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Urgent need to take pro-active steps to clear huge backlog of cases, curtail delaying methods: SC

It also directed the setting of committees by the chief justices of the respective states to constantly monitor old cases pending for more than five years.

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There is an urgent need to take proactive steps to not only clear the huge backlog of cases at all levels but for introspection by all stakeholders to meet the aspirations of litigants who seek speedy justice and curtail methods adopted to delay proceedings, the Supreme Court has said while issuing a slew of directions.

A bench of justices S Ravindra Bhat (since retired) and Aravind Kumar, in the order delivered on Friday, gave directions to all courts at district and taluka levels on matters like the execution of summons, filing of written statements, completion of pleadings, recording of admissions and denials, framing of issues, and fixing of trial for swift disposal of cases.

It also directed the setting of committees by the chief justices of the respective states to constantly monitor old cases pending for more than five years.

The court said millions of consumers of justice file their cases expecting speedy justice so there is an onerous responsibility on all stakeholders to ensure that the people’s faith in this system is not eroded on account of delayed justice.

“There is an urgent need to take pro-active steps to not only clear the huge backlog of cases at all levels but there should be introspection by all the stakeholders to gear up to meet the aspirations of the litigant public, who would only seek speedy justice and to curtail the methods adopted to delay the proceedings that may suit certain sections or classes of the litigant public.

“It is imperative to note that about six per cent of the population in India is affected by litigation, in such a scenario, the courts would play an important role in the life of a nation governed by the rule of law.

Peace and tranquility in society and harmonious relationships between the citizens are achieved on account of the effective administration of justice and its delivery system, even the economic growth of a country is dependent on the “robust justice delivery system which we have in our country”, the bench said in its detailed order.

The top court said that when efficiency has become the hallmark of modern civilization and in all spheres of life, there is an urgent need to hasten the pace of delivery of justice by reducing the time period.

The apex court directed all courts at district and taluka levels to ensure proper execution of the summons in a time-bound manner as prescribed under Order V Rule (2) of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC).

It said the same shall be monitored by principal district judges and after collating the statistics, they shall forward the same to be placed before the committee constituted by the High Court for its consideration and monitoring.

“All courts at the district and taluka levels shall ensure that a written statement is filed within the prescribed limit, namely as prescribed under Order VIII Rule 1 and preferably within 30 days and to assign reasons in writing as to why the time limit is being extended beyond 30 days as indicated under proviso to sub-Rule (1) of Order VIII of the CPC.

“All courts at Districts and Talukas shall ensure after the pleadings are complete, the parties should be called upon to appear on the day fixed and record the admissions and denials and the court shall direct the parties to the suit to opt for either mode of the settlement outside the court,” the bench said.

In the event of the party’s failure to opt for ADR, namely resolution of the dispute as prescribed under Section 89(1), the court should frame the issues for its determination within one week, preferably in the open court, it said.

“Fixing of the date of trial shall be in consultation with the learned advocates appearing for the parties to enable them to adjust their calendar. Once the date of the trial is fixed, the trial should proceed accordingly, to the extent possible, on a day-to-day basis.

“Trial judges of District and Taluka Courts shall as far as possible maintain the diary for ensuring that only such number of cases as can be handled on any given day for trial and complete the recording of evidence so as to avoid overcrowding of the cases and as a sequence of it would result in adjournment being sought and thereby preventing any inconvenience being caused to the stakeholders,” the bench said.

The top court said the counsel representing the parties may be informed about the provisions of Order XI and Order XII so as to narrow down the scope of dispute and it would be also the onerous responsibility of the Bar Associations and Bar Councils to have periodical refresher courses and preferably by virtual mode.

“The trial courts shall scrupulously, meticulously and without fail comply with the provisions of Rule 1 of Order XVII and once the trial has commenced it shall proceed from day to day as contemplated under the proviso to Rule 2.

“The courts shall give meaningful effect to the provisions for payment of cost for ensuring that no adjournment is sought for procrastination of the litigation and the opposite party is suitably compensated in the event of such adjournment is being granted,” the bench said.

After the trial, the oral arguments shall be heard immediately and continuously and judgment be pronounced within the period stipulated, it said.

“The statistics relating to the cases pending in each court beyond five years shall be forwarded by every presiding officer to the Principal District Judge once a month who (Principal District Judge/District Judge) shall collate the same and forward it to the review committee constituted by the respective High Courts for enabling it to take further steps.

“The Committee so constituted by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of the respective States shall meet at least once in two months and direct such corrective measures to be taken by the concerned court as deemed fit and shall also monitor the old cases (preferably which are pending for more than 05 years) constantly,” it said.

The verdict came on a plea of Yashpal Jain, who had moved the top court assailing a 2019 order of the Uttarakhand High Court in a civil dispute. The case, which began 43 years ago in a local court there, is still continuing.

The bench set aside the high court’s order and asked the lower court to decide the plea of Jain in six months.

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