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Report No. 14

52. Orissa

1. Area and population.-Orissa was originally a part of Bihar. It was carved out as a separate province in 1936 with the addition of parts of Ganjam District of Madras. After Independence, twenty-four Eastern States were merged in the State, bringing its area to 60,136 sq. miles. The territory of the State has not been affected by the recent reorganisation of States. According to the last census, its population was 14,645,946. The State is divided into seventeen revenue districts, but for administrative purposes some of the districts are grouped together, so that the State has now thirteen composite administrative districts.

2. The High Court.-

The Orissa High Court was constituted under the Orissa High Court Order, 1948 and started functioning with effect from the 26th July, 1948. Till then, the High Court of Patna exercised jurisdiction over that State. The strength of the Court has been usually four judges, except in 1951, when it had three judges and in 1954 when it had five judges. The strength at present is, however, five judges, the fifth judge having been appointed recently.

3. Subordinate Judiciary.-

There are six district judgeships in the State. Prior to 1948, the State had only two judgeships, excluding the Agency tracts, where the District Magistrate under the designation of Agent exercised the powers of a district judge. Between 1948 and 1952 there were five judgeships. The sixth judgeship was created permanently in 1953 when normal administration was introduced in the district of Koraput and in the agency areas of Ganjam District. All the judicial divisions, except Koraput are composite judgeships, consisting of two or three districts with several circuits. The population under each judgeship varies considerably. Thus, according to the last census, the population in the judgeship of Cuttack-Dhenkanal is 3,835,380 but at the other extreme, the population of the judgeship of Koraput is only 1,269,534.

4. Recruitment.-

The sanctioned strength of the district and additional district judges is thirteen. They form the Orissa Superior Judicial Service. Recruitment to these posts is made either directly from the Bar or by promotion of subordinate judges. According to the rules, recruitment by promotion should not be less than 33-1/3 per cent. and not more than 50 per cent. of the vacancies; we were however told, that during the last few years no direct appointment has been made from the Bar and all the posts had been filled by promotion. The subordinate judges and the munsifs belong to the Orissa Judicial Service, class I and class II, respectively. The sanctioned strength of subordinate judges is 15 and of munsifs 46, but the actual strength has never reached this figure. The number of subordinate judges has varied from twelve to fourteen and of the munsifs from twenty-nine to thirty-seven during the years 1951-56.

The pay scale of district judges and additional district judges is the same as the senior scale in the Indian Administrative Service. The scale of pay of a subordinate judge is Rs. 300-860; a munsif is appointed on an initial salary of Rs. 230 in the scale of Rs. 200-15-260-25-435-EB-25-610-EB-30-700. As compared to other States, the initial salary of a munsif in Orissa is very low.

The recruitment of subordinate judges is made by promotion from among the munsifs. We were however told, that the State Government had under consideration a proposal to recruit subordinate judges directly from the Bar. For the reasons given in our chapter on the Subordinate Judiciary we are against the adoption of such a course.

The munsifs are recruited directly from the Bar on the recommendation of the State Public Service Commission. The requisite qualifications for appointment as a munsif are, that the age of the candidate should be between 26 and 32 years and he should be a graduate in law with at least three years' practice at the Bar. A peculiar feature of the recruitment rules is, that the Public Service Commission is required to send to the Government twice the number of names as there are vacancies and appointments are made by the Government from that list. We are not aware, if there has been any instance, when a candidate placed higher in the list has been overlooked in favour of a person placed lower by the Commission, but the fact that the rule empowers the Government to do so is itself open to criticism.

We understand that recently the Government was constrained to reject all the selections made by the State Service Commission assisted by a district judge and to order a fresh selection as the fairness of the first test was impunged. This does not speak well of the existing system and the institution of a competitive examination of a practical character, as suggested by us earlier would effectively prevent such situations.

5. Promotions.-

We may here draw attention to the manner in which promotions are made in the judicial service in this State. It was learnt that the promotion from munsif to subordinate judge and from subordinate judge to district judge is almost automatic and is made on the basis of seniority. We were told that ever since the High Court came into existence in 1948, there has not been a single instance, when a subordinate judge has been passed over for promotion as district judge. Such automatic promotions as we have noticed earlier not only do not make for efficiency but go far to undermine it. It is for the High Court and the Government to examine this aspect of the matter and to effect suitable changes in the present system of making appointments to selection posts.

6. Civil work in subordinate courts.-

The following statement shows the total number of suits instituted in the subordinate courts during the years 1951-56:

Year

1951

1952

1953

1954

1955

1956

No. of suits instituted in subordinate courts.

16840

14534

15028

14376

12848

12920

It would be evident, that during the recent years there has been a downward trend in the number of the institutions. The fall in institutions is attributed to several factors, such as, the imposition in 1951 of a surcharge on court fees, the abolition of Zamindaris, the introduction of new tenancy laws, the establishment of Panchayats Adalati in which the smaller suits are filed; and a deterioration in the general economic condition of the people. The bulk of the litigation in the State is of small value. An analysis of the statistics of the last few years reveals, that nearly 98 per cent, of the litigation relates to suits below Rs. 5000. Suits below Rs. 2000 are about 94 per cent, and those below Rs. 1000 are about 88 per cent, of the total institutions. In 1956, out of a total of 12,920 suits, the suits valued above Rs. 10,000 were only 91.

7. The civil courts in Orissa are constituted under the Bengal and Assam Civil Courts Act, 1887. The pecuniary jurisdiction of munsifs is Rs. 1000, but selected munsifs may be vested with jurisdiction to try suits upto the value of Rs. 4000. Subordinate judges have unlimited pecuniary jurisdiction. The small cause jurisdiction of munsifs is limited to Rs. 250 and of subordinate judges to Rs. 500.

8. The state of the file of regular suits in the courts of munsifs and subordinate judges during the years 1951 to 1956 is shown separately in the following two statements:



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