Report No. 245
Need for system-wide Reform
8. That a systemic perspective, encompassing all levels of the judicial hierarchy, is needed for meaningful judicial reform. Taking measures for the timely disposal of cases at all levels of the judicial system, including by monitoring and increasing judge strength throughout the system; encouraging Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods, where appropriate and more efficient allocation and utilization of resources is required to fulfill the goal of providing timely justice to litigants.
In particular, the Commission emphasizes the urgent need to increase judge strength in High Courts to ensure that appeals/revisions from additional cases disposed of by the newly created Subordinate Courts, are dealt with in a timely manner, and that the already heavy backlog in the High Courts is adequately addressed. Therefore, a piecemeal approach to delay reduction should be eschewed in favour of a systemic perspective.
9. That, as the Supreme Court recognized in its order in Imtiyaz Ahmad dated February 1, 2012, the creation of additional Courts is one amongst various measures required to ensure timely justice and facilitate access to justice. The Commission recognizes that apart from increasing judge strength, many other measures have to be undertaken for reducing delays, including the application of good judicial management practices such as putting into place timeliness and performance benchmarks.
As discussed earlier in this report, the Commission emphasizes the need for establishing, based on rational criteria, non-mandatory time frames for the resolution of different types of cases.48 Unless judges and litigants have clear expectations of how soon their cases are likely to resolved, there will be little accountability for delays, and systemic problems are likely to increase.
Therefore, the Commission seeks to highlight an urgent need to fix rational, non-mandatory time frames for different types of cases, and use such time frames as a basis for setting judge performance standards, litigant expectations, and making more robust policy recommendations for the judiciary.
48. The Commission does not recommend mandatory time-frames for the disposal of cases. The Supreme Court has categorically stated in a seven judge bench decision in P. Ramchandra Rao v. State of Karnataka, (2002) 4 SCC 578, that "it is neither advisable, nor feasible, nor judicially permissible to draw or prescribe an outer limit for conclusion of all criminal proceedings.
At the most the periods of time prescribed can be taken by the Courts seized of the trial or proceedings to act as reminders when they may be persuaded to apply their judicial mind to the facts and circumstances of the case before them and determine by taking into consideration the several relevant factors as pointed out in A.R. Antulay's case and decide whether the trial or proceedings have become so inordinately delayed as to be called oppressive and unwarranted.
Such time-limits cannot and will not by themselves be treated by any Court as a bar to further continuance of the trial or proceedings and as mandatorily obliging the Court to terminate the same and acquit or discharge the accused."