LAW RESOURCE INDIA

Campaign Mode Approach to Reduce Pendency in Courts

Posted in COURTS, CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM, GOVERNANCE, JUDICIAL REFORMS, JUSTICE by NNLRJ INDIA on July 1, 2011

Following is the text of the speech of Dr. M. Veerappa Moily, Minister of Law & Justice  IN Calcutta on the campaign mode approach to reduce pendency in couts:

Jawaharlal Nehru, on the afternoon of March 19, 1955, while addressing the members of the Punjab High Court at the inauguration of its new building in Chandigarh, said, “Justice in India should be simple, speedy and cheap.”  He remarked that litigation was a disease and it could not be a good thing to allow any disease to spread an then go out in search of doctors.

At a Joint Conference  of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices held on August 16, 2009, the Hon’ble Prime Minister observed :

Judicial review has breached unprecedented frontiers.  Yet, amidst such strengths, brilliance and dynamism, India has to suffer the scourge of the world’s largest backlog of cases and timelines, which generate surprise globally and concern at home.  The expeditious elimination of this scourge is the biggest challenge for such conferences and should constitute the highest priority for all of us.

The judiciary realised that one of the drawbacks of the justice delivery system was denial to the common man, of access to justice.  This truism was recognised by the judiciary and concern of the Courts in that behalf was reflected in Bihar Legal Support Society vs Chief Justice of India (1986 (4) SCC 767) where the Court said:

….that the weaker section of Indian Humanity have been deprived of justice for long, long years: they have had no access to justice on account of their poverty, ignorance and illiteracy.  They are not aware of the rights and benefits conferred upon them by the Constitution and the law.  On account o their socially and economically disadvantageous position they lack the capacity to assert their rights and they do not have the material resources with which to enforce their social and economic entitlements and combat exploitation and injustice.

To quote from the figures compiled by the Supreme court, a total of 42,17,903 number of cases were pending in the High Courts as on 30th September, 2010 comprising of 33,36,256 Civil Cases and 8,81,647 Criminal cases.   In the Subordinate Courts, this figure was 2,79,53,070 comprising 78,56,456 Civil Cases and 2,00,96,614 Criminal cases.  It is estimated that in some of the subordinate courts over 30-40 percent of arrears relate to petty cases and out of the total pending cases, 9% of the cases were pending for 10 years and above and 24% cases were pending for 5-10 years in both, High Court and Subordinate Courts.  Alarmed with the increasing number of pending cases, a Vision Statement was adopted in the National Consultation on Strengthening Judicary towards Reducing Pendency and Delays held on October 24-25, 2009.  The Statement contained a roadmap for improving justice delivery and legal reforms and steps to reduce pendency in Courts from the present 15 years to 3 years by 2012.  In the backdrop of this, a campaign mode approach is being launched from today the 1st July, 2011 till 31st December, 2011 to reduce pendency.    It is also the endeavour to dispose of long pending cases pertaining to senior citizens, minors, disabled and other marginalized group.

Though the target may not be reached in 2012, ongoing efforts to reduce pendency need to be given greater momentum, in view of the various measures initiated by the Government in recent times and the substantial funding made available.

Government had, in 2007 envisaged a programme under    e-Courts Project for computerization of 12000 Courts with a cost of         Rs. 441.8 Crores.  However, with the pace of time, the Project cost has also increased and the Government has now approved a revised cost of Rs. 935 Crores for the computerization of 12000 Courts by March, 2012 and another 2249 Courts by March, 2014.  West Bengal is one of the high performing States wherein we are aiming to complete the connectivity by July-August this year, ahead of the targeted time.  Citizen centric services will be available through this project and a national arrears grid will come into being.

The Law Commission of India in their 230th Report have taken a serious note of the ever mounting arrears in the Courts and have suggested the following measures to reverse the trend:

(i)   Grant of adjournments must be guided strictly by the provisions of Order 17 of the Civil Procedure Code;

(ii)   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;

 (iii)  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;

 (iv) 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-an-hour;

 (v)  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 involved complicated questions of law or interpretation of Constitution;

 (vi)  Judgments must be clear and decisive and free from ambiguity and should not generate further litigation.  Lord Macaulay’s following statement made 150 years ago must be a guiding factor:

 “Our principle is simply this –

Uniformity when you can have it,

Diversity when you must have it,

In all cases, Certainty

 (vii)  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;

 (viii)    Judges and Lawyers, both have to change their mindsets.  Unles the mental barriers to reforms are mellowed, all doses of external remedies are bound to fail.

