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Report No. 14

8. Adequacy of Judicial Strength

1. Laws' delays: An ancient complaint.-

Laws' delays are proverbial and perhaps, as old as law itself. One reads of them in Herodotus. Complaints about them are at present being loudly voiced in Europe and America.

2. Importance of speedy disposal of cases.-

In an organized society, it is in the interest of the citizens as well as the State that the disputes which go to the law courts for adjudication, should be decided within a reasonable time, so as to give certainty and definiteness to rights and obligations. If the course of a trial is inordinately long, the chances of miscarriage of justice and the expenses of litigation increase alike. Delays result in witnesses being unable to testify correctly to events which may have faded in their memory, and sometimes in their being won over by the opponent. Relief granted to an aggrieved party after a lapse of years loses much of its value and sometimes becomes totally infructuous. Such is the basis of the ubiquity of the comment "Justice delayed is justice denied".

But speedy justice does not mean a hasty or even a summary dispensation of justice by persons not qualified to administer it. What has to be ensured is that the determination of facts in controversy and the application to the facts so determined of the appropriate legal principles should not be unduly delayed. Applying these standards, there is great scope for improvement in the working of our judicial machinery.

3. Time necessarily spent on preliminary steps.-

It is inevitable that the preparation of a case, before it is finally heard by the court, should take some time. Our system of trials, as in England and in U.S.A., contemplates a full discovery of facts before the trial. Therefore, a large number of preliminary steps, like the service of process which brings the contending parties together, the filing of written statements, inspection, interrogatories, the giving of further particulars, the filing of documents which are designed to ensure a full discovery of facts and preventing surprise, the framing of issues so that the matters for the determination of the court may be crystallised, have all to be gone through before a case becomes ripe for hearing and can be put on the list of "ready cases" for trial.

These steps are essential to an orderly search for truth. These stages in the career of a suit necessarily mean time. When the suit is ready for hearing, time has to be given to the parties to produce their evidence so as to enable the court to investigate fully into their rights and liabilities.

4. Time lag inevitable (Possible to lay down time limits).-

The final adjudication of the dispute must, therefore, involve a certain lapse of time from the date of its being brought before the court. The time so taken will depend on several factors, such as, the nature of the suit, the number of parties and witnesses, the competence of the presiding officers and so forth. We must not forget that however similar the facts of two cases may be, every case is entitled to individual attention for its satisfactory disposal and any "mass production" methods or "assembly line techniques" in the disposal of cases would be utterly incompatible with a sound administration of justice.

Nevertheless, taking into account the normal time required for its various stages, a proceeding should be capable of being disposed of in a given length of time. Broadly speaking, therefore, we think, it should be possible to lay down limits of time within which judicial proceedings of various classes should, if, our system of administration of justice is to function with efficiency, be normally brought to a conclusion in the courts in which they are instituted.

5. Time limits in civil cases.-

Having regard to the general course of judicial work in civil courts, normally, a regular contested suit in a munsif's court should be disposed of within a year and in a subordinate judge's court within one year and a half; small cause suits should be disposed of within three months, regular contested appeals in district courts within six months and miscellaneous civil appeals in such courts, within three months.

6. In criminal cases.-

We are of the view, that criminal cases in magisterial courts should be disposed of within two months and committal proceedings within six weeks from the date of the apprehension of the accused. Sessions cases should be disposed of within three months from the date of the apprehension of the accused. Criminal appeals and revisions should be disposed of within two months in the court of session and within six months in the High Court from the date of their institution.

7. Standards arbitrary.-

No doubt there is some degree of arbitrariness about the standards we suggest but, in the nature of things, that cannot be avoided. It may, however, be stated that the standards laid down by us are in a way based on actual experience as these standards have been achieved in some of the States.

8. Figures of average duration.-

We give below a comparative Table showing the average duration of various kinds of contested matters in different classes of courts in the various States in India, during the years 1953 to 1955. We have not received the administration reports for the year 1955 from all the States, but wherever possible, we have made use of the figures made available to us.

