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Report No. 14

16. Subordinate Judges' courts.-

There is considerable congestion in the subordinate Judges' Courts; the average duration of suits disposed of after full trial is high-801 days in the year 1955-56. Obviously, this is due to a large number of old suits received by transfer from the district courts for disposal. As is evident from the figures given in Table No. 7 the number of pending old suits is substantially high and warrants the immediate appointment of subordinate Judges for a term to dispose them.

All the original suits pending in the district courts other than those exclusively triable by district Judges should be transferred to these officers for disposal. The number of suits valued above Rs. 5,000 is not large as will be seen from the figures given in Table No. 8 below. It should, therefore, be possible for the existing number of subordinate judges to keep pace with the institutions. They may be called upon, to dispose of a few sessions cases also by being invested with the powers of Assistant Sessions Judges.

17. Munsifs' courts.-

Courts presided over by Munsifs are the next lower grade of courts and have jurisdiction to try suits valued upto Rs. 5,000 under the provisions of the Kerala Act (1 of 1957). The following Table shows the number of suits instituted in the regular civil courts of the State during the three financial years 1954-55, 1955-56 and 1956-57, classified according to value.

Table No. 8

Year

No. of suits of value not exceeding Rs. 1000

No. of suits of the value of Rs. 1000 and not exceeding Rs. 2000

No. of suits of the value of Rs. 2000 and not exceeding Rs. 5000

No. of suits of the value of Rs. 5000 and above

No. of suits of the value of which cannot be estimated in money

1953-54

33585

2289

1640

629

280

1954-55

37561

2826

1991

306

239

1955-56

36777

3428

1839

235

179

18. It is evident from the above Table that roughly 98.5 per cent. of the suits instituted are those cognisable by Munsifs.

19. A quantitative analysis of the disposal of work by Munsifs, during the three financial years 1953-54, 1954-55 and 1955-56, given in the following Table will enable us to assess the state of the files in these courts.

Table No. 9

Civil Suits

Small Cause Suits

Year

No. of Officers

Total for disposal

Disposal

Balance

Total for disposal

Disposal

Balance

1953-54

55

64557

31619

32938

15571

12532

3039

1954-55

55

61499

30272

31227

14667

11306

3361

1955-56

53

58949

28535

30414

14838

11224

3614

20. The following Table sets out the number of original and small cause suits remaining pending at the close of the years 1953-54, 1954-55 and 1955-56 and the periods for which they have been pending.

Table No. 10

Pending

Nature of Proceeding

Year

Between one Year

Between 1 & 2 years

Between 2 & 3 years

Between 3 & 4 years

Between 4 & 5 years

Above 5 years

Original Suits

1953-54

11796

6794

4877

2910

1676

4885

1954-55

12731

5457

3649

3136

2138

4116

1955-56

13109

5288

3289

2591

2039

4097

Small Cause

1953-54

2747

243

30

5

..

14

Suits

1954-55

3063

235

45

5

2

11

1955-56

3182

342

71

3

2

14

21. It is most regrettable that the number of year old suits should be more than sixty per cent. of the total pending suits. In fact, we were told that in the Travancore part of the State a suit was treated as 'old' only if it was pending for over five years. The munsifs who gave evidence before the Commission stated frankly that they "were paying more attention" to suits pending over five years. This state of affAirs can only be attributed to the rules which prescribe a minimum monthly disposal of work, forty contested original suits per munsif. This has not unnaturally led the judges to concentrate on the lighter and simpler suits and systematically evade the heavier ones. This state of affairs can be set right, only if all year-old suits are treated as old and explanations, for the pendency of every one of them obtained.

22. The following Table shows the average disposal of work of each munsif based on the institution, disposal and pendency of regular and small cause suits for the three financial years preceding 1956-57.

Table No. 11

Regular Suits

Small Cause Suit

Average available for disposal

Average disposal

Average pendency

Average available for disposal

Average disposal

Average pendency

1135

554.7

580.3

276.5

215.1

61.4

23. It will be seen that the number of regular suits on the files of the officers are beyond the officers' capacity for disposal during a year. The annual average disposal of proceedings is fairly high and it may be said that these officers are saddled with heavier work than what they can carry. Therefore, it appears necessary to increase the number of munsifs until the pending old suits, which are likely to be heavy and seriously contested are disposed of.

24. The average duration of original suits disposed of by Munsifs after full trial during the three years 1953-54, 1954-55 and 1955-56 was 856, 747 and 731 days respectively. The reason for this is not far to seek. The larger the volume of work posted per day, the greater will be the average duration. Almost all the Munsifs have a pending file of about 900 to 1000 suits. They have to post roughly forty to fifty suits per day in order that each of the pending suits may find a place in the cause list at least once a month.

In view of the rules prescribing minimum monthly disposal, they have to dispose of about two original suits or a number of other matters which can be equated to two original suits or thereabouts so that they may reach the prescribed minimum of forty contested original suits per month or four hundred such suits a year. Therefore, the presiding officers (in their anxiety to dispose of at least the minimum number) are inclined to take up only light suits keeping the heavier ones in cold-storage. Concentration on old suits will also tend to increase the average duration, and an increase due to this reason is not necessarily to be deprecated.

25. The aforementioned state of affairs obtained before the enhancement of the pecuniary jurisdiction of Munsifs to Rs. 5000.

26. The advantages of this enhancement of the pecuniary jurisdiction of munsifs can be realised only if the officers are able to dispose of proceedings that are brought to trial before them expeditiously and satisfactorily. As is apparent from the figures shown in Table No. 10 the number of suits pending over one year has assumed such large proportions that, unless prompt action is taken, it will become well-nigh impossible to bring down the number of pending suits.

It, therefore, appears to be essential to appoint temporary officers to dispose of the enormous number of old suits. Unless this is done and arrears are brought under control, a stage may be reached when there may be a break-down in the judicial machinery. It may also be necessary to increase the cadre strength of Munsifs as there will be an increase in the number of suits instituted in these courts of Munsifs by reason of the enhanced pecuniary jurisdiction conferred upon them recently.

27. We have already noticed the untoward consequence of an accumulation of heavy old suits flowing from the rule laying down a quantitative minimum of disposals. The disposal of suits in each court depends upon several factors like the nature of the litigation, the calibre of the presiding officer, the acumen of the Bar and so forth. It is, therefore, unreasonable to fix the same quantitative standard for all courts of a particular class. We think that these standards have been fixed somewhat arbitrarily. It would be better to fix the standard of disposal for each court separately and to insist on cases being normally taken up in the chronological order. Any tendency to depart from this procedurewith a view to showing larger quantitative disposals should be definitely discouraged.

28. The pay scales of judicial officers in this State have recently been revised with effect from 1st April 1958. District and Additional District Judges are on the scale of Rs. 850-1300, Subordinate Judges on the scale of Rs. 500-800, while the scale of Munsifs is Rs. 300-500.

It is a matter of regret that in the process of revision the starting salary of District and Sessions Judges has been reduced. The present scales of pay of a District Judge are lower than those of a Collector who draws pay on the senior scale of the Indian Administrative Service i.e., 800-1860. We feel that this disparity in pay scales should not continue.

29. Travancore-Cochin was one of the few States in which Subordinate Judges were directly recruited from the Bar and such appointments were being frequently made. Although no direct recruitment from the Bar to the cadre of Subordinate Judges has been made since reorganization of the State, we understand that it is proposed to continue the practice of direct recruitment at this level. We have elsewhere expressed the opinion that such direct recruitment is inadvisable and in our view conditions in Kerala are not such as to justify a departure from this rule.



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