Justice delayed is justice denied
"Justice delayed is justice denied" is an old but wise legal maxim that states if civil legal redress is available for a party that has a legitimate legal claim, but an enforceable judgment is not forthcoming in a timely manner, the effect is the same as having no redress at all. This is the principal rationale upon which a fundamental right to a speedy trial and the need for enhancing judicial capacity in the area of expediency and efficient resolution are generally based.
In Uzbekistan, time-lapsed denial of justice is a result of an excessive paperwork, inconsistent judgments and time consuming bureaucratic reporting by judges. As a result, parties seeking justice face delays in resolving their cases. Therefore, only through systemic judicial reform can Uzbekistan guarantee the legal rights and remedies afforded to its citizen and effectively maintain the rule of law through greater access to tangible justice.
The “Concept of enhanced reform and liberalization of the justice system” has already been implemented, as an essential part of forming rule of law. The Government made significant steps for improving justice system by specialization of courts – civil and criminal courts (before they were one court of general jurisdiction), as well as by transferring enforcement power from courts to the Judicial Department under Ministry of Justice of Uzbekistan.
Enacted in December, 2000 new edition of Law “On Courts” of Uzbekistan has been important step in reforming the justice system. This Law includes good international practice in justice reform area, existing experience of the country in this area accumulated over the years of independence; as well as creates favorable conditions for further liberalizing of justice and improving court administration.
Traditionally, the donors and international organizations assisting implementation of justice reforms focus on to criminal law and criminal proceedings. Less attention is paid to civil proceedings, although this area requires attention, as an increasing number of people have experienced problems timely protecting their rights in civil courts (more than 1.5 million complaints in 9 months of 2011 - about 60% of which enforced) and the country`s economic growth contributes to increased demand for such public services.
On average in Uzbekistan each judge considers about 300 cases a month. In Zangiota inter-district civil court the figure is 668 completed cases (average for 9 months of 2011). Assuming an average of 20 working days per month, the daily workload is around 34 cases for each judge. In addition, judges spend at least three days monthly for paper based reporting or at least 36 days annually. In short, the judges are under-capacitated and overworked to manage and process the amount of cases expected of them, which results in delayed consideration of these cases and negatively affects the quality of their decisions. Civil cases have covered issues of reinstatement of employment, recovery of wages (high percentage), divorce (the highest proportion), recovery of maintenance for children under age (high percentage), paternity, termination of parental rights, eviction from the premises, housing disputes, property rights, as well as disputes arising from transactions, and others.
Preliminary analysis shows that the parties seeking a solution to their dispute attend the court of first instance an average of 6-7 times. As a result of such complicated court proceedings, financial loss in fees paid and distance traveled, people try to solve their problems outside of civil court.
The practice shows that many citizens cannot protect their rights just because they have no idea where to turn, improper statements as well as apply to irrelevant authorities.
Considering the scope and importance, development of the civil justice is crucial for further economic and social development in Uzbekistan. This year the end of July marked the day of the launch of a new “Civil justice reform: Effective court management” project which will be implemented by UNDP and the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan in close cooperation with the Research Center under the Supreme Court, the Department on enforcement of court decisions, material and financial support of the courts (Judicial Department) and others.
The new joint project aims at assisting Uzbekistan to enhance accessibility and transparency of civil justice system through improved decision making, effective civil case management and increasing enforcement of court decisions - transferring the lessons learned to the national level for further national policy formulation on civil justice, which are in-line with the United Nations Development Assistance Framework for Uzbekistan.
The Civil justice reform project will be working to the end of 2014. According to the preliminary estimation, after piloting ideas in the Zangiata inter-district civil court, Tashkent region of Uzbekistan that serves 600.000 people, the achieved positive results will be replicated in all civil courts of Uzbekistan, with possibility of replication in the criminal and economic courts. Particular attention will be paid to the introduction of the E-justice system in a pilot civil court from filing a lawsuit to obtain a final decision.