law justice

The Republic of India is facing the ferocity of pandemic with the highest rate of more than 4.12 lakh cases per day to the highest number of deaths of more than 4500-4700 a day during 2020-2021. The situation is worse at the rural side of the country. The first wave and the second wave of corona virus have jolted the nation. The lockdown imposed has increased the economic burden of the pandemic on both the system and citizens.

If we look into the burden of judiciary there is a sharp increase in Pendencies of cases, according to the National Juridical Grid Data there is enormous swell in the pendency of all cases since lockdown.  The Hon. Supreme Court of India during 2020-2021 has stricken rate of pendency of more than 10.35%, while the High Courts have increased number of pending cases, while accessing the National Juridical Grid Data website one can easily assess that there are more than 5.84 million cases pending at all the High Courts in India. District courts in India have more than 3.89 millions pending cases.

Generally, the civil suits and criminal suits in India stands between 5 to 20 years and sometimes more than this. There are many factors which attributes for hindrance into the judicial process and so, the delays in single case leads towards the pendency of such for many years. Such pendency rate gets overloaded when the state imposed lockdown. It strikingly increased the number of cases and the pendency graph shoots leading to all time hikes in pendency of cases during pandemic.

The condition of the District courts in India are more serious with more than 3,87,93,535 total cases and are increasingly overburdened due to the presence of less number of judges at the court and continuous lockdown. According to the National Judicial Data Grid the current cases pending in the High Courts in India are 5,82,3133 and counting. The CJI Bobde (Supreme Court of India) stated that the “pendency of cases has gone out of control”, a backlog has increased too much during the lockdown. The complexities and the unending applications of the litigants became impossible during lockdown and the way of case disposal is a long and seems to be a never ending process. During pandemic and lockdown the filing of cases goes down.

There are two ways of filing suits are available 1. Manual filing or Offline mode where the suits are submitted physically at the counter and the 2 is E-filing of suits. Now offline mode or the manual filing of the suits are so much so forth in practice since years which is stopped suddenly and this online system of e-filing is an illusion when the pandemic occurred. It was the stage where Indian judicial system is entering towards digitalization and it is task for litigants. Digital illiteracy and the sudden fall of pandemic put the overall working of the courts at halt.

Pandemic vanish the physical presence of officers of the courts and judges inside the courts. All work started diverging towards e-courts and virtual appearances with limited number of courts and suits. Here, there are some issues occurs which increase the pendency of cases, apart from online access and virtual presence. Such as due to pandemic, filing of cases, affidavit etc became lumber on the advocates, it is still difficult for many to e-file the litigation and other digital procedures due to ill proficiency towards computers and internet which makes the e- procedure difficult. Another is the network and the connectivity issues, the online links don’t work and sometimes online timings and link both disappears due to technical glitch. Advocates in the Hon. Supreme Court and Hon. High Courts access and follow the procedure however, the District court faces the main challenges. Most of the advocates still have no proficiency for e-filings or any of the e-procedures; these are the cases which are not in metropolitan cities.

As a practicing lawyer once can face that fresh filings of suits have started but no dates are provided. The older ones are the added ones. Another fact is that the pendency’s perplexes the old cases and the new ones are piling up due to which more judicial time and attention is ravaged.  In criminal suits, there are cases of under trials which are pending and this for an individual, his arrest and trial is a tragedy of his life.  Such increases pendency at large, because our courts are bound to deliver just and reluctant justice which is a time taking process.

The  Hon’ Supreme Court of India in the case of  A.R Antulay  vs R.S Nayak (1988)  insinuate  that, “Fair, just and reasonable procedure implicit in Article 21 of the Constitution of India creates a right in the accused to be tried speedily.”[2]  The Hon. Supreme court further states that the right to speedy trial is a right of the accused and also in the Public interest as well as societal interest.

In another case of Imtiyaz Ahmed v. State of U.P. (2012) 2 SCC 688, the Supreme Court perceived that, “Unduly long delay has the effect of bringing about blatant violation of the Rule of law and adverse impact on the common man’s access to justice. A person’s access to justice is a guaranteed fundamental right under the Constitution and particularly under Article 21.” Now such delay creates the problem of non- assurance and the issue of non-reliance into the justice delivery system. Cases for illegal detention can be resolved at the lower courts and are not needed to get piled up for higher courts. However, during these disastrous conditions it is also not wise to open the doors of the court.

 Under such circumstances where Pendencies are increasing at a gross speed, delays to the justice delivery system is increasing.  It also hit the financial exigencies of advocates and attorneys. Pending cases in civil matters are adjourned for more than eight to ten months and in some case even more than a year because the scheduled dates are either under lockdown period or the concerned courts are vacant. This tends undue delay, financial burden, frustration and loss of faith of the litigants into justice delivery system.

