Thursday, February 2, 2023

Judiciary’s efforts to reduce backlog

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Pendency of cases is a major issue with the judiciary in India and attempts have been made to address the problem by the courts, contrary to what is generally believed. 

This summer season found the courts trying novel ways to reduce pendency. In April this year, the subordinate judiciary settled around 21,000 pending cases in an attempt to reduce pendency. These were among the approximately 21 lakh cases pending across India for the last 10 years.

But no sooner had the courts taken this step to settle cases, another 5,77,834 cases were filed in April this year. According to the information provided by the National Judicial Data Grid, launched by the Supreme Court’s e-committee, 20,835 criminal cases and 7,190 civil cases were solved by the lower judiciary.

The National Judicial Data Grid also informs us that Karnataka tops among pending cases filed by senior citizens in the lower courts, followed by Tamil Nadu. Of Karnataka’s total 12,28,912 pending cases in the lower courts, cases filed by senior citizens are about 1,08,494. Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra are the two other states where pendency of cases filed by senior citizens is more than five percent of the total pendency in these states. Jammu and Kashmir has the least amount of pendency among cases filed by senior citizens—0.46 percent. Pendency of cases filed by women litigants in Karnataka is about 11.9 percent of the total pending cases.

The Chief Justices’ Conference held in Delhi on April 22 and 23 this year emphasized fast tracking of cases related to crime against women, children, differently-abled persons, senior citizens, marginalised sections of the society and the Prevention of Corruption Act. It also brought out a resolution stating that in order to tackle pendency, there should be a focus on “establishing e-courts, cadre of technical manpower, e-filing and video conferencing, scanning and digitisation and updation on National Judicial Data Grid Uniform nomenclature”.

Recently the video conferencing facility to link the Ernakulam District and Sessions Court was stopped as the government had not paid the agency which operated the system. Video conferencing was meant to help save time and manpower losses. It was expected to expedite cases as after it was implemented in November 2014, the court directly interviewed over 5,000 accused, apparently making a saving of around 10,000 “manpower” days. There was a saving by the police on daily travel and other expenses, as normally, two policemen are required to escort a prisoner to the court. Unfortunately, the government had held up payment to the company operating the facility for the last one and a half years, leading to the company discontinuing its services.

—India Legal Bureau

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