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Report No. 79

IV. Past Reports

1.8. Past efforts.-

To maintain this confidence, it is necessary that arrears be brought down. The problem of arrears in High Courts is of long standing and has been inquired into more than once. A brief review of the efforts made in the past may be of use.

1.9. Rankin Committee.-

To deal with the question of delay in the disposal of civil cases both in the High Courts and in the subordinate courts, a Committee was appointed in 1924 under the Chairmanship of Mr. Justice Rankin of the Calcutta High Court.1 The task of the Committee was "to enquire into the operation and effect's of the substantive and adjective law, whether enacted or otherwise, followed by the courts in India in the disposal of civil suits, appeals, applications for revision and other civil litigation (including the execution of decrees and orders) with a view to ascertaining and reporting whether any and what changes and improvements should be made so as to provide for the more speedy, economical and satisfactory despatch of the business transacted in the courts and for the more speedy, economical and satisfactory execution of the process issued by the Courts". The Committee, after a thorough and careful enquiry into the various aspects, forwarded an exhaustive report in 1925.

1. Rankin Committee.

1.10. Committee of 1949.-

In 1949, a High Courts Arrears Committee was set tip by the Government of India under the Chairmanship of Mr. Justice S.R. Das, for enquiring and reporting as to the advisability of curtailing the right of appeal and revision, the extent of such curtailment, the method by which such curtailment should be effected, and other measures, if any, which should be adopted to reduce the accumulation of arrears. A number of recommendations were then made by this Committee.1

1. These are summarised by the latter Committee REport, (1972), pp. 9-10, paras. 32 to 36.

1.11. Review by Government and Committee of 1969-1972.-

In 1967, the Government of India, greatly concerned at the problem of accumulation of arrears in various High Courts,1 conducted a review of the state of work in each High Court and found that inadequacy of judges was the main cause of the accumulation of arrears.2 Government increased the strength of judges in some of the High Courts, taking into account the arrears of cases then pending, fresh institutions and disposals. Though this had some effect, no appreciable result was produced.

At the end of the year 1969, the Government of India constituted a Committee presided over by Mr. Justice Hidayatullah, the then Chief Justice of India, to suggest ways and means for reducing arrears of cases pending in the High Courts. Upon the retirement of Mr. Justice Hidayatullah, Mr. Justice Shah was appointed the Chairman of the Committee.3 When Mr. Justice Shah retired as the Chief Justice of India, Government requested him to continue as Chairman of the Committee. The Report of the Committee will be referred to in due course.

1. See High Courts Arrears Committee Report, (1972), p. 1, Chapter 1, para. 4.

2. The other contributing factors were-

(a) delay in filling up vacancies;

(b) lack of court accommodation;

(c) diversion of serving judges to other duties, such as Commission of Inquiry etc., without providing replacement in the High Court.

3. High Courts Arrears Committee Report, (1972), p. 2, paras. 6 and 7.

1.12. Committees appointed in various States.-

Apart from the above three Committees which worked at all-India level, some Committees were appointed in different States to look into the problem of delay and other matters concerning judicial administration. One such Committee was in West Bengal. This Committee was constituted in 1949 under the Chairmanship of Sir Trevor Harries, the then Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court. Another Committee was constituted in 1950 in Uttar Pradesh under the Chairmanship of Mr. Justice K.N. Wanchoo.

1.13. Law Commission's Report.-

The Law Commission of India, in its 14th Report made in 1958, went into all aspects relating to the Reform of Judicial Administration, including the question of delay in the disposal of cases in High Courts. The 27th and 54th Reports of the Law Commission dealing with the Code of Civil Procedure, and the 41st Report dealing with the Code of Criminal Procedure, when making recommendations for revision of the procedural codes, were addressed, inter alia, to the need for reducing delay at various stages of the trial, including appeals and revisions to High Courts.

It may be mentioned that it was as a result of the recommendations in the 54th Report that the scope of the right of second appeal came to be somewhat circumscribed. Also, it was as a result of the 41st Report that appeals to High Courts from Presidency Magistrates (who are now designated as Metropolitan Magistrates) came to be abolished. Such appeals now lie to the Court of Session.1

1. Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, section 374(3).

1.14. 58th Report. In 1974, when the Law Commission reviewed the structure and jurisdiction of the higher judiciary1 (58th Report), it focussed its special attention on the imperative need to reduce arrears in the higher courts, and dealt with a number of questions, including writ petitions, taxation, industrial disputes, matters relating to conditions of service of the judges. The Report also deals at length with appeals to the Supreme Court-both civil and criminal-including appeals with special leave.

1. Law Commission of India, 58th Report (Structure and Jurisdiction of the Higher Judiciary).

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