Statistical chicanery - CJI’s calculation puts arrears at 1cr cases, not oft-cited 3cr
NEW DELHI: Over three crore pending cases in the trial courts, high courts and the Supreme Court got reduced to just over one crore in a matter of seconds, thanks to a new practical way of looking at statistics by Chief Justice of India S H Kapadia that virtually forced President Pratibha Patil to do a rethink.
Speaking prior to the President, who for years have been raising concern over the mounting arrears in judiciary, Justice Kapadia on Saturday took the bull by the horn and said: "My brothers judges, who include all trial court judges, have done an excellent job in maintaining a high disposal of cases. But, instead of getting compliments, they have been at the receiving end."
The CJI, who is as adept in economics and statistics as law, said: "For years I have been listening to speaker after speaker at Vigyan Bhawan slamming the judiciary for mounting arrears. They must know filing of a case today becomes a pending case tomorrow. But, is that an arrear? Statistics reveal that 60% of the cases pending in trial courts were less than one year old. So, if we take a realistic look at the arrears and exclude those pending for just one year, then the arrears are only one crore cases."
Speaking immediately after the CJI, Patil struck her usual note by saying: "The justice delivery system has been afflicted by explosion of litigation. Current figures reveal that the arrears in the high courts exceed 40 lakh cases, while in the subordinate courts it surpasses 270 lakhs."
But she did take into account the CJI's new method of reading statistics and said: "Now as the CJI has talked about the difference between arrears and pendency in cases, I think we will have to review these figures!"
But, she went on to say: "While a litigant has one life, litigation transcends generations. Towards curtailing waste of precious judicial time, we must re-engineer and simplify court procedures, which otherwise tend to make litigations unduly slow and protracted. Frequent demands and liberal grant of adjournments, filing multiple suits and similar tactics make judicial productivity sluggish. Timely pronouncement of judgments and quick execution of decrees would be beneficial."
Having been successful in inducing a rethink about court arrears among the audience at the seminar on judicial reforms organised by Confederation of Indian Bar, Justice Kapadia conceded that arrears of one crore cases were not a small figure and unveiled a three-track mechanism to deal with them.
Track-I would comprise "sticky cases" involving complex questions of law and would justifiably take a long time for adjudication. Track-II would include "subversive" cases, where one of the parties always tries to delay the hearing. Track-III cases would be those which have been delayed due to delay in serving of notices and summons.
Having captivated the audience with his brilliant statistical dissection, the CJI said everyone was crying hoarse about judicial reforms, but seldom did anyone talk about urgent reforms needed at the Bar and the process of legislation.
Amidst all the play of statistics and countering of charges, Justice Kapadia did not forget to ask the seniors among the advocates to contribute towards helping the judiciary in complex cases. "I do not see any senior advocate in the Supreme Court except on Mondays and Fridays," the CJI said obliquely hinting that the seniors were interested only in attending court on those two days when the volume of cases heard was large giving huge fees to them.
some more excerpts
New Delhi, July 31 – President Pratibha Devisingh Patil Saturday called for a fresh look at figures that put the number of case backlog in courts at a staggering three crore.
Patil’s call for the review of the figures on case arrears came in response to Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia’s contention that more than 50 percent of the cases counted as arrears were in fact filed only a year back.
He said that such cases could be described as pending cases but not as arrears. He said that distinction had to be made between arrears and pending cases.
‘As the chief justice of India has talked about the difference between arrears and pendency in cases, I think we will have to review these figures,’ the president said in her inaugural address at a two-day all India seminar on judicial reforms organized by the Confederation of Indian Bars.
She said that legal delays rendered the common man’s bid to seek justice a frustrating experience.
Patil during the course of her speech dealt with many issues including judicial accountability, archaic laws and the need to scrap or modify them.
‘There cannot be better governance without better laws and there cannot be better laws if antiquated ones remain,’ the president said.
As our democracy is maturing, public scrutiny of all state institutions including the judiciary has begun witnessing marked increase, the president said.
‘Judicial accountability and judicial independence should coexist harmoniously. There can be informed discussion on ways and means of ensuring judicial accountability,’ she said.
The president said that the congestion of courts and backlog of cases has been compounded by shortage of judicial manpower and low judge to population ratio.
She said that there was a need to augment the strength of the judiciary without compromising on quality. ‘Advance action needs to be taken to fill up existing and prospective vacancies,’ she said.
Earlier speaking on the occasion, Chief Justice Kapadia called for legislative, judicial and the bar reforms. He said that judicial reforms alone would not work.
The chief justice said: ‘You can’t have a chariot running on one wheel.’
The chief justice lamented that ever since the power that mandated consultation with the chief justices of the high courts before the appointment public prosecutors was withdrawn, the quality of government pleaders has gone down.