A very strange happening took place this past week in the Delhi High Court. A woman’s appeal against a divorce decree which was granted by the family court was allowed by the Delhi High Court almost a decade after the death of her husband.
While it might be a laughing matter to some, what falls legally from this is a cause of great concern — the slow disposal of cases in the Indian judicial setup. Running deep into the argument of what accounts for slow disposal, we would eventually stumble upon the fact that the pendency of cases in Indian courts is the biggest factor accounting to the slow and languishing pace of the case.
The next question that would fall out would be how to fix this problem of pendency? Unfortunately, there is no definite answer to this. An attempt was made by the Law Commission to remedy the situation. In its 230th report, they proposed the following measures that could be undertaken to tackle the situation head-on.
Firstly, there should be full utilisation of the court working hours. This would mean both, that the advocates and judges should arrive on time and that there should not be unnecessary adjournments that should be asked for by the lawyers.
Secondly, the cases that are filed on similar points should be clubbed together and decided accordingly. This can be achieved with the help of technology.
Thirdly, the judges must deliver judgments within a reasonable time.
Fourthly, the days of vacations should be reduced by at least 10-15 days and the working time of the courts should be increased by at least half-an hour.
Fifthly, lawyers should not repeat their arguments and should be very precise with the points they make. Further, the judges should also endeavour to write their judgments in such a way that it does not give way to further litigation on the same matter by ways of appeal or revision of the same case.
Lastly, the lawyers, as officers of the court, should not resort to strikes under any circumstances.
Apart from these recommendations from the Law Commission, filling the judicial vacancies across the nation would also act as the solution to this problem. The Chief Justice of India, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, seems resolute in doing the same as he has already held 6 collegium meetings in 30 days for filling 29 vacancies in high courts.
In this light, increasing the retirement age of judges also seems to be a feasible option as the experienced judges can dispose the cases off in an efficient manner.
Another way proposed to do away with the pendency of cases is by establishing a National Court of Appeal (NCA).
Although the Supreme Court is the apex court in the country, what should be kept in mind is that it was constituted just to act as the court of last resort to decide cases of national importance and not every other case deciding the rights and liabilities of two parties.
The aim of the proposed NCA will be to act as intermediate forum between the Supreme Court and the various high courts of the country. The NCA’s could be territorially divided, having branches in various places throughout the country, or be divided by the subject matter which it would deal with, like civil, criminal, tax, etc.
The 229th report by the Law Commission had also proposed for division of the Supreme Court into a Constitution Bench at Delhi and Cassation Benches in four regions in Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai.
The Indian judicial system today suffers with this curse of increasing pendency of cases. While, over the years, the Supreme Court has increased the speed with which it is disposing the cases, the pendency problem still hasn’t seen a proper solution.
The National Judicial Data Grid shows that it takes almost two to three decades for a criminal case to get disposed off. In this setting, the need of the hour is for the judiciary to bring in reforms within the system.
As pendency strikes at the heart of speed of disposal of the cases, remedying the pendency problem can help fasten the process of disposal of cases which would help people evade the wrath of the judicial process as ‘justice delayed is justice denied’.
Raghav Pandey is an Assistant Professor of Law at Maharashtra National Law University, Mumbai and Neelabh Bist is a Fourth Year student of Law at Maharashtra National Law University, Mumbai.
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Updated Date: Nov 14, 2018 20:32:04 IST