One must remember Gandhiji’s words “If you want to change anything, you be the change.

 During the campaign for disposal of cases, following steps need to be taken:

(a)  All Session Trials are required to be dealt with by Fast Track Courts;

(b)  All cases where the offences are compoundable are required to be disposed of on priority basis;

(c)  All Magistrates need to be directed to dispose of the cases under Motor Vehicles Act on priority basis;

(d)  A special time-bound drive to be donducted to sispose of Summary Trials under Chapter XXI of Cr.PC by the District Judges and Judicial Magistrates;

(e)  District Judges and Chief Judicial Magistrates to take up applications for withdrawal of prosecution u/s 321 of Cr.PC on priority basis;

(f)  In Courts where criminal appeals have also been given in the cases of criminal revisions pending in any court in excess of twenty five in number to be withdrawn and transferred to courts where such appeals are below twenty five in numbers.

(g) Frame Case Flow Management Rules for the Subordinate Courts.  The Rules also provide to put the cases into three different tracks, specifying time limit for each track;

Some of the High Courts have already drawn up their plans for taking up the mission mode approach for reduction in the pendency.   Their plan consists of the following measures:

(a)   Instructed Magistrates to hold Courts in Jails for disposal of petty cases involving undertrial prisoners;

(b)   Constitute Committees at District level involving District Judge, Collector, Superintendents of Police and Jails etc. for discussing the issues relating to criminal justice system;

(c)   Notify case flow management rules;

(d)   Presiding Officers of Magisterial Courts are ordered to hold Courts on Saturdays, alternatively to dispose of petty cases under the Motor Vehicle Act, NI Act, Municipal laws and other such acts.;

(e)   District & Sessions Judges have been directed to rationalize the work load in different Courts;

 (f)     Set up Morning/Evening/Shift/Holiday Courts;

 (g)   Organise Mega Lok Adalats in each District and in the High Court during the financial year 2011-12;

 (h)   Incorporate new Rules for providing faster service of process, hearing on day to day basis, automatic termination of stay after the expiry of two months in cases seeking challenge/stay/transfer the lower court proceedings.

To facilitate the momentum for reduction in pendency, Government of India has made substantial funding.  Rs. 5000 Crores have been awarded by the 13th Finance Commission for utilisation during the next 5 years for improving the justice delivery system through setting up of morning/evening/shift courts, Lok Adalats, Mediation, etc.   Funds for infrastructural development have increased five fold in the current Budget to Rs. 500 Crores.

The Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008 was enacted by the Government on 2nd October, 2009 to provide for establishment of Gram Nyayalayas at the grass root level to provide access to justice at the doorsteps of the citizens with a view to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of social, economic or other disabilities.  A sum of Rs. 150 Crores has been provided in the current financial year for starting the Gram Nyayalayas.  States like Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Orissa have already notified and operationalised them.  The Gram Nyayalayas have been envisages to grant relief to the litigants within six months of the registration of cases.

While Government of India is providing sufficient funds for speedy disposal of cases and reduction in the pendency, unless the vacancies are filled up, both in the Higher and Subordinate Judiciary, all efforts being made would not be able to bring about desired fruits.  I would, therefore, urge the Chief Justices to embark upon a plan to fill up as many vacancies in the High Court and the Subordinate Courts during this campaign mode approach for reduction in pendency.

I would like this opportunity to thank the Chief Justices and the State Governments in their approach for the Mis sion Mode Programme for Delivery of Justice and Legal Reforms which commenced on 26th January, 2010 with a view to reduce congestion in jails.   The leadership rendered by all the Chief Justices for realizing the goal and to take further steps in this regard, resulted in deciding cases of over 7.10 lakhs undertrials till 31.5.2011.  This must have brought cheers to as many families also.  I hope that the interest and the leadership shown for the cases of the undertrials by the Chief Justices and the State Governments would be carried forward during this campaign for reduction of overall pendency in the Courts which would help in mitigating the miseries of the litigants and their families.”

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