It has been over 70 years since India gained independence and yet the system is not devoid of its cracks and minor failures. There are cases in India that are pending for the past 30 years. In fact, the oldest case of India is even older than the High Court of Calcutta which was established in 1862. This case is pending since 1800. It seems funny as it is a kind of paradox, but this issue needs to be given some serious thought as it is high time in this arena. There are over 44 million pending cases in India and this bestows a bad name upon our judiciary which is supposed to be independent. It is now time that the phrase “Justice delayed is justice denied” is put to use after a lot of thought in this regard. According to statistics, approximately 1.2 crores pending cases got increased after 2019 in just a span of two years. It is not long before the pending cases reach 5 crores. There are about 75,000 cases pending before the Supreme Court itself and the figure of 44 million is the number of cases pending in all of the high courts of India taken together. This is extremely shameful and it may show the lack of competence that the system displays.
Approximately, all the judges are in the same place for many years and the fact that the pending cases are increasing hour by an hour every day according to data is deeply saddening. Moreover, the Covid-19 pandemic led to the shifting of proceedings from the actual court places to the online mode. Due to the newly established system online, it was difficult to get easily comfortable and adjusted to it, hence it further slowed down the process of getting justice for the people whose cases were pending for a long time. It would come as a huge shock to the readers that a former Supreme Court judge suggested that the backlog of the pending cases is so glutted, that it can take almost 360 years to clear this backlog. This sounds almost surreal and does not make any sense. The people are waiting to get justice and here there is a pile and mountains of new and new cases filed before the court every single day which shifts the earlier cases to a back seat.
Reasoning and Explanation:
Honourable Chief Justice of India N.V Ramana explained that the pendency of cases can be a cause of tiresome resources that the courts are putting into use and there are numerous filings day by day, which can aid to the delay in the proceedings of the ongoing cases. He also added that the pandemic had also caused a huge setback to the systematic judicial proceedings as before. However, it should also be noted that there are huge vacancies across the judicial system in India. Indian courts are in a dire need of judges everywhere and the lack of judges cause a delay in the hearing of the court cases. This is also one of the prime reasons why cases are being delayed. President Ramnath Kovind gave his valuable input on this topic a few years ago suggested that there is often a practice of seeking adjournment of the cases by the parties in order to gain insight into newer findings. This impedes the process and it takes longer for the disposal of the cases than expected. Hence, this practice of adjournment is about to be discouraged in the near future for an efficient judiciary.
Is there any solution?
One of the ways to tackle the pendency of cases is to move to a more efficient and better digital format for the disposal and record of the cases. If records are kept online, then it would be better for the aggrieved parties to check their case status online and look forward to how to proceed. This strategy would also help to move ahead with the Honourable Prime Minister’s vision of Digital India. This would in turn help in the overall development of India. There is also an Arrears Committee being set up by the Law Ministry of India. Arrears literally means the status of “payments” when there are due dates attached with them. This committee would help in a systematic and strategies proceeding and disposal of the cases which have been pending for the last 5 years.
One more unique solution to the pending cases in India is one that cannot be implemented by the courts themselves, but the idea can be inculcated in the aggrieved party’s minds. This idea is to first approach an alternate form of dispute resolution like mediation or arbitration before approaching a court. If a problem can be solved by mediation, then it would be good for the aggrieved and for the judiciary statement’s load as well. Mediation is an amazing way to move forward without facing the tediousness of the courts. That is why the Arbitration and Conciliation Act was established in 2015. This process can prove to be speedy and equally efficient in resolving disputes. It is being seen that more and more people are choosing mediation and court settlement.
The problem of pendency of cases is not something that would be solved overnight. It is something which would take many years before there is some well-organized and methodical system of keeping records and disposing of cases. Since India is a developing country with a lot of people getting to know about their rights and moving to courts, it is understandable if there are a few pending cases. But however, 4.5 crores worth of cases being waited to be heard is a little too much.
It is strongly encouraged to first go to an alternate form of dispute resolution before moving to the court. This would be beneficial for the parties who were considering filing a suit before the courts in India. It should also be noted that the aggrieved should not have a preset mindset that the tiresome process of court cases would get one nowhere as it takes a lot of time due to the delay. People should not be discouraged from approaching courts in case they are violated in any way.
After all, the people of India should not lose their faith in the judicial system of India as it does its best to provide justice to every person who approaches it for justice.
“True freedom requires the rule of law and justice, and a judicial system in which the rights of some are not secured by the denial of rights to others.”
- Jonathan Sacks
Author(s) Name: Zarana Samanta (Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad)