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Suspension of summer vacation and its effect on backlog of cases in judiciary

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The Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde is set to decide about cancelling the summer vacation to make up for the loss caused due to COVID-19 lockdown since March 23, 2020. The court in order to prevent the spread of novel corona virus started to hear only cases having extreme urgency.

High Courts across India have begun to cancel the summer vacation to make up the loss for caused during the lockdown. Telangana High Court on Tuesday resolved to cancel summer vacation both for the High Court as well as the Subordinate Courts and all Courts in the State shall continue to function till 5th June, 2020.  The High Court resolution said “Considering the fact that the lockdown may be lifted in a phased manner and 100% opening of the courts may lead to congregation of the people in the court premises, the Full Court has resolved to continue the present arrangement with regard to the functioning of the High Court and the District Courts till April 30, 2020.

Delhi High Court on Thursday in full court reference passed a resolution to work during the summer vacation, in the entire month of June, to make up the loss on account of lockdown in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak. All the subordinate courts shall also be functional during the summer vacation.

Senior Advocate Dinesh Kumar Goswami has also written a letter addressed to the Chief Justice SA Bobde requesting suspension of summer vacations and extension of the lockdown declared amid COVID-19 Pandemic in India till 30th April. Similarly, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) has on Saturday passed an unanimous resolution stating that the summer vacation due in the month of May, 2020 may be suspended.

Though the Chief Justice may agree to suspend the summer vacation but one has to look whether the suspension of summer vacation would be interest of common litigant before the court. The Supreme Court as well as other courts are hearing only case of urgent nature that too by conducting video conferencing and, on lifting of lockdown the risk of spreading of corona virus would again be high as the experts have suggested that a long battle awaits to fight corona. It is however said that the courts would return to normal functioning in the month of July.

Working in month of May is itself a challenge for the litigants and lawyers to reach out to court in extreme summer when the mercury is at its highest. It is unlikely that courts would begin hearing all the cases which could not be taken up during lockdown because social distancing would have to be implemented in courts and person to person contact has to be kept at minimum. The challenge for the Indian Judiciary to adjudicate upon the pending cases seems to be more difficult amidst the outbreak of COVID-19.

A report published in National Judicial Date Grid states that overall pendency of cases has increased significantly at every level of the judicial hierarchy in the last decade.  Between 2006 and now, there has been an overall increase of 22% (64 lakh cases) in the pendency of cases across all courts.  As of August 2019, there are over 3.5 crore cases pending across the Supreme Court, the High Courts, and the subordinate courts.  Of these, subordinate courts account for over 87.3% pendency of cases, followed by 12.5% pendency before the 24 High Courts.  The remaining 0.2% of cases are pending with the Supreme Court.

The judiciary is already infamous for having huge backlog of cases at all levels. How the courts across country are going to deal with this challenge remains to be seen.

India Legal Bureau

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