, its health personnel namely, Gold, Moore, Powelson, Yandell and the campus police namely, Atkinson, Beall, Brownrigg, Hallernan, and Teel  for “failing to warn their daughter of an impending danger” (Tarasoff v. Regents of University of California, 17 Cal.3d 425). At the lower court, the complaint was dismissed because there was no cause of action. According to the lower court, the defendants only had the duty to the patient and not to a third party.

The dismissal was appealed to the Appeals Court but which only sustained the dismissal. Thus, it was elevated to the Supreme Court of California. The appealed decision in so far as the university police officers, Atkinson, Beall, Brownrigg, Hallernan, and Teel finding them not liable to the plaintiffs was affirmed. However, in so far as the therapists and the Regents of the university, the appealed decision was overturned for reception of evidence in accordance with the pronouncements of the Supreme Court (Tarasoff v. Regents of University of California, 17 Cal.3d 425).

In fine, the complainants averred four (4) causes of action, namely: a) “Failure to detain a dangerous patient; b) failure to warn on a dangerous patient; c) abandonment of a dangerous patient; and, d) breach of primary duty to patient and the public” (Tarasoff v. Regents of University of California, 17 Cal.3d 425).

Anent the first and fourth causes of action, the Supreme Court ruled that the defendants cannot be held liable because of a specific provision of the Government Code or Section 856 thereof which grants immunity to public employees from any resultant damage or injury from deciding whether or not to confine a person with mental ailment. This provision is also applicable to the therapists because the law also refers to those who are capable of recommending confinement. As regards the third cause of action, the government immunity includes the “award of exemplary damages resulting from a wrongful death” and therefore, defendants cannot be held liable (Tarasoff v. Regents of University of California, 17 Cal.3d 425).

Anent the second cause of action, the Supreme Court found defendants therapists and Regents of the University to have failed to comply with their duty to warn Tarasoff of the peril to her life. Albeit, the therapists had no direct relations with Tarasoff, they could have reasonably foreseen the danger and threat to her life as confided by their patient, Poddar. This is the point where the law establishes the duty of care on their part to warn Tarasoff. Their failure to warn her may reasonably concluded as a proximate cause of her death. The duty of confidentiality between patient and psychotherapist and the right to privacy of the patient cannot prevail over public interest or public safety. Moreover, there are clear provisions of laws, i.e. Section 1024 of the Evidence Code and Section 9 of the Principles of Medical Ethics of the American Medical Association which allows the physician to divulge matters confided to him in confidence when it is necessary for public welfare (Tarasoff v. Regents of University of California, 17 Cal.3d 425).


The effective therapeutic relationship between physician/psychiatrist and patient rests largely on trust that matters confided by the patient during the treatment are kept in strictest confidence by the physician/psychiatrist.  It is the ethical duty of the physician to observe privacy and confidentiality of his patients (Corbin, 2007). While it is also of public interest to ensure that treatment of those who are mentally ill by maintaining an atmosphere whereby they can have an open dialogue with their therapist and of safeguarding its confidential character; the same public interest calls for an imperative recognition of instances whereby disclosure of the confidential communications be revealed and be made to safeguard public safety and avert the threatened peril. In the instances, where the public safety is at risk, the therapist must disclose confidential information discreetly with due regard to protecting the privacy of his patient (Tarasoff v. Regents of University of California, 17 Cal.3d 425).

The parameters of confidentiality are defined by law and by the ethical code of conduct for practitioners in the territorial jurisdiction. In the case of Tarasoff, the Evidence Code and the Principles of Medical Ethics of the American Medical Association provided specific and limited exceptions under which the confidentiality privilege can be breached, i.e. “if the psychotherapist has reasonable cause to believe that the patient is in such mental or emotional condition as to be dangerous to himself or to the person or property of another and that disclosure of the communication is necessary to prevent the threatened danger; unless he is required to do so by law or unless it becomes necessary in order to protect the welfare of the individual or of the community” (Tarasoff v. Regents of University of California, 17 Cal.3d 425).

