Speech by RC for Kathmandu Pilot Court Inauguration Programme under Reform of Judiciary Programme

Jul 16, 2005

Speech for Matthew for Kathmandu Pilot Court Inauguration Programme under Reform of Judiciary Programme (NEP/00/012)

Date:16 July 2005, Time: 9 – 11 a.m.
Venue: Kathmandu District Court

Honorable Chairman, Right Honorable Chief Justice, Honorable Justices, Right Honorable Attorney General, distinguished participants, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

I feel privileged to witness the inauguration today of a pilot court in Kathmandu, the seventh such court, as a further step in the long term planning for the judicial reforms through the operation of pilot courts. I express my gratitude to the Nepalese judiciary for providing UNDP an opportunity to be a partner in this noble cause directed towards the protection of people’ rights, adherence to the rule of law, and promotion of good governance which are, indeed, UNDP’s mandates.

Setting up pilot courts with separate benches for civil and criminal cases has been very beneficial. So has been experimentation with new rules, procedure and practices. It is of paramount importance to accelerate the judicial process and manage the flow of cases. The old saying that “justice delayed equals justice denied” certainly applies to Nepal.

Mediation is another way of resolving conflicts in an amicable manner and to deal with the court docket congestion problem. This is an area where UNDP is working with the Nepal Bar Association, under a separate programme called Access to Justice, from 2002.

As I am briefed, success of the Court Referred Mediation Programme was not possible without the cooperation of the judiciary. And, the judiciary extended its cooperation even in absence of legal provision for court referred mediation during 2002 - 2003. Now, the rules are there – promulgated by the Supreme Court. Experts have experienced this as – “Judicial Activism in the interest of the people”. Indeed, this success will have long-term impact in the interest of the Nepalese people. We express our heartfelt thanks to the Nepalese judiciary for providing necessary support in this regard!!

The Reform of the Judiciary Programme, one out of the three UNDP Programmes in the legal sector, has two main components – enhancing efficiency in justice delivery and building the capacity of judges and court staff. The Programme has been successfully implemented by the Supreme Court. I believe that the Programme is doing quite well and would particularly like to mention the following:

1. a substantial number of judges and court staff have been further trained;
2. six pilot courts in different parts of the country (Morang, Siraha, Chitwan, Kapilvastu, Kaski, Banke districts) are working effectively, providing expeditious services to the court users which include;

  •  delivery of qualitative justice more quickly than before,
  • the number of court appearances of the parties has decreased,
  • regular interaction allow the courts to get feedback for improving services further,
  • a Calendar of Operations for case processing has been introduced,
  • court decisions are provided quickly to the parties concerned,
  • computers and a specially designed software have helped a lot to expedite the judicial processes,
  • record keeping is better organized,
  • on average 67% of the registered cases are disposed of every year (previous record 45%),
  • the settlement of cases by mutual consent of the parties is promoted at each stage.

I hope the gradual improvement process will take the Nepalese judiciary at par with advanced judicial systems of the contemporary society! Let me mention here that Information Technology can also be very helpful in enhancing effectiveness and efficiency of judicial work at all levels of the system.

The major challenge today lies in working in a situation of conflict. A recent study carried out by UNDP – “Access to Justice during Armed Conflict in Nepal, April 2005,” shows that the conflict has created new barriers for accessing justice through threats and insecurity. The conflict is limiting the role and capacities of the justice providers, both formal and informal. Abduction and ambush of judges, destruction of court buildings and documents, demoralizing court users, non-compliance with court decisions and orders are really matters of concern for all.

The deterioration in justice system is one of the factors that lead to a perpetuation of violence. International experience has proved that access to justice should be an essential part of all peace accords. Hence, we firmly believe that only the rule of law can overrule the rule of force and violence.

In our experience, the Nepalese judiciary is determined to go for necessary changes and improvements to meet the people’s expectations and has been proactively working in that direction. Changes and reforms, especially in the legal sector, are time-consuming processes. However, such thoughtful changes can bring sustainable results.

I wish all success to the Judiciary of Nepal in its endeavors to introduce reforms directed towards protecting people’s rights and maintaining the independence of the Judiciary.