Report No. 79
III. Number of Courts and Allotment of Days
18.11. Number of appellate courts and allotment of days for civil appeals-Recommendation.-
One important step which will have to be taken with a view to curtailing the time taken for the disposal of civil appeals is to ensure that the number of appellate courts in each district is sufficient to deal with the volume of appeals instituted in the district. As it is, we find that these appeal, remain pending in the courts subordinate to the High Court for a long time because of the low priority which is accorded to them in the matter of disposal. It has been common experience that the appeals fixed in the court of District Judge are seldom taken up for hearing on the first or second date of hearing.
The parties and their counsel attend the court on those dates and after waiting for a considerable time have to go back because the presiding officer of the court is pre-occupied with the recording of evidence in a sessions case or has to deal with some other matter to which preference is shown for the purposes of disposal. It is one thing if such a situation were to arise on a few occasions or in a small number of cases. Where, however, it becomes almost a matter of rule and civil appeals get repeatedly adjourned for want of time because of the pro-occupation of the presiding officer with other cases, the inevitable effect is to create a feeling of dissatisfaction and frustration amongst the litigant public. It also results in what we regard as unnecessary and avoidable prolongation of the course of litigation.
We recommend that the courts subordinate to the High Court vested with appellate Jurisdiction should set apart a number of days every month for the disposal of civil appeals. On those days, except for some compelling reason, the only cases apart from miscellaneous matters, to be listed before the court should be civil appeals. Where, however, the workload of the pending file in a particular court (that is to say, the general workload apart from appeals) is so heavy as not to permit the setting apart of a number of days in a month exclusively for the disposal of civil appeals, recourse should be had to increasing the number of appellate courts in the district, so that the appeals can be disposed of without undue delay.
18.12. Time required for disposal of civil appeals.-
It needs to be emphasised that the time required for the disposal of an appeal is much less compared with that taken for the disposal of the original suit. So far as appeals in the courts subordinate to the High Court are concerned, generally they are not of a very complicated nature, and if a number of days were earmarked in each month for dealing exclusively with such appeals we see no particular reason as to why they should remain pending for an unduly long time.
Normally, in our opinion, it should be possible to dispose of most of the civil appeals in the courts subordinate to the High Court within six to nine months of their institution. The objective of expeditious disposal of appeals in those courts, in our opinion, can be attained without much difficulty if only proper attention is given for this purpose. The problem in this respect is not intractable. Of the three problems of delay which face us, namely, those relating to
(i) disposal of suits in trial courts,
(ii) disposal of appeals in courts subordinate to the High Court, and
(iii) disposal of appeals in the High Courts, we feel that the problem at no. (ii) is the easiest of solution. It can be tackled by just increasing the number of the appellate courts and the increase which would be needed for this purpose would be rather small and insignificant compared with the increase in the number of courts necessary for dealing with problems at no. (i) or (iii).
18.13. Number of courts and allotment of days for criminal appeals.-
What we have said above about civil appeals also holds good for criminal appeals in the courts subordinate to the High Court. We have already given1 the number of those appeals rending in the various States. With a little increase in the number of those courts, it would be possible not only to keep the disposal abreast of the institution but also to reduce the backlog of arrears. Criminal appeals too are accorded low priority. Experience tells us that quite often they have to be adjourned because the presiding officer of the court is pre-occupied with the disposal of some sessions or other important case.
Whatever steps we have indicated above regarding civil appeals2 can also be adopted for the disposal of criminal appeals. Increase in the number of courts of Additional District and Sessions Judges would be helpful in expediting disposal of both civil and criminal appeals, as these courts can deal with both types of appeals. It can also sometime happen that there is not enough work for the court of Additional District and Sessions Judge which may be created for one district. In such an event, the Additional District and Sessions Judge can look after the appeals in two adjoining districts.
1. Para. 18.2, supra.
2. Para. 18.1 to 18.12, supra.
18.14. Number of Public Prosecutors.-
One difficulty which sometimes has been encountered in the disposal of criminal appeals is that there are not enough number of public prosecutors for each district. Most often one public prosecutor has to look after criminal cases in more than one Sessions Court. This actually leads to the situation that when criminal cases are called in both the courts, the public prosecutor can attend to cases in only one of them. The result is that the cases in one of the courts either proceed without effective representation of the public prosecutor, or have to be adjourned. Either of the results is undesirable. We are, therefore, of the opinion that there should be as many public prosecutors in each district as are adequate to deal with criminal cases as and when they are called in the different courts1.
1. Cf. 77th Report, para. 12.14.