[op-ed snap] The art of writing a judgment

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Mains Paper 2: Polity | Structure, organization & functioning of the Executive & the Judiciary

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The problem of lengthy judgments being given by judiciary across all levels and measures that should be taken to bring more simplicity in this process


Context

Lengthy judgments from Judiciary

  1. The fate of the governance of the National Capital Territory of Delhi was decided earlier this month by the Supreme Court
  2. But one had to pore over 500 pages of widely awaited judgment in order to understand the demarcation of powers between the Lieutenant Governor and the elected government
  3. It was yet another reminder about the need for crisp and on-message judgments

The need of crisp judgments

  1. First, erroneously drafted judgments run into pages and state the same point repeatedly
  2. Second, insensitive comments made in judgments can tarnish the quality of pronouncements
  3. Third, several judgments do not record submissions or issues raised by both parties, which often results in a reader being unable to make out the link between the legal provisions used to arrive at a judgment and the facts to which they are applied
  4. Lastly, in most judgments, a uniform structure (recording of facts, issues, submissions and then reaching the decision) is lacking

What can be done?

  1. Judicial academies play a significant role in equipping trainee judges to deliver lean, to-the-point judgments
  2. As judgment writing is one of the most requisite skills that a judge should possess, there has to be focussed training in this area
  3. To eliminate bias, training sessions could have diverse socio-economic scenarios which would also help trainee judges apply theories
  4. There can be variations of the same case scenario and the facts that are likely to induce value judgments
  5. Evaluation and a full class discussion must follow
  6. Another useful exercise is in re-writing judgments, particularly those that are difficult to understand due to a seeming lack of structure
  7. Trainee judges can be asked to identify structural lapses and rework them
  8. Judicial training must lay emphasis on the need for concise and reasoned judgments

Attempts in this direction

  1. The attempt towards improving judgment quality (in the form of training sessions on judgment writing conducted by judicial academies) appears to be ineffective
  2. Several judgments in lower and higher courts continue to remain verbose
  3. Judges-in-training do not go to areas of law or management that they want to be trained in and a generic syllabus is thrust upon them
  4. The pedagogical methodology of training is classroom-like, with little or no post-training evaluation

Way Forward

  1. Judicial academies must focus on practical-based training
  2. In the interim, higher courts and also the Supreme Court must consider summarising the crux of lengthy decisions into a separate official document
  3. Judicial decisions are the law of the land and if the law is unclear, it becomes increasingly difficult to follow or enforce them
Judiciary Institutional Issues
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