It would be wise for the practitioners to familiarize themselves of the limits of confidentiality as provided under the laws considering that it may differ from state to state. The Tarasoff case provided a basis to guide a practitioner in his professional dealings relative to the duty to warn others in cases of a specific threat of harm by his patient against others/another. Subsequent cases followed the consistent pattern of the jurisprudence laid down by the Supreme Court. In the case of David v. Lhim (1983), the plaintiff-administrator of the estate sued the psychiatrist who treated the son who killed his mother after he was released from the hospital. There was failure on the part of the psychiatrist who treated the son to warn the mother of the potential danger after her son confided his intentions of killing her (Corbin, 2007). In another case, Chrite v. U.S. (2003), the Veterans Administration was held liable for having failed to warn the intended victim of a patient of a threatened harm. Subsequent rulings of the court clarified and defined what constituted ‘threat’ as “imminent threat of serious danger to a readily identifiable victim” and “specific” (Corbin, 2007).

When there are no specific provisions of the law, Dickson (1998) proposes that the therapist/practitioner may be protected against lawsuits if he would consult and keenly document the case of the patient or comply with the “mandated reporting guidelines” required by some states. Reamer (2003) on the other hand, suggests that the therapist must have evidence that the patient is a threat to the safety of another; evidence of that the threat can be foreseen; threat is imminent and that the potential victim is identifiable.

Legal and Ethical Implications and their Impact on Social Work Practice

The duty of reasonable care to assist others in danger is a legal duty as well as a moral duty. However, American negligence law only recognizes it as a moral duty except when there exists a relationship between parties. In the case of Tarasoff, no special relationship existed between the therapist and Tarasoff; however the court has made an exception to this general rule (Bickel, 2001). It declared that the therapist has the duty to care and to warn Tarasoff of the imminent harm on her life. This also includes the duty to control the conduct of his patient, Poddar. In the same breath, a doctor has the duty to warn his patient if he has a contagious disease (Saltzman and Furman, 1999).

There is an affirmative duty for the therapist to advise and warn Tarasoff of the threat to her life although this meant breach of confidentiality with his patient Poddar. This finds basis both legally and ethically considering that the law and the code of ethics for doctors have recognized and provided specifically that doctors are bound to disclose relevant facts to others even if this violates confidentiality with their patients provided they are required by law or if it is required for public safety (Saltzman and Furman, 1999). This legal duty to warn applies when the threat is specific and imminent and where the victim is “readily identifiable” (Bickel, 2001). The courts also have recognized the difficulty in assessing and predicting circumstances that may lead to harm or violence and consequently, adhered to the ‘professional judgment rule’ whereby the therapist is not held liable for errors of judgments. Liability attaches only upon showing that the conduct of the therapist was not in accordance with the “accepted professional standards” (Bickel, 2001).

There is an ambivalence that was created by the Tarasoff protective disclosure ruling with the practitioners (Kachigian and Felthous, 2004). Analogous cases and protective disclosure statutes in the different states were analyzed and it was discovered that there are no clear defined parameters of these duties. The therapist is required to a certain way betray his patient by disclosing matters which are protected by confidentiality. Considering the uncertainty brought about by the legal doctrine and court decisions, the undesirable consequence of which was deterrence for therapists to accept “treatment potentially violent patients” (Merton, 1982). Moreover, therapists are more inclined to have their patients committed in an institution so that threats to the safety of potential victims can be averted.

The Tarasoff protective disclosure was even extended recently to include even “communications made from a patient’s family member” as pronounced by the Court in the case of Ewing v. Goldstein (May and Ohlschlager, 2008). The dubious jurisprudential precedents by the courts in interpreting the protective disclosure statutes or its resort to common law instead of interpreting the statute left a vacuum in the definition of the duty to protect (Kachigian and Felthous, 2004). As a result, “clinicians must continue to rely on their clinical and ethical judgment, rather than statutory guidance, when considering potential protective disclosures or future drafts of protective disclosure statutes” (Kachigian and Felthous, 2004).