It will be noticed that the figures of average duration vary in different States and during different years even in the same State. Taking, for example, regular contested suits in munsif's courts, the average duration in Andhra Pradesh is about one year, in West Bengal about fourteen months, in Madras fourteen months to two years, in Uttar Pradesh fifteen to eighteen months, in Orissa sixteen to twenty months, in Bombay about fifteen to twenty-two months and in Madhya Pradesh ten to eleven months. The average duration of a contested case in subordinate judges' courts is higher, because cases of higher value which are often complicated are usually tried in these courts.

Thus, in Andhra Pradesh the average duration of regular contested suits in subordinate judges' courts ranges from seventeen to twenty months, in Madhya Pradesh fourteen to seventeen months, in Uttar Pradesh about seventeen to twenty months, in West Bengal eighteen to twenty-three months, in Madras about twenty to twenty-four months and in Bihar about twenty-four to twenty-five months. As regards the small cause matters, the average duration ranges from four to six months in Madras, four to seven months in Andhra Pradesh, six to seven months in Bihar, six to eight months in Kerala, six to nine months in West Bengal, four to eleven months in Assam, eight to nine months in Bombay and six to twelve months in Orissa.

Table Showing Average Duration In Days of Contested Suits and Contested Civil Appeals in The Courts of Munsif's, Subordinate Judges and District Judges In The Various States for The Years 1953-1955

Name of the State

Full trial cases in munsif's courts

Full trial Cases in courts of subordinate judges

Full trial cases in District Judges' courts

Contested appeals before sub-Judges

Contested appeals before District Judge

1953 1954 1955

1953 1954 1955

1953 1954 1955

1953 1954 1955

1953 1954 1955


2 3 4

5 6 7

8 9 10

11 12 13

14 15 16


OS-392 OS-365 OS-391

OS-578 OS-620 OS-523

SC-139 SC-131 SC-147

SO-138 SC-227 SC-213

463 386 500

211 244 279

410 424 315


OS-858 OS-409 ..

OS-739 OS-370 ..

.. 126 ..

381 537 ..

582 310 ..

SC-333 SC-215 ..


OS-498 OS-504 ..

OS-739 OS-763 ..

877 1114 ..

277 349 ..

534 658 ..

SC-182 SC-189 ..

SC-222 SC-211 ..


OS-662 OS-559 OS-448

.. .. ..

422 386 436

.. .. ..

436 518 446

SC-182 SC-189 SC-254

Kerala(Travancore Cochin)

OS-856 OS-747 OS-731

.. .. OS-801

1064 1039 1048

.. .. 467

291 339 329

SC-191 SC-173 SC-251



OS-421 OS-491 OS-721

OS-601 OS-725 703

345 437 460

245 394 381

340 651 391

SC-139 SO-137 SO-125

SC-176 SC-178 312

Madhya Pardesh

OS-321 OS-336 ..

406 522 ..

562 588 ..

.. .. ..

251 249 ..

SC-234 SC-243 ..


OS-489 OS-561 OS-597

OS-566 OS-678 OS-754

869 816 779

469 581 645

612 628 656

SC-170 SC-232 SC-252

SC-306 SC-377 SC-359


.. .. ..

OS-285 OS-238 OS-224

301 195 252

144 131 136

281 214

C-86 SC-82 SC-85

Uttar Pradesh

OS-477 OS-565 OS-537

OS-502 OS-541 OS-618

417 552 708

277 305 369

303 308 295

West Bengal

OS-416 OS-423 OS-399

OS-530 OS-630 OS-699

438 483 306

184 154 207

146 200 261

SC-177 SC-178 SC-175

SC-193 SC-189 SC-272

(a) In Bombay, the figures of average duration of full trial cases relate to both the courts of civil judges, senior division and civil judges, junior division.

Note.-The figures given in this have been taken from the reports on the administration of justice published by the High Courts of the various States.

