Report No. 77
1.8. View of Rankin Committee.-
We can also do no better in this respect than repeat what was said by the Rankin Committee1 as far back as 1925. The position since then, if anything, has aggravated out of all proportion. The Committee observed:-
"Improvement in methods is of vital importance. We can suggest improvements, but we are convinced that, where the arrears are unmanageable, improvement in methods can only palliate. It cannot cure. It is patent that, when a court has pending work which will occupy it for something between one year and two years or even more, new-corners have faint hopes.
When there is enough work pending at the end of 1924 to occupy a subordinate judge till the end of 1926, difficult contested suits instituted in 1925 have no chance of being decided before 1927. Whatever be the improvement in methods, improvement in methods alone cannot be expected in such circumstances to produce a satisfactory result even in a decade.
Until this burden is removed or appreciably lightened, the prospect is gloomy. The existence of such arrears presents further a serious obstacle to improvement in methods. It may well be asked-Is there much tangible advantage gained by effecting an improvement in process serving, pleadings, handling of issues and expediting to the stage when parties are in a position to call their evidence, when it is a certainty that, as soon as that stage is reached, the hearing must be adjourned to a date eighteen months ahead or later, to take its place, in its turn, for evidence, arguments and decision?
Unless a court can start with a reasonably clean slate, improvement of methods is likely to tantalize only. The existence of a mass of arrears takes the heart out of a presiding officer. He can hardly be expected to take a strong interest in preliminaries, when he knows that the hearing of the evidence and the decision will not be by him but by his successor after his transfer.
So long as such arrears exist, there is a temptation to which many presiding officers succumb, to hold back the heavier contested suits and devote attention to the lighter ones. The turn-out of decisions in contested suits is thus maintained somewhere near the figure of the institutions, while the really difficult work is pushed further into the background."
1. Rankin Committee.