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Justice delayed is justice denied

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After two years of launching the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG) for High Courts, District and Taluka Courts, country’s lower judiciary pendency cases data reports a whopping total of 34,16,851 unsettled cases in the 22 high courts across the country making it easy to interpret that the Indian judiciary is in dire straits and struggling to clear a huge backlog.

According to data available on the NJDG, as on December 11, in the thick of such millions of cases trapped in legal logjam, 64,44,55 cases, which constitute 18.86 per cent of the total pendency, are resting in files for over a decade or more. The data further shows 21.92 per cent cases pending for over 5 years, 26.94 per cent cases for over 2 years and 32.28 per cent cases for less than 2 years.

To add to the concern, total number of pending cases in all the four benches under the Bombay High Court leads the list holding 13.58 per cent of total pending number i.e. 46,40,74 unsettled cases, followed by the Punjab & Haryana High Court, with 3.82 lakh cases.

While such huge number of on board cases costs our country billions of rupees every year, the above distressing data calls for a rounded reform of Indian legal system. In 2016 Union Budget, govt announced Rs 900 crore for ‘administration of justice’, including setting up of e-courts and capacity building of subordinate judiciary, but the present NJDG figures are a big disappointment.

“Some of the main factors responsible for pendency of cases in courts are increasing number of state and central legislations, accumulation of first appeals, continuation of ordinary civil jurisdiction in some of the High Courts, vacancies of Judges, appeals against orders of quasi-judicial forums going to High Courts, number of revisions/appeals, frequent adjournments, indiscriminate use of writ jurisdiction, lack of adequate arrangement to monitor, track and bunch cases for hearing,” stated by the Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India.

Sustaining with the lowest ratios of judges population in the world, Indians are marking time for the judiciary and government to scrutinise and resolve the differences over new appointments or development of infrastructure to overcome the age-long crisis of ‘delayed justice’.

On the condition of anonymity, a Mumbai resident (with a pending property case under the Bombay High Court) shared his experience with AV. He said, “Cases that include property matter between families must get its verdict as soon as possible as with delay it creates more dispute among family members that lead to other criminal activities in many cases. I think the government and the law ministry should search out possible ways to speed up trials. People with their long running cases also face social harassment.”

Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam expressed, “There are many reasons for such huge pendency cases and the main reason is the infrastructure. Inadequate strength of judges, non-availability of the court rooms and less cooperation of litigants’ lawyers are some other vital reasons. Generally civil cases take a lot time but criminal cases dispose off very fast. In recent years high courts and the Supreme Court are very closely monitoring the situation but the numbers of pending cases are still huge and this needs to be taken care of as a priority.”

Criminal lawyer Abbas Kazmi said, “It is the responsibility of the administration to find out ways of speedy disposal of pending cases before the Hon. Bombay High Court. The relief is that, recently the Bombay High Court has appointed few new judges and thus its strength has increased. The other main problem is the lack of space. So, the ministry is planning to construct a new high court building at BKC. It shows the high court is trying its best to clear the heavy back log. High Court should also take care of the dormant files, cases which are almost dead but not disposed off. Some policy needs to be framed as soon as possible.”

Advocate B B Tiwari framed what can be done to deal with this emergency. He said, “The huge legal logjam includes multiple reasons, such as the population of the country, unawareness about law among people, delay in appointment of judges, also lawyers themselves as they frequently use delaying tactics and it creates immense burden on the judiciary system. Unless and until lawyers cooperate with the judiciary system for quick disposal of cases, the situation will not improve. According to me one way to overcome this crisis is to increase appointments and working hours. There should also be a system to regulate the lawyers; they should argue for the disposal of cases not for getting a different date.”

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