“Legal system collapsing under Pending Cases: Supreme Court 55,000+, High Court 37 Lakh+, Lower Courts 2.6 Crore+. Yet, a staggering 400 High Court and 6,000 Lower Court judges not appointed, while Law Minister preoccupied peddling fake news.” Opined Rahul Gandhi in India Today.
The CJI, Deepak Misra exclaimed that to develop Indian Judiciary, it is very important for the lawyers and all of the legal system to be functional on every aspect of a case. According to him, the young lawyers can be the reason behind a developed and better Jurisprudence. They can lead the future in a better and progressed way.
The Pendency of Legal Cases in India is an upcoming issue which is addressed by everyone and yet no strict action has been taken in order to diminish it. The Indian Judiciary along with the Legislative and Executive have now been considering the hardship of this problem and are looking for the solution.
The Indian Judiciary addresses the common law according to the sources of law which are legislation, precedent and customs. There is a strict hierarchy of levels of the Indian Judiciary each administering the power to solve and analyse the issues of each case and yet there are plenty of cases which haven’t even been looked at. According to the statistics, the Indian judiciary has overlooked approximately 70,000 cases. The judges that are assigned the cases give the delayed judgments due to ad ministerial apathy and many other reasons including involvement of fake cases and more. The irony about this is that judging these cases are the current need of the hour and on the other hand, the number of cases is increasing as long as the day goes.
‘Justice delayed is Justice denied’, is a legal principal which talks about cases which are left open for a long time, that eventually becomes equivalent to the fact that it might deny justice to the victims. When Justice is not performed in a timely manner, then it also becomes a burden on the Courts as they have a major compilation of cases left to be solved.
The Indian Judicial System for a long time has been facing this problem. Data published by the Law Ministry shows that only 84 criminal and 1,132 civil cases are pending before the Apex Court for more than 10 years.
The reasons for such enormous number of pending litigation are the increment of number of State and Central Legislation, continuation of ordinary civil jurisdiction in some of the high courts, vacancies of judges, appeals against orders of quasi-judicial forums (a non judicial body which interprets law) going to High Courts, large number of appeals, frequent adjournments, indiscriminate use of writ jurisdiction and lack of apt arrangement to monitor, track and bunch cases for hearing. Out of all these factors, the one that stands out is the vacancy of judges.
A brief study says we have 13 Judges per 1 million people in our country, where as the need is of 50 Judges per 1 million people. Also, in 1987 a Law Commission recommended increasing the number of judges from 10 Judge per Million to 50 Judges per million. The result of not taking the recommendation under consideration has resulted in Three Crore pending cases and still we are not learning from our prior mistakes which will result in more pendency. Furthermore, a Law minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda had in the beginning of 2016 remarked to cope up with the problem of pendency of cases by forming a scheme of National Litigation Policy that is aimed at bringing down the number of cases.
With everything from Government callousness to Judicial Activism which is being blamed for the 35 million pending cases in the courts at all levels, the heavy backlog of cases and hindrance in the Indian Judicial System are once again the topic of discussions and debates. There are indeed two separate but related problems being spoken about: the problem of delay and the problem of elevated pendency.
Various factors are responsible for the problems, and in order to address them, it is essential to study the data in depth to try and identify what are their causes. While this relates to ongoing cases, it is a reflection of the perception among a large section of the population that it may not be wholly correct on the part of the litigants to restrict the reason for delay of suits to the Judges only since the lawyer and the other party are also part of the proceedings.
However, there is one stage where the responsibility for delay can be placed solely on the judge—delivery of judgement after arguments is complete. When a suit is heard in depth and arguments are advanced by both parties, more often than not, the judge “reserves judgement”—to examine the arguments, do research and write the judgement before conveying it in Open Court.
The phrase becomes more pertinent in the reference of Indian Legal System, where the time taken by courts of all levels to deliver their judgments is a source of worry and agony for all. As a matter of fact, the State which comprises of Central and State Governments and Departments, Authorities under them, is the largest litigant in India and thus the major sufferer of this plight.