Alderman, E. and Kennedy, C. (1992). In our defense: the bill of rights in action. First Avon

Books edition.

Ashby, J. (February 2006).  Note declining to state a name in consideration of the fifth amendment’s self-incrimination clause and law enforcement databases after Hiibel. Michigan Law Review, No. 4, Vol. 104:779.

Baltimore City Department of Social Services v Bouknight, 488 U.S. 1301 (1988).

Bickel, R. Revisiting Tarasoff v. Regents of University of California: the scope of the psychotherapist’s duty to control dangerous students. Presented before the 22nd Annual Law and higher Education conference in Clearwater, Florida on 18-20 February 2001.

California v. Byers, 402 U.S. 424, 448–58 (1971).

Corbin, J. (Fall 2007). Confidentiality and the duty to warn: Ethical and legal implications for the therapeutic relationship. The New Social Worker, Vol. 14, No. 4.

Dickson, D. T. (1998). Confidentiality and privacy in social work. New York: The Free Press

Doe v. U.S., 487 U.S. 201, 209 (1988).

Fisher v. United States, 425 U.S. 391 (1976).

Kachigian, C. and Felthous, A. (September 2004). Court responses to Tarasoff statutes. Journal

of  American Academy of Psychiatry and Law Online, Vol. 23:263-273.

Levy, L. (1968). Origins of the fifth amendment: The right against self-incrimination.

May, S. and Ohlschlager, J. (2008). California alert! Tarasoff ruling expanded for clients who ‘go off.’ ECounseling. American Association of Christian Counselors.

Merton, V. (1982). Confidentiality and the dangerous patient: Implications of Tarasoff for Psychiatrists and lawyers. Emory Law Journal, Vol. 31:265.

New York v. Quarles, 476 U.S. 649 (1984).

Parks, A. (2008). Unless the Court of Appeals decision is reversed, MD children may not be. Daily Record The Baltimore.

Reamer, F. (2003). Social work malpractice and liability. New York: Columbia University Press, 2nd ed.

Saltzman, A. and Furman, D. (1999). Law in social work practice. Brooks Cole, 2nd edition.

Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757 (1966).

Schwartz, B (December 1971). The bill of rights: A documentary history. Chelsea House Publishers with McGraw-Hill Education.

Tarasoff v. Regents of University of California, 17 Cal.3d 425.

Ullmann v. United States, 350 U.S. 422 (1956).

U.S. v. Doe, 465 U.S. 605.

United States v. Hubbell, 530 U.S. 27 (2000).


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Posted by mark - September 26, 2013 at 11:26 am

Categories: Constitutional Law   Tags:

Fox Channe News …. Conservative?

The Young Turks: Hosted by Cenk Uygur and Ben Mankiewicz. Everybody understands that Fox News Channel is conservative. Watch live from 6-9AM ET on Listen from 6-9AM ET on Air America Radio

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Employment Discrimination Law In California – 7 Specifications That Protect The Employee’s Interests!

Compared to the other states the employees of Californian state are given more privileges under the Employment Discrimination Law. Under this law the employees have the right to find the job they like and can work provided they are responsible for it.

The Department of Housing and Fair Employment of the Californian state enforced the law of employment discrimination. By this law the employees are protected from discrimination and harassment at work.

The Californian law against employment discrimination provides protection to the employees from harassment and discrimination in several issues. Some of these issues include religion, sex, race, color, marital status, national origin, disability and age. The law also looks into the issues of refusal of leave in case of family, medical or pregnancy leaves and decent accommodations for the disabled.

