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Report No. 79

II. Arrears

1.2. Accumulation of cases.-

As will be evident from a later Chapter1 of this Report, the jurisdiction of High Courts in India is of an infinite variety. The remedies available to an aggrieved person and the proceedings that he can institute for seeking relief depend on the nature of his legal grievance and the stage at which the matter stands. These remedies-inclusive of remedies by way of first appeals, second appeals, revision and writ petitions in the High Court-are, to our mind, necessary for the proper administration of justice, for the satisfaction of legal conscience and for the proper enforcement of legal rights.

However, various proceedings filed and pending in the High Courts have, in course of time, piled up to a disquieting figure and at present, the situation in regard to arrears is so grave that it needs to be tackled without any delay.2 The problem is not new: and several efforts have been made in the past to solve it,3 but there has not been any abiding solution-as indeed, there cannot be-because of expanding society, continuously changing social values and, above all, the ever-increasing and diversifying functions of the State, both in the public and in the private sector and the passing of new legislation, which adds to the burden and responsibilities of the courts.

1. Chapter 2, infra.

2. Paras. 1.31 to 1.36, infra.

3. Paras. 1.23 and 1.24, infra.

1.3. Arrears.-

To deal with the present situation rationally, it will be necessary to see which type of the pending cases can be said to be old so as to constitute arrears. We shall deal with this point in due course.1

1. Paras. 1.29, infra. 79.5

1.4. Increase in institution.-

While fall in disposal might, to some extent, have contributed to increase in the arrears of the High Courts, it cannot be denied that, as we have stated earlier,1 there has been substantial increase in the fresh institutions in the High Courts. In particular, this increase is due to the expansion of its special jurisdiction under the various Acts and the coming into force of the Constitution, with Articles 226 and 227 providing efficacious remedies to aggrieved citizens who, by now, have become more conscious of their rights-though perhaps a little oblivious to their duties and obligations. The delays in the making of proper appointment of judges of the High Court when vacancies arise, and the comparative indifference in regard to the strength of the judges in the High Court inspite of increase in institutions and the heavy backlogs, have also very appreciably added to the gravity of the situation.

1. Para. 1.2, supra.

1.5. Speed and justice-Need for harmony.-

Speedy justice is of the essence of an organised society and it is in the interest of both the State and the citizen that disputes which go to the law courts for adjudication are decided as early as possible. Justice delayed is, in most cases, justice denied. At the same time, it is obvious that in order to speed up the decision of cases, the basic norms that are necessary for ensuring justice should not be dispensed with.

This is the great problem facing any person or group of persons entrusted with the task of devising measures to secure elimination of delay and speedy clearance of arrears in courts. How does one balance the consideration of speed and the demands of justice? In making our recommendations, we have tried to keep in the forefront the need to maintain a reasonable amount of harmony between these two considerations.

1.5A. Need to cry halt to Litigation.-

Delay in the disposal of cases apart from causing hardship to the parties has a human aspect and has the effect of embroiling succeeding generations in litigation started by the ancestors. Some of these aspects were brought out in a judgment1 of the Supreme Court in 1976 wherein the Court observed:

"Apart from that we find that the suit out of which the present appeal has arisen was filed as long ago as January 1950. From the title of the appeal we find that many of the original plaintiffs and defendants have during this period of more than a quarter of century departed and are no more in the land of the living, having bowed as it were to the inexorable law of nature. They are now represented by their legal representatives. To remand the suit to the trial Court would necessarily have the effect of keeping alive the strife between the parties and prolonging this long drawn litigation by another round of legal battle in the trial Court and thereafter in appeal.

It is time, in our opinion, that we draw the final curtain and put an end to this long meandering course of litigation between the parties. If the passage of time and the laws of nature bring to an end the lives of men and women, it would perhaps be the demand of reason and dictate of prudence not to keep alive after so many years the strife and conflict started by the dead. To do so would in effect be defying the laws of nature and offering a futile resistance to the ravage of time.

If human life has a short span, it would be irrational to entertain a taller claim for disputes and conflicts which are a manifestation of human frailty. The courts should be loth to entertain a plea in a case like the present which would have the effect of condemning succeeding generation of families to spend major part of their lives in protracted litigation. It may be appropriate in the above context to reproduce what was said in the case of Sant Narain Mathur v. Rama Krishna Mission, (1974) 2 SCC 730 (737), para. 15.

'It is time, in our opinion, that we draw the final curtain on this long drawn litigation and not allow its members to smoulder for a further length of time, more so when the principal contestants have all departed bowing as it were to the inexorable law of nature. One is tempted in this context to refer to the observations of Chief Justice Crewe in a case concerning peerage claim made after the death without issue of the Earl of Oxford. Said the learned Chief Justice:

"Time hath its revolutions; there must be a period and an end to all temporal things-an end of names, and dignities and whatsoever is terrane, and why not of De Vere? For where is Bohun? Where is Mowbray? Where is Mortimer? Why, which is more and most of all, where is Plantagenet? They are all entombed in the urns and sepulohres of mortality."

What was said about the inevitable end of all mortal beings, however eminent they may be, is equally true of the affairs of mortal beings, their disputes and conflicts, their ventures in the field of love and sport, their achievements and failures for essentially they all have a stamp of mortality on them.'

One feels tempted to add that if life like a dome of many-coloured glass stains the white radiance of eternity, so do the doings and conflicts of mortal beings till death tramples them down."

1.5B. With these preliminary observations, we proceed to a consideration of the subject.

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