The crippling condition of Indian court is such that it seems like a never ending work to resolve the judicial disputes at large. It is highly unjustified for those who are the victims of injustice are not proved guilty, some are under- trials or are illegally detained. In Vishnu Tiwari vs. State of UP (2019), the Allahabad High Court observed that the Tiwari is not guilty of rape, he spent 20 years in Jail and then the Allahabad High Court judgment arrived that he was “wrongly convicted” in a rape case. In another case of one Deepak Jaishi a Nepalese citizen, was in jails for 40 years as under trial for murder. He was alleged to be involved in a murder in the year 1981, and released by the Calcutta High Court. In one,  Shiv Kumar Verma & 3 Others vs. State of UP (2020) Allahabad High Court observed and directed the State government to pay the compensation of Rs.25000/- to the individuals. And also to punish and take disciplinary actions against officials who violate constitutional and statutory provisions it further observed that, “Public authorities acting in violation of constitutional or statutory provisions oppressively are accountable for their behavior before authorities created under the statute like the commission or the court entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining the rule of law.”[3]

After pandemics there is a sudden strike in number of Pendencies. The daily working of the court is at halt and hence there is a raise in the number of cases. Suits except urgent nature are not taken up by the courts during virtual hearing. While suits of civil nature are totally on hold.  Fresh cases are in the queue and the additional and unlisted are totally in backlog which overall makes the process much slower and tedious.

Pendency also raised irrespectively by incomplete and not ready matter to be presented in the court by the parties. The correct court procedures (sometimes) are not followed by the advocates while filling the suits, while sometimes advocates themselves ask for adjournment of cases due to other reasons, under such circumstances suits are stuck between dates. This resembles an indolent way of the litigants and the parties which results in delays of proceedings in particular cases at the respective court.

Since the national lockdown imposed on 24th March 2020 Supreme Court ordered to take up only urgent matters in the court of law. This increases the piling up of cases and calls for some serious reforms on the part of judicial institutions. There are many suggestions, recommendations, reformative committees have been formed hence there is no relief. They are at an ever increasing pace, on March 2021, the number of pending cases at the Supreme Court was 66,727 which shows an increased pendency of around 6,258 cases making it an increase of 10.35% of pending cases only at the Supreme Court. The pendency of the High Courts is more than 57 lakh.

The subordinate judicial system in India must be fortified and make it infrastructural and digitally capable so that the backlogs eradicates. A bench of five judges headed by former CJI S.A Bobde observed that appointment of temporary and Adhoc judges can tackle the backlogs. Appointment of judges at all the three tiers of judiciary will help to clear the pilings at large. Article 128 and Article 224-A of the Constitution of India deals with the appointment of Adhoc judges, Article 224-A states, “The Chief Justice of a High Court for any State may at any time, with the previous consent of the President, request any person who has held the office of a judge of that Court or of any other High Court to sit and act as a Judge of the High Court for that State”. However it is not simple to clear backlog and appointment of judges at all the levels is not possible during pandemic. However, measures should be taken as soon as the authorities could do to resolve these pilings of pending cases especially during pandemics.  It will be a prudent action on behalf of the Bar Council of India and the Bar Councils of other states to start digital training for the advocates practicing and are digitally challenged. This will enhance the working capacity and capability of advocates and also evade digital illiteracy and to impede the disaster at the Indian courts.

Dr. Rahila Sikandar (Ph.D- JNU)  Lawyer,  Practicing at High Court of Judicature at Allahabad. Email: rahila.law3@gmail.com

References:

 

https://thewire.in/law/covid-19-increased-pendency-of-cases-at-all-levels-of-judiciary

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pending-cases-in-india-cross-4-4-crore-up-19-since-last-year/articleshow/82088407.cms#:~:text=Despite%20resuming%20urgent%20hearings%20on,4.4%20crore%20as%20on%20Thursday.

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/nation/after-spending-20-years-in-jail-up-man-found-wrongly-convicted-217340

https://thewire.in/law/india-judiciary-pending-cases-supreme-court

https://vidhilegalpolicy.in/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Pendency-during-the-Pandemic.pdf

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/supreme-court-paves-way-for-ad-hoc-judges-in-high-courts/article34378787.ece

https://www.businesstoday.in/current/economy-politics/india-hits-new-high-of-412-lakh-new-covid-19-cases-nearly-4000-deaths/story/438372.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-56826645

https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/allahabad-high-court-illegal-detention-any-officer-of-state-government-paid-compensation-state-175645

 

[2] https://www.sundayguardianlive.com/legally-speaking/delay-disaster-solutions-pendency-pandemic (Accessed on 14/06/2021)

[3] https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/allahabad-high-court-illegal-detention-any-officer-of-state-government-paid-compensation-state-175645 (Accessed on 16/06/2021)


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