The law against the discrimination of employees is applicable to those workers inside the state and to those companies which have a work force of fifty or more. The specifications of the law include:
1. Prohibition of the rule of limiting the use of a foreign language at work unless the work demands it. This means that an employee from a foreign country can talk in their native until the work demands the use of English
2. The employers are required to meet the employee’s needs when it comes to the accommodation of the ill or disabled. This means making a user friendly environment which includes desks, special chairs and ramps which can help the employees to perform better.
3. Medical or maternity leaves for at least four months are also expected from the employers.
4. The work place has to be made harassment free by the employers. The harassment includes hostile environment at work, sexual harassment and many more.
5. Prohibition of hiring people based on discrimination, meaning that the selection of workers must not be based on race or color but rather on the merits and qualifications.
6. Retaliating to a complaint or a future complaint by the worker should be prohibited.
7. The discriminated employees can get compensation and the employers will be fined. Attorney fee, reinstatement, front and even back pay are allowed by this law.

Compared to the federal regulations the California law against discrimination is stricter. The law lays emphasis on many important points compared to the federal regulations. The ups and downs of the California law against discrimination of employees end in the same point. Every person in the state can work they cannot be discriminated by the employers in any other terms other than their performance and qualifications.

Abhishek Agarwal

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Posted by mark - September 24, 2013 at 10:22 am

Categories: Rule of Law   Tags:

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

Jawaharlal Nehru, on the afternoon of March 19, 1955, while addressing the members of the Punjab High Court at the inauguration of its new building in Chandigarh, said, “Justice in India should be simple, speedy and cheap.” He remarked that litigation was a disease and it could not be a good thing to allow any disease to spread and then go out in search of doctors. Referring to an adage that “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied”, Pt. Nehru stressed that disposal of cases must not be delayed.

Securing Justice – Social, Economic and Political to all citizens is one of the key mandates of the Indian Constitution. This has been explicitly made so in Article 39 – A of the Constitution that directs the state “to secure equal justice and free legal aid for all its citizens.” But the experience of last 57 years shows that the state has failed to dispense quick, inexpensive justice to protect the rights of the poor and the vulnerable. Hon’ble Justice B.P. Singh, a serving Judge of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, spoke on the topic “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied: the Plight of Indian Poor” at Observer Research Foundation and said that “the situation today is so grim that if a poor is able to reach to the stage of Hon’ble High Court, it should be considered as an achievement. It has merely become a court of the rich.”

The justice delivery system is on the verge of collapse with more than 30 million cases clogging the system. There are cases that take so much time that even a generation is too short to get any type of redressal. A brief look at some of the judicial statistics would tell the true story of the state of justice in India today: –

On an average, 50 lakh crimes are registered everyday, which are sought to be investigated by the police.

The pendency of criminal cases in subordinate courts is in the region of 1.32 crores and the effective strength of judges is 12,177.

· The number of under – trials in criminal cases pending in the courts is 1.44 crores and of these over 2 lakh persons are in prison.

· On an average, Courts are able to dispose off 19% of pending cases every year.

The reasons for delay could be attributed to the fact that every case moves from the lowest to the highest level. Too many revisions, bails, applications make five cases of one. The Centre and the State Governments also contribute to the backlog. Not only is the Govt. the biggest litigant but also it creates fresh litigation because it doesn’t honour judicial decisions. Another obstacle to speedy justice is adjournments. As far as the situation in Subordinate Courts is concerned, the infrastructure is non existent and at times the judges have to write judgments with their own hands as they don’t have stenos. Every subordinate judge is caught between oppressive workload and hardly any time or facilities.

