Monday, March 11, 2013

Clogged Up Court

Pendency: 9.7 lakh, Vacancy: 78: How can HC deliver justice?

9 Mar 2013
M Tariq Khan
Hindustan Times (Lucknow)

The judiciary is immensely overburdened. Each judge has around 150 cases on his/her list. Is it humanly possible to decide them in a day, asks HGS PARIHAR President of Oudh bar assn

LUCKNOW: With a backlog of a staggering 9.7 lakh cases, the Allahabad high court (HC) is surely facing a herculean task.Going by the given pendency, if the judiciary works on full steam, takes up no fresh cases and devotes five minutes to every case, the high court would take at least 40 years to decide the cases.
Of this, while 7,17,000 cases are pending before the high court in Allahabad, another 2.50 lakh are awaiting adjudication before its Lucknow bench.
But justice is bound to take much longer when you consider that the judicial set up is working at half its authorized strength in the state. Against the sanctioned post of 160, the Allahabad high court has only 82 judges at present. And with another 25 (16 in 2013 and nine in 2014) of these judges set to demit office in 201314, the crisis is only expected to worsen.
Legal experts and lawyers feel that the way out of this quagmire is to do away with the existing collegium system for appointment of judges, improve infrastructure, set up another bench of high court and appoint young and efficient people as judges. “This shortage (of judges) is not accidental. We know when a particular judge is going to retire, so why cannot we accordingly plan in advance to fill up that vacancy,” asks senior lawyer SK Kalia. According to court officials, a proposal to appoint over a dozen new judges has now been awaiting clearance for over 10 months at the Centre.
“We will have to evolve a system whereby this elevation process is completed expeditiously sans any hitch,” he said adding that experience and ability of the person being considered for the job was of utmost importance.“Setting up of an additional high court bench in Western UP has been a long pending demand. Maharashtra has it, why cannot we? There should be no politics on this,” points out Anil Tiwari, another senior lawyer. He said the existing sanctioned strength of 160 judges too was insufficient to deal with the backlog of cases as several new districts have come up in the state in the past decade. Senior advocate Kapil Deo believes that the issue must be addressed urgently in the interest of justice. “It’s paralysis of political will in the end,” he said adding that the collegium system for selection of judges was the biggest stumbling block in resolving the crisis. Agrees HGS Parihar, the president of the Oudh Bar Association. “The judiciary is immensely overburdened presently. Each judge has around 150 cases on the list. Do you think it is humanly possible to decide them in a day? Justice would obviously be the ultimate causality. We need to have at least 300 high court judges,” he points out.
The problem, however, is there is not enough room to keep the case files let alone providing office space for new judges, he said. Kalia feels this space crunch would ease once the under-construction new high court building in Gomti Nagar was ready by the end of 2014. For instance, the move to computerise courts is a step aimed at streamlined its functioning. The e-courts project has already been allocated R935 crore. The project covers 14,249 courts across the country. It will provide computer hardware, power backup, services for automation of case management, citizen-centric services such as certified copies of orders and also create a national judicial data grid. The blueprint looks impressive. If the implementation is equally effective, then there will be relief, at long last, for the hapless litigants.

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