Judiciary: Falling short of Judges
The foremost and the basic reason behind pendency of cases is that the judiciary does not have enough Benches of Judges to resolve and close cases in an efficient manner. The need of a judge is the biggest in order to resolve any issue and if there is the number of judges less than the number required, then the cases have a higher chance of not even being heard. This way the vital purpose of Justice goes out of the context. The problem lies not only at the subordinate level of the Judiciary but also at a superior level. The vacancies existing at the Courts, both lower and the higher are not duly filled. With a depleted proportion of number of Judges to a number of cases, the Indian Judiciary is lacking the minimum basic requirement to fulfill the need of the hour. Vacancies of Judges impinge the pendency of cases and are inversely proportional to each another. Several Judges of the Apex Court have also addressed this issue. The former Chief Justice of India, Retd. Justice T.S. Thakur spoke about Government’s inaction in raising the number of Judges. In a similar scenario once, the then Chief Justice of India, H.L. Dattu proposed that a deadline of five years has to be set to make sure that trial cases do not go too longer. In the case, Law Minister D v. Sadananda Gowda, 2016, there were four vacancies in the Supreme Court and as on 10th November 2015 there were 426 vacancies among all the High Court’s due to which the cases got further delayed.
Issue of False Cases
The second enormous reason for the pendency of cases in Indian Courts is filing false cases with malafide intent for causing unnecessary troubles. There is filing of case, then there is investigation of the same, and if proofs are available or not, but because of this, the valuable time of court is already unnecessarily wasted and the consequence is met with a delay in justice.
The delay of cases in Indian courts is the rise in misuse of law. For an instance, the report from one of the well-reputed National newspapers of our nation, there are approximately 1 Lac suits of dowry filed every year out of which 10 per cent are found fake. Then at times there are situations when counsels try to play their card, they either request for giving further date by giving various reasons or they are not present so that they get a new date of hearing due to which there is unnecessary pendency in case proceeding. In other words, Counsels strive to extract more time for preparation of cases.
Inadequate Infrastructure of Subordinate courts in India
Day by day, citizens are getting aware of law and are becoming literate and hence number of cases filed every year is increasing. As per the National Judicial Data Grid website as on December 31, 2015 2.6 Crore cases are left to be resolved only in lower courts of which 41.38% cases have been pending for less than two years and 10.83% have been delayed for over two years.
War of Power between Executive and Judiciary
The process of selection of Judges has been a bone of contention between the Executive and the Judiciary from last year. To determine the new Memorandum of Procedure, appointment of new Judges was adjourned for a year. The proposed MoP which gave the Centre the power to reject any name on the ground of National Security was concurrently shot down by the SC. Consequently, the disposal rate of High Courts and Subordinate Courts decreased over the past year. To terminate the stalemate, it was decided to follow the old procedure of selection for immediate relief.
The largest litigant- Government
Another appealing aspect is that the Government is the largest litigant in India, responsible for nearly half the pending cases. Many of them are actually suits of one department of the Government suing another and further leaving decision-making to the courts.
Fast Track Courts (FTC) and E-Courts
Fast Track Courts (hereafter referred to as FTCs) was the first implementation which became a successful solution to the problem. Out of 36 Lac cases that were transferred to the FTCs, close to 30.7 Lac have been closed. FTCs were started in 2005 but in 2011, the Centre cut off funding and made it the State’s responsibility to fund the FTCs out of their own budgets. Since then 60% of these courts have shut down even though the programme only necessitates approximately 0.1% of the State budget. Increasing budget allotment, setting up E-courts and FTCs can escalate the process of clearing out pending cases. Judicial infrastructure is required to be given equal importance as well because even if the 20,502 posts of Judges in the subordinate Judiciary are filled, there will be a need of approximately 4000 extra courtrooms to accommodate them.
It has been a fact that obsolete and redundant laws not only generate confusion among the citizens but also augments pendency of cases, as there are concluded by views from various well- reputed people. Hence the Government has accentuated the e-Courts project and has already computerized 13,273 Courts. Government is focusing on building of more court halls. At present 2,600 new court halls are under construction. Currently near about 15,500 court halls are available. The Commercial Courts Act has also been approved in order to solve commercial disputes in time bound manner. For this reason, even though no procedural law prescribes, the Supreme Court held in the case of Anil Rai v. State of Bihar, that parties can file an application in the High Court requesting an early judgement and if it’s not liberated within the time span of three months of it being reserved or if it’s not released in more than six months of being reserved, then the parties have a right to have it re-heard before a different bench of the High Court.
Author: Gayatri Sharma,
GGSIPU, Jims School of Law, 2nd Year/ Student