Constitution which mandates that the state shall secure that the operation of the legal system shall promote justice, on a basis of equal opportunity and shall ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen. The Judiciary is bound to shape the processes of the law to actualize the constitutional resolve to secure equal justice to all. A people who are illiterate by and large, indigent in no small measure, feudal in their way of life, and tribal and backward in large numbers, need an unconventional cadre of jurists and judges, if equal justice under the law is to be a reality. If there is breach, judicial power must offer effective shelter. Even if a legislation hurting or hampering the backward sector is passed, the higher courts have to declare the statute void, if it be contra-constitutional. In sum, the judicial process, in its functional fulfillment, must be at once a shield and sword in defending the have-nots when injustice afflicts them. And this must be possible even if the humbler folk, directly aggrieved, are too weak to move the court on their own and a socially sensitive agency advocates the cause. Securing justice – social, economic and political to all citizens is one of the key mandates of the Indian Constitution. This has been explicitly made so in the Article 39-A of the Constitution that directs the State – to secure equal justice and free legal aid for the citizens. But the experiences of last 57 years show that the State has failed squarely on addressing some very basic issues–quick and inexpensive justice and protecting the rights of poor and the vulnerable. The justice delivery system is on the verge of collapse with more than 30 million cases clogging the system. There are cases that take so much of time that even a generation is too short to get any type of redressal.


That it will take more than 300 years to clear the backlog of cases in Indian courts is proof enough that our criminal justice system is sick, stagnant and in urgent need of a complete overhaul. A committee was set up, a couple of years ago, under Justice V S Malimath to examine changes and its report came, coincidentally, at the time that justice was finally done in the Uphaar Cinema case and just before the fourth anniversary, Jessica Lal’s horrific murder. Both cases draw attention, in different ways, to the glaring flaws in our justice system.

In the Uphaar case it is shocking that it took ten years to establish that the 59 people died because of criminal negligence on the part of the cinema management and the Delhi government. It was clear from day one that nobody would have died had the cinema followed safety rules but because the wheels of Indian justice move at the pace of our national vehicle – the bullock cart – it took ten years for justice to be done.

Causes of Delay:-

Delay in disposition of cases– Due to huge pendency, the cases take years for its final disposal, which would normally take few months time. The arrears cause delay and delay means negating the accessibility of justice in true terms to the common man. The very core of a civil society and rule of law is the provision of justice, but the decision must be delivered within a reasonable time. It is totally unfair if a suspected criminal waits for trial for years and is ultimately found innocent. Similarly, the victim of the crime will be also not satisfied if there is no punishment to the criminal for so long. Only speedy justice could ensure effective maintenance of Law and order. Quality of justice not only promotes peace in the society but also strengthens internal security of the country. There are number of litigations which could be avoided if Govt. officials had taken interest, for e.g. section 80 of CPC require a prior notice of two months to Govt. by a party who wish to sue the Govt. The purpose of this section is to give time to Govt. to settle the matter with such party by taking proper and suitable action, and thereby could avoid unwanted and unnecessary litigation. But the utter failure of Govt. official in taking a quick, bold and suitable action inspite of giving time forces a person to file case.

Strength of Judges are inadequate according to population and bunch of cases. As of January 2005, pending cases in the Supreme Court number 30,000, in high courts over 33.79 lakh and in subordinate courts over 2.35 crore – a totally unacceptable situation. Much of this is due to shortage of judges. The ratio of judges to population is 10.5 to one million, the lowest in the world. Even this low level is not reached because of the accumulation of vacancies in the Benches -140 against the approved strength of 668 judges in high courts and 2000 against 15000 in subordinate courts.4

The infrastructure of the lower courts is very disappointing. Though, the Supreme Court and High Courts are having good infrastructure but this in not the same position with lower courts. The Courts have no convenient building or physical facilities. The executive has failed to provide necessary infrastructure to enable judiciary and function normally. Good library, requisite furniture, sufficient staff and reasonable space are the need of the qualitative justice. In some courts security systems is also not good. The legal profession is one of the most struggling profession but no social security scheme is available for lawyers, some financial aid should be provided to Bar associations or the new beginners by the government. The good working condition of the lawyers would help in the excellence of service and qualitative justice to the litigating public.

Competency of the Other Staff in Court : It should also be kept in mind that not only Judges and Advocates be competent but also the administrative and clerical staff. The clerical staff must be free from all type of corruption. This is the era of computerization. The highly technical and competitive clerical staff will also help in speedy course. We all know how much time is taken in getting merely a copy of the judgment? It is hard that money is used to speed up the process. The bribe giver does not wish, to get anything done unlawfully, but merely wants to speed up the process of movement of files and communication relating to decision. Certain sections of staff concerned do work only after taking money.

Investigative agencies generally delay : The investigation of crime It is generally heard that the accused gets bail as the investigating agency failed to submit charge sheet within statutory period. The combination of several functions, such as crime investigation, riot control, intelligence gathering, and security of VIPs by a single police force has a devastating effect on the criminal justice system. Nowadays, the crime investigation is not immune from the partisan politics. The power of the government to drop criminal charges against the accused has further abused it. The lethargic police investigation is also a ground of slow process of law.

Consider the condition of the poor victims of Bhopal gas Leak disaster, which took a toll of 15000 people. Twenty years had passed to that ghastly incident; still now victims were fighting for its compensation, which fails to measure up the damage caused to them. Consider the terrible situation occurred in August 1991 as massacre of Dalits at Tsundur in Andhra Pradesh. 13 years had passed to that incident, the families of the victims of Tsundur, still await justice for those who died. They say, they will not find any peace until the guilty are punished for their crime. Consider the condition of those girls who were brutally gang raped during the Godhra riots in front of their helpless family members. Consider the victims of Best Bakery case who still awaits justice to be dispensed in their favour but the climax starts with the key witness in the case turned hostile and the entire fate of the Bakery case is in turmoil. Today the victims of the all the above-enumerated cases know full well that the price of truth is extremely high.


“Still they are waiting… But for what? Whether all these amounts to justice?”


Remedies to Overcome Delay (Suggestions)

I. Talking about the strategies to deal with justice delay, an improved justice delivery system means cutting down the number of adjournments, reducing the time for arguments, keeping a check on review petitions/ frivolous petitions, stopping lawyers extending cases and so on.

II. Punishments should be very stringent and the implementing authorities should be tough so that crime comes down automatically.

III. Lawyers should encourage out of Court settlements.

IV. In case a lawyer looses a certain number of cases, his license should be suspended for sometime so that lawyers refrain from taking up frivolous cases.

V. Govt. Officials should be made personally liable for lapses so that cases against the Govt. are reduced.

VI. The number of appeals to be filed for each category of case should be fixed. Every litigant should not be allowed to go to the Hon’ble Supreme Court. If need be, the law can be changed accordingly.

VII. It is needed to establish a body at national level composed of Judges, Lawyers and Legal academics, which should be charged with a duty to conduct examinations for recruitment to Indian Judicial Service (IJS). Article 233 will have to be amended to confer power on the president to appoint members of Indian Judicial Services on the recommendation of National Judicial Service Commission. The creation of Indian Judicial Service is appeared necessary to get best available talent in the country.

VIII. There is urgently need to improve the basic infrastructure and management of resources. Modern technology and use of computers could also increase the efficiency of the court system. The judiciary has also to learn management techniques through training at all levels. Though, the Supreme Court and High Courts are having good infrastructure but this in not the same position with lower courts. The lower courts are the basic institution of justice and to improve the quality of the justice dispensed with, it is necessary to improve their infrastructure by modern technology. Lack of funds should not be allowed to enter in the way of development of infrastructure, as external security is necessary, internal maintenance of law and order is also necessary for the internal security, national interest, peace and progress. In general budget certain handsome amount could also be allocated to judiciary like defence and education or a separate judicial budget should be placed, like railway budget. The panel of government lawyer should also be on merits not on the basis of nearness to ministers. As the government is the largest litigant, more transparency is required on their part. Govt. counsel should be selected on the basis of merit, efficiency, integrity, by some transparent manner. There should also be some permanent vigilance provision to observe the working of the public prosecutors. Security system in courts also needs improvement for proper confidence of people and fearless functioning of system. Information-counter should be set up in every court for the convenience of litigating public.

