Kishan Dutt
Early disposal of pending cases by the High Court – Time limit to dispose Civil Cases

Early disposal of pending cases by the High Court – Time limit to dispose Civil Cases

Early disposal of pending cases by the High Court – Time limit to dispose Civil Cases

In multiple cases across multiple courts, the constitution of India recognises the need and right to speedy justice, which can only be achieved by quick disposal of cases from the court. In the past years, there has been an increase in the sudden need for speedy justice due to the increasing number of pending cases at all levels of the judiciary, starting at the lowest and going up to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has recognised a matter of fundamental right as a speedy trial, but there is no such redressal. By 2021 more than four crore cases were pending in the Subordinate courts.[1] There is a state of helplessness amongst the courts and the people due to the lack of a substantial number of judges and the large pendency of courts. The concept of speedy trial roots in the idea of a reasonably expeditious trial that follows all the essentials of a trial but is faster than the usual course of litigation. In this case, the judiciary would need centuries to clear its backlog. With the tremendous backlog in pending cases, the legal and judicial systems have agreed that the judicial system cannot cope until the number of judges is expanded by two or three. It looks as though it has been decided that a legal system capable of delivering timely justice is improbable.

 

Speedy justice and judiciary

Lord James Bryce once said that “There is no better test of excellence of a government than the efficiency of its judicial system, for nothing more merely touches the welfare and security of average citizen than his sense that he can rely on the certain and prompt administration of justice”.[2] Faith in the judiciary as an essential organ of the government stems from its cost-effective, accessible and speedy administration of justice. Speedy justice should create a sense of security among the citizens by assuring them that the one who does the wrong or goes against the laws of the country will be punished, and all their just grievances will be redressed so that they may not be tempted to resort to violent self-help and take law in their own hands.

The courts and tribunals of the country, in multiple cases, have established that it is essential as a matter of right of its people that speedy justice is rendered to them. However, to put into the context the utter practicalities of the functioning of the courts, the case is subjective, and so is the idea of speedy justice. This idea or right of speedy justice is primarily discussed in the context of Criminal cases, especially when imprisonment or custody is involved. It is crucial and necessary to maintain a reasonable balance between the considerations of speed and justice. A speedy trial of cases favours both the prosecution and the accused. It favours the prosecution as it does not face the problem of the disappearance of witnesses, evidence, etc. And it is in favour of the accused because if he is innocent, he will not suffer for a more extended period.  There have been cases in the past that have emphasised the need and importance of the right to Speedy justice: -

1.      In the case of Vakil Prasad Singh v. State of Bihar[3], the court has emphasised the judicial protection of the right enshrined in the constitution under Article 21 through speedy investigation and speedy justice. They believed that it is essential for the right to life and personal liberty to be protected, especially in the judicial sense and, as previously mentioned, to put into context the criminal cases pending before the courts.

2.      In the case of Santosh De v. Archana Guha,[4] the court observed that the case had been going on for 14 years, and hence, they were quashed. Furthermore, there was an unexplained delay for eight years, and the court held that it infringed the right to a speedy trial. This case well explained the need for speedy justice in such cases where there is no advancement in the proceedings for an extended period, and the accused/convict has been suffering due to the lag in the proceedings in regards to their case, which violates a person's fundamental right to life and personal liberty.

3.      In the case of Raghubir Singh v. State of Bihar[5], the court held that the infringement of the right to speedy trial could not be inferred merely from delay in the police investigation. The court pointed out that the delay was due to the nature of the case and the general situation prevailing in the country. Through the way of this case, the court rightly mentioned the need for more judges throughout the fraternity along with better redressal mechanisms and alternate redressal forums for disputes of different regards so that it can reduce the burden of the courts and increase their efficacy of work along with the lessened pendency of the cases and better quality of the judgement, since, the court will have more time to pay attention to disputes grave in nature.

Assume an in-depth examination of the evolution of swift justice. In that case, it highlights a highly pertinent and unresolved issue of pendency and a sense of confusion among the courts regarding the gravity of cases and which ones do and do not require a more rapid functioning of the law, which is caused by the judiciary's overwork at the subordinate levels. As a result, measures were enacted allowing a party to petition the High Court for an order directing the early disposition of a matter in the interest of expedited justice.

 

Procedure to move to HC for fast disposition of a case

There have been multiple tries to lessen the burden of the courts and the pendency of the trials, so there has been increasing focus on the idea of speedy justice in recent times. Such emphasis on this matter was done taking the help of the upper courts to help with the problem of delayed justice.

In the case of Anil Rai v. State of Bihar,[6] the Hon’ble Supreme Court laid down that if the judgment, for whatever reason, is not pronounced within six months, any of the parties to the case shall be allowed to bring an application before the Chief Justice of the High Court with a motion to withdraw the said matter and to hand it over to any other Bench for new arguments. It is up to the Chief Justice to grant the abovementioned petition or give such a different ruling as he thinks proper under the circumstances.

