Report No. 245
Arrears and Backing: Creating Additional Judicial (wo)manpower
Denial of 'timely justice' amounts to denial of 'justice' itself. Two are integral to each other. Timely disposal of cases is essential for maintaining the rule of law and providing access to justice which is a guaranteed fundamental right. However, as the present report indicates, the judicial system is unable to deliver timely justice because of huge backlog of cases for which the current judge strength is completely inadequate.
Further, in addition to the already backlogged cases, the system is not being able to keep pace with the new cases being instituted, and is not being able to dispose of a comparable number of cases. The already severe problem of backlogs is, therefore, getting exacerbated by the day, leading to a dilution of the Constitutional guarantee of access to timely justice and erosion of the rule of law. The present report is aimed at addressing this scenario that demands a multi-prong approach including more sensitive and rational judicial (wo)manpower planning.
It may be acknowledged that the present report is largely driven by the Hon'ble Supreme Court when in the matter of See Imtiyaz Ahmad v. State of Uttar Pradesh and Ors., AIR SC 2012 642 it directed the Commission to undertake an inquiry and submit its recommendations in relation to the following:
"I. Keeping in view that timely justice is an important facet to access to justice, the immediate measures that need to be taken by way of creation of additional Courts and other allied matters (including a rational and scientific definition of "arrears" and delay, of which continued notice needs to be taken), to help in elimination of delays, speedy clearance of arrears and reduction in costs. It is trite to add that the qualitative component of justice must not be lowered or compromised; and
II. Specific recommendations whenever considered necessary on the above aspects in relation to each State be made as a product of consultative processes involving the High Courts and other stake holders, including the Bar."
For arriving at informed understanding of the problem at hand and for making any meaningful suggestion(s), to deal with it, the Commission requested all the High Courts to provide data on litigation in each district within their jurisdiction. To facilitate orderly organization and supply of data, the High Courts were sent a prescribed format (Annexure I). Some very useful data was produced. However, most High Courts due to variety of reasons, could not fully provide the data/information sought.
Keeping in view insufficiency of the data received, after detailed in-house discussions and also involving experts that an additional questionnaire was sent to various High Courts. In response, no doubt, some relevant data was received. However, lack of scientific collection, collation and analysis still remained a serious constraint.
Despite these constraints, reading and analyzing data received very closely, especially in the light of different methods of data analysis available that the Commission gave its response to queries and matter raised by the Hon'ble Supreme Court and the same has provided the basis of this report.
While acknowledging that the problem of delay is not only enormous but complex, the Commission in the present report has remained confined to developing more informed understanding of as to whether problem of delay and strength of judges is a related one in some ways and if so how? In the report, an attempt has been made to suggest number of judges as are required to reduce delays. In a way, the report provides a roadmap for judicial (wo)manpower planning.
While agreeing that there exists no clear 'time standard' or a 'reference' to which a case can be classified as 'delayed'. How one defines 'timeliness' (and, therefore, how many cases are delayed) is crucial to suggest any kind of basis for computing how many additional judges are required to process cases in timely manner. Without arriving at some such definition, it is difficult to suggest any appropriate method for planning and computing additional resources required to contain problem of delay.
Similarly, the Commission is fully aware as thus undermined in the report that terms, such as 'arrears', 'pendency' and 'backlog' which are so oftenly used in almost all kinds of discourse on working of justice administration system in India are used very vaguely and beg clear and precise definition. The report is an attempt to reflect and throw more light on some of these terms, and it is hoped that the policy makers and other stakeholders in the system may find these reflections and attempt to introduce some clarity by the present work of some use during their course of deliberations on judicial reforms.
As the pivotal issue for the report is to suggest some basis for computing as to how many additional judges are required to process cases in 'timely' manner to large extent, answer to this question depends on how one defines 'timeliness' (and, therefore, how many cases are delayed). As already mentioned in the foregoing paragraphs, it may be emphasized at the cost of sounding repetitive that without arriving at some such definition, it is difficult to suggest any appropriate method for planning and computing additional resources required to contain the delay.
A significant portion of the report right at the start, after critical examination of various approaches to defining terms like 'arrears', 'pendency' and 'delay' as floating around in the literature on the subject incorporates Commission's own reflections. These reflections, while may provide little more clarity to assigning meaning to above referred terms which have been generally understood so ambiguously, the Commission still views that it may not be possible to devise any perfectly scientific and uniform definition of these concepts.
Acknowledging such definitional limitation and of inadequacy of data received, present report culminates in making some suggestions on the additional resources required to dispose of the current pendency, and to prevent the backlog in future.