Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dispensing Justice or Dispensing WITH Justice?

The StarOnline reports that "The Malaysian Bar passed a no-confidence motion on Saturday against the Key Performance Index (KPI) measures introduced by the Chief Justice and is demanding its immediate withdrawal before a protest is called".

The KPI system was introduced with the idea of quick disposal of cases. In other words, the faster the greater number of cases are disposed of, the more efficient the court is. If court A can dispose of 20 cases compared to court B which can only dispose of 5 cases within the same time period, then, court A is considered efficient.

Sure, many cases have been heard (and some struck off) and disposed of quickly. The main criteria being speed.

While I think the administration within the corridors of justice (eg the filing, the extraction of cause papers and orders) should really be speeded up, I am not sure I can agree to the criteria of speed in hearing cases. Justice surely cannot be hurried but should be duly administered. The key word is "duly administered". All parties should be given reasonable time within the facts of each case and circumstance the chance to be be duly heard.

The Courts, the "government lawyers" and the private lawyers are all officers of the Court and each have a role to play. The rope of justice experiences tension when one party thinks or behaves in a dominating manner to the exclusion of the other.

For instance, in the matter of postponements, the perception is that it is alright for judges or the government lawyers to postpone but not the private lawyers. Why is this so I can never understand when the grounds are reasonable. Isnt the ordinary citizen who is represented by his lawyer entitled to prepare his case fully?

The other problem is even the Judges are feeling the strain of speed. There are good judges in our country who are able to use their judicial discretion but there are also human beings with human failings among them. It is this interference of human failings that may leave the public with a sense that justice was not done because speed often makes it seem that justice was not seen to be done.

Imagine a judge being very quick to deliver a judgement without hearing the other side because the other side was not present in Court. Those days, the Judge will stand down the matter and ask the lawyer present to call the other lawyer's office to find out what happened. After all, the other side lawyer could be struck by lightning or a huge trailer! I had also insisted to call the other side lawyer whenever they are not present or late so as to ascertain the reason. Reputable lawyers do not absent themselves without just cause.

However IF a judge simply strikes off a matter or passes judgement without the other side being present merely to achieve statistics of cases being disposed, then justice itself is disposed away. Imagine the sufferings of the litigant (the ordinary citizen)especially if he had a strong cases.

I intend to write more on this at a later date when time permits.

Peace !

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