Adjudication in Trial Courts, LexisNexis

Mithu MP Dharan, Final Year Student, National University of Advanced Legal Studies, Kerala

Title   : ADJUDICATION IN TRIAL COURTS- A BENCHBOOK FOR JUDICIAL OFFICERS

Authors : N R Madhava Menon, David Annoussamy, D K Sampath

41uMtvI+N0LThough judiciary does not have power of purse nor power of sword, neither money nor patronage nor even physical force to enforce its decisions, it is seen as an institution of high prestige and has received much respect from people as stated by the Law Commission in its 77th report1. It has received laurels for delivering many prominent judgments that has improved the conditions of life for a number of groups and individuals. However the faith of the people in the institution should be kept alive and the duty primarily rests with the judicial officers themselves. In the pyramid of hierarchy of courts, one finds the trial courts occupying the lower position. This can in no way lead to the conclusion that they are unimportant. In fact, on evaluation as regards the importance of the role of different functionaries who play part in the administration of justice, the top position will have to be necessarily assigned to the trial court judges; for his image is the one, the common man views as the image of the judiciary in whole; for he is the one the general public comes in contact with, whether as parties or as witnesses. In India, the present system of administration of justice is of alien origin which when combined with the long and dilatory procedures have resulted in judicial officers facing many impediments including huge amount of delay and pendency of cases, accessibility, impact of legislations, procedural pitfalls.

For efficient discharge of the responsibilities assigned to the judicial officers, it is essential that there be self-study material or a complete reference to aid and assist them and also it is essential that there be a training manual for the future judges. For this purpose, Dr. N R Madhava Menon, Mr. David Annoussamy and Mr. D K Sampath, the veterans in this field of knowledge, have penned this book- Adjudication in Trial Courts- A Benchbook for Judicial Officers. This book by the leaders of thought is divided into four parts- 1. Foundational principles and concepts, 2. Making of a Civil Judge: Some Constructive Thoughts, 3. Adjudication in Criminal Courts, and 4. Special Courts; first part being authored by Dr. N R Madhava Menon, second part by D K Sampath, and third and fourth parts by David Annoussamy.

Part One of the book is a must-read section for every trainee in this field for it covers every aspect of the slow and gradual transition of a trainee to a fully experienced judge. The author has carefully penned down all the fundamental and basic concepts that has to be understood by future judges, the challenges they might face in their path and even has suggested strategies to overcome such challenges. Being an expertise as a legal instructor and judicial trainer, the author has called for social context adjudication. The author rightly points out that the cultural diversity of our country has resulted in forming strong prejudices and in stereotyping and stigmatizing people. He has clearly identified various areas, thus warning the future lawyers to avoid those by a strong commitment to deliver justice. The part also covers how to make an assessment of judicial performance which according to the author should not be assessed in terms of number of cases disposed, but in terms of knowledge possessed and skill applied. Part one ends with the chapter “Judging the Judges” which throws light upon observance of the ethical standards by the judges and their obligation of accountability.

Part Two of the book narrows the scope of the title to shaping up of a civil judge. However, a clear reading of this part would suggest its applicability, except a few procedural aspects, to every field of law. While dealing with the aspect of work environment of judge, the author has covered all primary sections such as the judiciary, the bar, the deprived and the community at large. It is notable that the study of role and responsibilities of the judge as to fact finding role of the subordinate judge has been substantiated with the various checks and balances. Different constraints of office of a trial judge and the way of risk management have been dealt in detail. Of particular interest is the chapter dealing with the role of judge in a pluralist democracy wherein author refers to even ‘Judge’s Disease’ as propounded by Lord Chancellor Hailsham in “The Door Wherein I Went”.

Part Three of the book aims at tracing all the principles and procedures of criminal justice administration. There has been a simple yet detailed account of all aspects which a criminal court judge ought to know, tracing from historical evolution of criminal justice system, to the present state of affairs. The part proves truthful to the aim of the author as being a training manual for future judges as it encompasses within its ambit every task as may be assigned to him, highlighting relevant provisions from various legislations and substantiating it with judgments. An additional feature is that the part contains a chapter on ‘Judgment’, which the author calls at its best as the final act of trial drama. This chapter is useful in the current scenario keeping in mind the lengthy judgments delivered by different courts for which the author even creates a motto as “Not a word more, Not a word less.”

Part Four, running to only 50 pages, tries to cover areas of dispute settlement by the Consumer Dispute Redressal Agencies, by the Family Courts and by the Labour Disputes Adjudication Agencies. Though extensive detailing of the various aspects remains wanting in this part, the author has very carefully and cleverly touched upon all areas of relevance for the future judges and thereby giving it the potential required as a quick reference for dispute settlement procedures in such courts. An area well made out is the procedural aspects to be followed by the labour disputes adjudication agencies wherein the author has even prescribed for an approach to be followed in such disputes, described the powers of adjudicating bodies and have included reliefs and remedies for such disputes.

At the surface level, legal books in this area of expertise is scarce, a factor which increases the importance of this book. This book contains not only the legal education required for the future judges but also emphasizes much on their moral obligation. However, the book being written from the authors’ perceptions should not be confused as the code of conduct for the trainees as warned under the preface of the book. It can be read only as an excellent introduction to the various tasks ahead of a trainee in a judicial program as the objective of the book being simple has not gone into the complexities.

In summary, the stated aims of the authors are well achieved both in content, organization and the logical approach taken to teach the subject or rather, to express their views on the same. The biggest gain achieved after reading this book would definitely be the ability to think and analyse critically each facts that might come before judicial officers without any prejudices. Also, the price being reasonable sets the bench mark for affordability. One will rarely come across such a functionally useful, informative and well researched book on this topic in India and that too from the legal veterans.This book will surely be useful not only for trainees and newly inducted judges but to every student of law who aspire to be a judicial officer and will be a valuable addition to the stock of libraries of judicial training academies as well as law schools.

ISBN   : 978-81-8038-795-1

Format :  Hard bound

Edition : 1st Edition

Publisher: LexisNexis Butterworths Wadhwa, Nagpur, Haryana

Price    : INR 550.00

  1. Law Commission of India, 77th Report, Delay and Arrears in Trial Courts []