Sethi, J., has enumerated certain points as remedial measures that have to be considered as instructions for courts to be followed that are:

1.      Appropriate directions to the Registry may be issued by the Chief Justice of the High Court; in cases where a judgement is reserved and subsequently pronounced, a column be added to the judgement on the first page, after the cause-title, where the date of reserving the judgement and the date of pronouncing be separately mentioned by the court officer concerned.

2.      The Chief Justices of the High Courts should instruct the Court Officers/Readers of various Benches in the High Courts to provide a list of cases in which the reserved judgments have not been pronounced within that month.

3.      The concerned Chief Justice will bring the pending matter to the attention of the concerned Bench if the judgement is not pronounced within two months after the conclusion of the arguments. The Chief Justice may also determine that it is necessary to circulate the statement of such cases in which judgments have not been rendered within six weeks of the conclusion of the arguments among the High Court Judges for their information. This type of communication is sent in a sealed envelope with "confidential" written.

4.      Where a judgment is not pronounced within three months from the date of reserving judgment, any of the parties in the case is permitted to file an application in the High Court with prayer for early judgment. As and when filed, such application shall be listed before the Bench concerned within two days, excluding the intervening holidays.

 

Application to be made to the HC

A person can file an early application before the High Court, seeking to dispose of a certain case within a specific time limit. The High Court can give directions to the subordinate to dispose of the case quickly and can even prescribe directions to the subordinate to conclude a case within a certain time limit.

After receiving such directions from the High Court, the subordinate court considers such a case as a priority case and will make sure that such a case is disposed off at the earliest, without compromising the due care taken by the courts and following the requisite procedures. However, an exemption to this clause exists if the matter has been pending before the court for an extended period of time and has been stagnant or if the case has made no definitive progress.

The stage of the case is also essential because the application can only be moved after evidence has been gathered, cross-examination has been completed, and the case has reached its final argument stage. The Constitution of India under Article 227 empowers every High Court should have authority over all courts and tribunals in the territories over which it has jurisdiction.

Karnataka Case Flow Management Rules

The said circular bears No. LAW 294 LAC 2005 dated 18.03.2006 issued by Law, Justice and Human Rights Secretariat, Government of Karnataka, Bengaluru

SIMILAR RULES ARE FRAMED BY ALL THE HIGH COURTS
the Karnataka High Court has launched the Case Flow Management system.

The Karnataka (Case Flow Management in Subordinate Courts) Rules 2005, as it is called, was gazetted by the State Government almost two years ago. Subsequently, the High Court framed the rules applicable to all suits and civil proceedings before the subordinate civil courts and tribunals.


It divides cases into four tracks. 


Disposal in 9 months:


In Track 1 the High court has included suits on maintenance, child custody, appointment of guardians and wards, visiting rights, letters of administration, succession certificate, recovery of rent and permanent injunction. All cases under this category will have to be disposed of within nine months.


Disposal in 12 months:


In Track 2, cases on execution, divorce and ejectment will have to be disposed of within 12 months.


Disposal in 24 months:


Cases to be disposed in 24 months relate to partition, declaration, specific performance, possession, mandatory injunction, appeals, damages, easements, trade marks, copy rights, patents and intellectual property rights. 

Disposal in 24 months:


Cases that are not in any of the three categories are included in the fourth category and they too have to be disposed of in 24 months. The presiding officer, however, has the right to dispose of the case earlier. 


The rules prescribe a mandatory time limit for various court procedures such as issue of summons/notices. Proceedings shall indicate a maximum of 30 days for filing statement or objection from the date of service.


The procedures for IAs and interim orders and reference to mediation, conciliation or Lok Adalat, appointment of commissioners for recording of evidence, proceedings for perjury, adjournment and even first appeals have also been spelt out.

Conclusion

To conclude, it is essential to mention that inordinate delay has become a common feature of the Indian legal system. There is a need to enact a new comprehensive law on the speedy trial of cases, and laws should be suitably amended to achieve the object of speedy trial of offences. There should be an awareness campaign for speedy trials of offences.

Delay in the dispensation of justice is not good for any society. It leads to distress, damage, and resentment. It can ultimately lead to anarchy and chaos. As a result, people take the law into their hands and try to be vigilant. So justice in general and speedy justice, in particular, is essential for the system to survive and run.

 

******


[1] https://prsindia.org/policy/vital-stats/pendency-and-vacancies-in-the-judiciary.

[2] https://thenationonlineng.net/imperative-of-an-independent-judiciary/.

[3] Criminal Appeal No. 138 of 2009.

[4] 1994 SCR(1) 549, 1994 SCC(2) 420.

[5] 1987 AIR 149, 1986 SCR(3) 802.

[6] Appeal (crl.) 389 of 1998.

 

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