The average duration of regular civil contested appeals before district judges ranges from five to nine months in West Bengal, between ten to fifteen months in Andhra, between eleven to twenty-two months in Madras and seventeen to twenty-two months in Bihar. It is about ten months in Uttar Pradesh and about eight months in Madhya Pradesh. The average duration of such appeals in the courts of subordinate judges is somewhat lower than in the district judges' courts.

9. A misleading test.-

The figures relating to average duration do not, however, necessarily give a correct picture of the state of affairs in these States. If comparatively lighter suits are disposed of and heavier suits are allowed to remain pending, the figures of average duration may be relatively low. Again, if recently instituted suits are taken up in preference to older ones, the average duration will be lower. It is not uncommon on the part of the judicial officers to give preference to lighter suits neglecting the more difficult ones, in order to satisfy the standards of minimum disposal of work prescribed by some High Courts. This will be evident from the Table relating to the age of pendency of regular suits in the subordinate courts in various States.1

1. Chapter on Delays.

The test of average duration is still more misleading in criminal matters as, in the calculation of it, there always enter a large number of disposals of petty matters which take very little time, being disposed of at the first hearing on a plea of guilty.

It will be noticed that in civil matters the standards that we have indicated are not difficult of fulfilment and, indeed, largely our courts are not very far from these standards.

We also give below a Table showing the average duration in days of criminal cases in various classes of courts in the different States during the years 1953­1955. A scrutiny of this statement reveals, that barring a few States, the time limits suggested by us for the disposal of criminal cases also are not difficult of achievement.

Table Showing Average Duration in Days of In Various Classes of Courts during The YEar 1953-55


Courts of Magistrates

Courts of Session

















I.P.C. 82.3

Spl. laws 28.9





(b) I.P.C. 82.3

Spl. laws 28.9








© I.P.C. 82.4 Spl.

and local laws 35.01








Kerala (Travancore Cochin)







(a) From the date of receipt of records n the courts of Sessions

Madhya Pradesh








Sub-Divisional Magistrates











(d) In stipendiary magistrate's court


In district magistrate's court









(e) In stipendiary magistrate's court


In district magistrate's court









(f) In stipendiary magistrate's court


In district magistrate's court









Uttar Pradesh







(G) I.P.C. 50.7 Spl. and local laws 15.7

(k) I.P.C. 49.9 Spl. And local laws 17.3

Note.- The figures given in this table have been taken from the reports on the administration of justice published by the High Courts of the respective States.

10. What are arrears.-

Having suggested the standard time limits within which various classes of judicial proceedings should be concluded in the courts of the first instance, we may proceed to define what should be regarded as "arrears". We think that all matters which have not been disposed of within the time limits prescribed should be treated as "arrears". Thus, more than one year old suits in munsifs' courts, more than one and a half year old suits in subordinate judges' courts, small cause suits more than three months' old, civil appeals more than six months' old and miscellaneous appeals more than three months old, should be deemed to be "arrears".

Unfortunately, it appears that that is not the attitude of some of the High Courts. In Bihar, a subordinate judicial officer is not required to explain the delay in the disposal of a pending suit unless it is three years' old; and, in parts of Kerala, a suit is not considered an "old suit" until its duration is five years. Such an attitude is clearly opposed to the sound administration of justice and needs to be corrected.

We set out below Tables showing separately the volume of work in the courts of munsifs, subordinate judges and district judges in the various States during the year 1956. Unfortunately, there are some discrepancies in the figures supplied to us. Besides, it has not been possible for the States to give us figures of more ' than three months' old small cause suits, more than six months' old civil appeals and some other figures so as to enable us to estimate with accuracy the volume of arrears in our courts in the light of what we have defined to be "arrears".

But, we have been able to get figures of various classes of proceedings that are more than one year old, a scrutiny of which should give a fairly accurate idea of the magnitude of arrears in our courts. A comparison of the number of pending proceedings over a year old with those below one year gives us an idea of the volume of "arrears". The greater the number of proceedings more than a year old, the larger the volume of arrears. One has also to have regard in this connection to the total number of pending proceedings.

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