June 4, 2010

Backlog of cases in Indian Courts: Statistics, Facts and Solution

Filed under: Press_Coverage — Fighting Legal Terror @ 11:53 am


Backlog of cases in Indian Courts: Statistics, Facts and Solution
About Family Harmony Society®: “Family Harmony Society®” FHS is a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) promoting the cause of “family harmony” and “gender equality”. It is registered under “The Karnataka Societies Registration Act, 1960” and is based in Bangalore. We have branches in more than 16 states and in abroad too. We have approximately 14500 members all over India. To know more about us please visit http://www.family-harmony.org / http://www.498a.org.in.

Chief Justice of US Supreme Court John Marshall had once said:

“Power of Judiciary lies not in deciding cases, nor in Imposing sentences nor in punishing for contempt, but in the trust, faith and confidence of the common man”.

It is an accepted fact that a common man in India today has completely lost the trust, faith and confidence in the Judiciary due to the huge pile up of cases. While it is a known fact that the backlog of cases has reached to such an extent that once a person is a litigant then he is litigant for lifelong.

As per NDTV news dated 16th August 2009, below is the shocking statistics.

Number of case pending in various courts in India:

· Supreme Court : 52,000

· High Courts : 40 lakh

· Trial Courts : 2.7 crore

One proposal which is long pending with Government is Gram Nyayalayas (rural courts), which is expected to address this issue. These Gram Nyayalayas (rural courts) are aimed at providing inexpensive justice to the people in rural areas at their doorsteps. More than 5,000 courts are expected to be set up under the Act, for which the Central government will provide about Rs 1,400 crore to the states.

Going by official figures, the subordinate judiciary across the country has a backlog of 26.4 million cases, while the high courts have an arrear of 3.8 million. The Supreme Court had crossed the mark of 50,000 pending cases as of long back.

While addressing a day-long annual conference of the chief justices and the chief ministers of various states, Prime Minister attributed the backlog of cases partly to existing vacancies of judges in high courts and subordinate courts, Manmohan Singh also exhorted the chief justices of various high courts to take expeditious steps for filling up the vacancies at both levels.

He added that “vacancies at the subordinate level roughly comprise 20 to 25 percent of subordinate judicial posts. I am told that almost 3,000 posts of judges in the country are vacant because of delay in recruitment. All these vacant posts at the subordinate levels need to be filled up without any further loss of time.”

Singh also disclosed that on a recommendation by Chief Justice Balakrishnan, the union government had taken steps to establish 71 more special courts to adjudicate cases investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The High Court in New Delhi is so behind in its work that it could take up to 466 years to clear the enormous backlog, the court’s chief justice said in a damning report that illustrates the decrepitude of India’s judicial system. The Delhi High Court races through each case in an average of four minutes and 55 seconds but still has tens of thousands of cases pending, including upward of 600 that are more than 20 years old, according to the report.

The United Nations Development Program says some 20 million legal cases are pending in India.

“It’s a completely collapsed system,” said Prashant Bhushan, a well-known lawyer in New Delhi. “This country only lives under the illusion that there is a judicial system.”

One reason for the delays is that there aren’t enough sitting judges. India — a country of 1.1 billion people — has approximately 11 judges for every million people compared with roughly 110 per million in the United States. India’s Justice Ministry last year called for an increase of 50 judges per million people by 2013, but it was unclear how the government would pay for such a massive overhaul.

The Delhi High Court, the state’s top court, had 32 judges in 2007 and 2008 instead of the allotted 48, according to the chief justice’s annual report, released Tuesday.

The court had at least 629 civil cases and 17 criminal cases pending that were more than 20 years old as of March 2008. Although, that’s an improvement from April 2007 when the court had 882 civil and 428 criminal cases pending that were that old.

Hon’ble Shri Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly, a Supreme Court Judge, in his article titled “Judicial Reforms” published in Halsbury’s Law Monthly of November 2008 has suggested a few norms, which the judges and lawyers must agree to follow very rigorously, in order to liquidate the huge backlog.

The suggestions are quoted below:

[1] There must be full utilization of the court working hours. The judges must be punctual and lawyers must not be asking for adjournments, unless it is absolutely necessary. Grant of adjournment must be guided strictly by the provisions of Order 17 of the Civil Procedure Code.

[2] Many cases are filed on similar points and one judgment can decide a large number of cases. Such cases should be clubbed with the help of technology and used to dispose other such cases on a priority basis; this will substantially reduce the arrears. Similarly, old cases, many of which have become infructuous, can be separated and listed for hearing and their disposal normally will not take much time. Same is true for many interlocutory applications filed even after the main cases are disposed of. Such cases can be traced with the help of technology and disposed of very quickly.

[3] Judges must deliver judgments within a reasonable time and in that matter, the guidelines given by the apex court in the case of Anil Rai v. State of Bihar, (2001) 7 SCC 318 must be scrupulously observed, both in civil and criminal cases.

[4] Considering the staggering arrears, vacations in the higher judiciary must be curtailed by at least 10 to 15 days and the court working hours should be extended by at least half-anhour.

[5] Lawyers must curtail prolix and repetitive arguments and should supplement it by written notes. The length of the oral argument in any case should not exceed one hour and thirty minutes, unless the case involves complicated questions of law or interpretation of Constitution.

[6] Judgments must be clear and decisive and free from ambiguity, and should not generate further litigation. We must remember Lord Macaulay’s statement made about 150 years ago.

“Our principle is simply this – Uniformity when you can have it, Diversity when you must have it, In all cases, Certainty”

[7] Lawyers must not resort to strike under any circumstances and must follow the decision of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the case of Harish Uppal (Ex-Capt.) v. Union of India reported in (2003) 2 SCC 45.

Summary: The huge pendency of court cases in India can be brought down by a combination of using latest technology, Computerization of lower court records, establishing more fast track courts, reforms at village level, setting up Gram Nyayalayas, Increase of Court timings, Setting up of Morning and evening courts, filling up existing judges vacancies, more number of courts and judges, By strictly following case managements flows, Fixing timeframe for cases, Special courts for different subject matters etc. It requires a joint effort from all the stakeholders, the Government, Judiciary, executive, Bar councils and litigants to bring down the back long and reduce the years of a litigants.

But till the time it happens…Who is the loser and suffer? The litigant.

Suresh P, 9880141531

President, Family Harmony Society

http://www.498a.org.in / http://www.family-harmony.org

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