Sitting judges are overburdened, says petition, About 1.45 crore cases are filed every year
New Delhi: Apprehending that the huge backlog of cases may result in a breakdown of the justice delivery system, the Supreme Court has been moved seeking a direction to the Centre and the States to establish sufficient number of courts so that the arrears could be totally wiped out.
A Bench consisting of Justice S.B. Sinha and Justice H.S. Bedi on Friday directed that the petition be placed before Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan for posting it before a larger Bench since important questions of law of public importance were involved in it.
The Supreme Court is monitoring the implementation of the fast track courts in the country and has appointed advocate P.S. Narasimha as amicus curiae to assist the court.
When the matter came up for hearing, he filed an application raising various issues and pleaded that it be taken up immediately.
Solicitor-General G.E. Vahanvati said that since serious questions were raised in the application, it could be treated as a separate petition and heard by a larger bench. Accordingly the Bench referred the matter for hearing by a larger Bench.
The petition said “the sitting judges are overburdened that it is impossible to expect any expeditious hearing of a case.
The very purpose of judicial adjudication is completely lost by the time the case comes up for hearing. The consequence of this breakdown in the system is far reaching; it leads to loss of confidence in the justice delivery system leading to erosion of the rule of law. Not establishing sufficient number of courts has the serious effect of not only violating the Fundamental Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution but it also affects the very basis of democracy.”
It said every year about 1.35 crores of cases were disposed of by the subordinate judiciary. The real problem was that while old cases were disposed of, fresh filing of about 1.45 crore cases every year resulted in a backlog.
It said that the meagre allocation of funds for the judiciary, viz. 0.071 per cent in the Ninth Plan and 0.078 per cent in the 10th Plan, was affecting the functioning of the judiciary, particularly in increasing the number of courts to clear the backlog of cases.
The petition sought a direction to the Centre and the States to determine the number of courts required for expeditious adjudication of pending cases and to direct them to allocate sufficient funds for establishment of sufficient number of courts.
Though this subject may not fall under RTI Act, just because the topic has come up here let me project my views expressed to all concerned many times with no consideration. Every Advocate worth his qualification knows the real reason for accumulation of civil cases. The Civil Procedure Code 1908 is the main culprit. Though some amendments were made few years back, none of the amendments are intended to purify the CPC 1908 of British Raj. I shall come to the issue at the appropriate opportunity. However let me point out few of the glaring foolishness which is the root-cause of all delays. This can very easily be remedied; but the Advocates wont' allow it.
1. In a civil case what happens when one of the Defendent/Respondent die ? It bewcome the liability of the Apellent to search for his legal heirs and implead them. The Advocateof deceased Resondent has absolutely no liability atleast to give the addres of the legalheirof deceased. - What stopthe CPC being amended making Advocate of the deceased responsible to implead the legal heirs automatically ? This can save many years. In a long drawn civil case the death process continues and might take years only in impleading the legal heairs of deceased. I got a case pending in Kerala High Court. It is 4 years over and still the serviceof summons to Respondents is not complete.
2. It is a habit of Advocates to ask for adjournments often. This has tobe limitted or theparty asking for adjourment is made to pay the cost of that days's appearance to opposite party
The list is too long. If the CPC can be suitably amenmded the pendency could easily be eliminated. The problem is that the Advocates won't allow this.
You are right. The subject does not come under RTI Act. That is why I posted in the Chit-chat forum. Thank you for pinpointing some of the root causes of the accumulation of cases, especially of a civil nature, in the courts. Let us see if the larger bench of the Supreme Court is able to find some remedial measures to set right this malady.
The 120th Law Commission while recommending the five fold increase in judicial strength at all levels of the Indian judiciary (from 10.5 to 50 judges per million of population) pointed out how India's judge-population ratio stands in poor contrast when compared with several other countries.
Any lawyer practicing in the Delhi High Court - undoubtedly one of the most important High Courts of the country - can testify that, on an average 60-70 cases are listed before a Delhi High Court Judge per day. The sheer quantum of cases forces a judge to adjourn most of the matters leading to further backlogs. The inevitable outcome: normal adjournments are for 4-6 months, the trial dates are not available before 2 years and settlement of suit takes place over 15 years.
The Supreme Court made it clear more than two decades ago that "speedy trial is of essence to criminal justice and there can be no doubt that the delay in trial by itself constitutes denial of justice" (Hussainara Khatoon V. State of Bihar AIR 1979 SC 1364).
As rightly pointed out by Col. Kurup, there are management factors which include things like dilatory lawyering habits, nature of regulations on pleadings, extent of computerization etc.
Increasing number of judges is a response to just the structural problems of the judiciary. Judicial reforms ultimately require effective and result oriented responses to both these inadequacies.