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Report No. 253

(i) The United Kingdom

2.19.1 In the UK, the Civil Procedure Act, 1997 and the Civil Procedure Rules that came into force in 1999 govern civil procedure and the conduct of litigation. These laws are a product of a seminal report authored by the then Master of Rolls, Lord Woolf, known as the Access to Justice Report 1996 (hereinafter "Woolf Report") to deal with cases justly and at proportionate cost.28 Part 58 of the Civil Procedure Rules (hereinafter "CPR") and a detailed set of Practice Directions apply specifically to Commercial Courts, whereas Part 62 of the CPR deals with arbitration applications.

28. Neil Rose, Civil Procedure Rules: 10 years of change, THE LAW SOCIETY GAZETTE, 28th May 2009 available at < http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/50942.article>.

2.19.2 The problems of the existing civil justice system in UK, as identified by Lord Woolf were articulated as:

"it is too expensive in that the costs often exceed the value of the claim; too slow in bringing cases to a conclusion and too unequal: there is a lack of equality between the powerful, wealthy litigant and the under resourced litigant. It is too uncertain: the difficulty of forecasting what litigation will cost and how long it will last induces the fear of the unknown; and it is incomprehensible to many litigants.

Above all it is too fragmented in the way it is organised since there is no one with clear overall responsibility for the administration of civil justice; and too adversarial as cases are run by the parties, not by the courts and the rules of court, all too often, are ignored by the parties and not enforced by the court."29

29. Lord Woolf, Overview in ACCESS TO JUSTICE REPORT (1996), at paras 2-3 available at
<http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.dca.gov.uk/civil/final/overview.htm> (hereinafter "Woolf Report").

2.19.3 The problems, as identified by Lord Woolf, bear an uncanny similarity to the problems facing the civil justice system in India today, and it would therefore be worthwhile to examine what solutions were proposed and how the same have worked in the UK.

2.19.4 The Woolf Report identified principles that a civil justice system must meet to ensure access to justice. According to the Woolf Report, the system should -

(a) "be just in the results it delivers;

(b) be fair in the way it treats litigants;

(c) offer appropriate procedures at a reasonable cost;

(d) deal with cases with reasonable speed;

(e) be understandable to those who use it;

(f) be responsive to the needs of those who use it;

(g) provide as much certainty as the nature of particular cases allows; and

(h) be effective: adequately resourced and organised. (Italics in original preserved)."30

30. Woolf Report, supra note 29, at para 1.

2.19.5 Implemented as a result of reforms suggested by Lord Woolf and his committee, one of the revelations of the rules is the "Overriding Objective" embodied in Part 1 of the Rules (CPR 1.1), which states:

"(1) These Rules are a new procedural code with the overriding objective of enabling the court to deal with cases justly.

(2) Dealing with a case justly includes, so far as is practicable -

(a) ensuring that the parties are on an equal footing;

(b) saving expense;

(c) dealing with the case in ways which are proportionate -

i. to the amount of money involved;

ii. to the importance of the case;

iii. to the complexity of the issues; and

iv. to the financial position of each party;

(d) ensuring that it is dealt with expeditiously and fairly; and

(e) allotting to it an appropriate share of the court's resources, while taking into account the need to allot resources to other cases."

2.19.6 In what manner the court should give effect to the overriding objective is also listed out in the Rules.

"1.2 The court must seek to give effect to the overriding objective when it -

(a) exercises any power given to it by the Rules; or

(b) interprets any rule.

The rules are written to be intelligible not just to lawyers but to litigants in person also."

2.19.7 Great emphasis is placed on the CPR in empowering the judges to manage the cases before them properly and in a time-bound manner. This necessitated vesting of control over litigation with courts to ensure that only relevant issues were agitated before the courts, to prevent a spiralling of costs.31 In addition, the Rules also encourage parties to undertake settlement of disputes outside the court as far as possible.

31. Woolf Report, supra note 29, at Chapter I, para 3.

2.19.8 These reforms have undoubtedly been very successful as was seen in the immediate drop in the number of cases filed per month before the Queen's Bench Division from 10,000 a month to about 2000 a month, and a significant increase in the number of cases settled before trial.32

32. See Alastair Wyvill, The Civil Procedure Reforms 10 Years On: Success or Failure?, available at
<https://www.google.co.in/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CBsQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwilliamforster.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2010%2F04%2Fwyvill-the-woolf-civil-procedure-reforms-10-years-on.doc&ei=PQS1U6GuA4-8uASChoLwAw&usg=AFQjCNGh70fZmqaUka0IAPhKXLQxaBnmaQ&sig2=YJhJSXnScwiACQQy7mrFKA&bvm=bv.70138588,d.c2E> last accessed 18th December, 2014.



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