IX. Our criminal justice system has the urgent requirement of Independent Investigative Agency. Delay in police investigation is also one reason due to which cases linger on for years. It is, therefore, good to create an independent wing of police force, fully in charge of crime investigation, and functioning under the direct control of independent prosecutors. That wing should be accountable to judiciary and not to particular government of a time. The practice of torture and third degree methods, extra judicial execution in fake encounters may be stopped also when crime investigation machinery became accountable to judiciary. Such type of police wing also became knowledgeable about the type and method of the evidence needed. Hence, baseless cases, which lead acquittal, also could come down. So, there should be co-ordination between police and prosecuting agencies. The early disposal of case also boosts the morals of police force and will save time, which would have been taken in producing arrestee to the court Horn time to time.

X. We have inherited British legal system, British prescribed it at that time, without considering the need of Indian society nor did they consider the practical of the procedure. So, this system is drawn from different sources without seeing the ground realities. Some people today prefer to keep quiet, rather than go to the court of law. So, now this system is more Indianised for making it fit to society. It is heard that in ancient time justice system was very good. The disputes were settled on the spot by delivering justice. But ancient justice proceedings were oral in general and therefore no much record is available. Now we can take modem know-how from the countries, which have best justice delivery system by getting acquainted with the procedure followed there, if fit to Indian society. The civil and criminal procedure codes and the laws of evidence have to be substantially revised to meet the requirements of modem judicial administration. Though most of procedural laws are effective even today but some provision needs revision, especially the civil laws. To lessen the burden of cases, we may introduce the concept of’ Plea-bargaining’ by decriminalization of those wrongs, which can justly be dealt with by compensatory remedies (Compensation to victim like in tort). The institutions involved in justice delivery system such as the police, the prosecution, and the court, prison etc.-requires to be reformed in terms of organization, procedures, resources and accountability. So that, nowhere citizen feels uneasiness. There should be time limits prescribed for adjudication. There should be uniform formats for the appeals and petitions to make the procedure easy. The judgment should be in brevity and clarity. The concept like of public interest litigation is always welcoming, which is affordable to common men. Hence, there is a lot of scope to improve the situation. For e.g. Section 301 Cr. P.c. should be amended to allow the victim to appoint a lawyer of his choice in addition to public prosecutor to defend his case. Similarly, Section 3 13 (3) of Cr. P.C. also be amended so that the accused would be held liable for refusal to give answer or telling lie. The victim will be allowed to cross-examine the accused to elucidate the truth. There must be some fixed time for presentation of written statement, counter claim and reply like the plaint, under the I imitation Act. After all procedural law is meant to further ends of justice.


While the problem of delay looks daunting, it can be dealt with, by having more fast track Courts, making judicial services more attractive thereby attracting good lawyers and filling up all vacancies at various Courts. We can conclude from the above discussion that we should not resort in extra-ordinary hurry-up of cases by whatever means. As justice delayed is justice denied, similarly, the saying, justice hurried is justice buried is equally true. Therefore, sufficient, reasonable and due hearing of every cases with consideration of its circumstances is the necessary requirement of natural justice and balance of convenience. In fact, the untiring efforts put by fear and flavorless Indian Judiciary is doing commendable job of imparting justice in spite of so many difficulties, which created faith of public in the rule. Of law is a great achievement, which really requires deep appreciation. Social justice will be possible only if the entire concept of egalitarian politico-social order is followed, where no one is exploited, where every one is liberated and where every one is equal and free from Hunger and poverty. The proverb ‘Justice Delayed is Justice Denied’ is proved as it is denied to the poorest of the poor. Providing basic necessities to them will amount to Justice because the definition of justice varies from individuals to individuals on the basis of its economic conditions. According to B.P.Singh J the situation today is so grim that if a poor is able to reach to the stage of a high court, it should be considered as an achievement.  Cases should be decided for imparting justice not for the sake of its disposal. Secondly, Arbitration procedure must be utilized as a better option for quick disposal of cases. Finally, to conclude with the words of Lord Hewet as it is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.

“Without Justice, life would not be possible and even if it were it would not be worth living” ……Giorgio Del Vecchio

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