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Report No. 14

11. Courts of munsifs and subordinate judges (Adequacy of strength).-

Taking the courts of munsifs first, it will be noticed, that in all the States, except in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the judicial officers have been able to keep pace with the current institution of regular suits. In some of the States, the disposal has substantially exceeded institutions. As regards the small cause suits, except in Andhra Pradesh-where it fell short by three suits which may be ignored-Kerala and West Bengal, the disposals have kept pace with the institutions.

Taking next the subordinate judges' courts, it would appear that insofar as regular suits are concerned, except in Assam, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, these courts have also been able to keep pace with current institutions. Likewise, in small cause suits also, except in Andhra Pradesh, Mysore, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, these courts have, on the whole, been able to cope with institutions. These facts tend to show, that except in a few States, the existing strength of munsifs and subordinate judges, seems to be, on the whole, adequate to cope with the current file. We have dealt with this aspect of the matter in greater detail in our chapters dealing with individual States.

12. Old suits in munsifs' courts (In subordinate judges' courts) (Strength adequate to cope with institutions but not arrears).-

The real problem requiring attention is the large volume of the pending old suits in the States, which seem to be the accumulations of the last many years. Taking the munsifs' courts first, of the total number of pending suits, the percentage of more than one year old suits is seventy in Kerala, over fifty in Uttar Pradesh, forty-seven in Orissa and thirty-five in West Bengal. Similarly, the percentage of old suits in the courts of subordinate judges is sixty-two in West Bengal, sixty in Orissa, fifty-nine in U.P., fifty in Madras, fifty in Andhra, forty-four in Kerala, forty-two in Rajasthan.

Elsewhere, we have also shown the age of pending regular suits as on the first January, 1955, in subordinate courts in the various States, which reveals that quite a large number of suits has been pending for many years. Thus, though the present strength of judicial officers might, broadly speaking, be said to be adequate to deal with the current file, intensive efforts are necessary to rid the files of the incubus of these old suits, which has assumed alarming proportions in several States.

13. Estimate contested disposals (Strength necessary for clearing arrears).-

The magnitude of the problem will appear in a truer light when we remember that, generally, out of the total disposal, only about twenty to twenty-five per cent. of the suits are disposed of after full trial. The rest of the suits are disposed of without contest, and include cases summarily dismissed under Order IX of Civil Procedure Code or otherwise, suits decided ex parte or on admission of the claim and suits compromised after the defendant has entered an appearance. The major part of the courts' time is naturally taken by the disposal of contested cases. We have not been able to obtain detailed figures showing the disposal of cases after full trial in various States during the year 1956. But we may broadly take the proportion of contested cases to be a fourth of the total number of cases disposed of. Elsewhere, we have noted, that the uncontested suits are normally disposed of within one year.

We can, therefore, rightly infer that the large number of suits pending over one year consists mainly of contested suits. Bearing in mind the rate at which judicial officers were able to dispose of contested cases during the year 1956, we have tried to calculate in the accompanying Tables the number of years that will be needed to dispose of the pending old suits in the various States, if the entire subordinate judiciary devoted the whole of its time solely to the disposal of these old cases. Column five of these Tables shows the number of years that would be required for the disposal of these "old cases" and the serious proportions of the problem. No doubt, these calculations omit to consider various factors so that the estimates may err on either side. But these statements do help to give us a broad and roughly correct idea of the situation which has to be met.

14. District judges strength-inadequate.-

In regard to district judges' courts also, the position is far from satisfactory. It is apparent from the two Tables which show separately criminal and civil work done by them in various States during the year 1956, that they have been unable to keep pace even with the current institutions in most States.

Table Sowing The Number of Years That Would Be Taken By The Existing Strength of Munsifs To Clear Off The Arrears of Old Cases

Name of the State

Disposal during the year 1956

Approximate contested disposal

No. of more than one year regular suits on.-5-57

Approximate number of years needed to dispose of more than one year old cases if all the munsifs devoted the whole of their time to the disposal of these suits

1

2

3

4

5

Andhra Pradesh

23123

5781

8294

1.4

Assam

9983

2496

1136

0.4

Bihar

83796

20949

7240

0.3

Bombay

N.A.

Kerala

28535

7134

21054

2.9

Madhya Pradesh

28322

7080

5306

0.7

Madras

37067

9267

3748

0.4

Mysore

19802

4950

467

0.09

Orissa

8412

2103 3940

1.8

Punjab

N.A

Rajasthan

24132

6033

3093

0.5

Uttar Pradesh

146988

36747

60223

1.6

West Bengal

113151

28288

17840

0.6

Note.- The figures given in columns 2 to 4 have been furnished by the High Courts of the respective States.

Table Showing The Number of That Year Would be Taken by The Existing Strength of Subordinate Judges to Clear off The Appears of Old Regular Suits

Name of the State

Disposed of Regular suits during the year 1956

Approximate contested disposal during the year 1956

More than one year old regular suits on.-5-57

Approximate number of years that would be necessary to clear of more than one year old regular suits.

1

2

3

4

5

Andhra Pradesh

2491

623

1640

2.6

Assam

708

177

644

3.6

Bihar

3345

836

1915

2.2

Bombay

N.A.

N.A.

N.A.

N.A.

Madhya Pradesh

28322

7080

5306

0.7

Madras

2200

550

1101

2

Mysore

849

212

192

0.9

Orissa

1034

258

642

2.4

Punjab

N.A.

N.A.

N.A.

N.A.

Rajasthan

8077

2019

3335

1.6

Uttar Pradesh

6254

1563

2936

1.7

West Bengal

3291

823

4496

5.4

Note.- The figures given in columns 2 to 4 have been furnished by the High Courts of the respective States.

The inference is irresistible that the existing strength of the higher judicial service is inadequate to deal even with the current file, much less with the arrears which seem to have been progressively accumulating in the course of the last few years. It has to be remembered that the district judge's role is a very responsible one. He is the head of the district judiciary and in addition to his normal judicial work, the primary responsibility for supervising and controlling the judicial work in the district also rests upon him.

These form an extremely important part of his duties. Elsewhere, we have been at pains to emphasise the imperative need for very strict superintendence over the subordinate courts. If the district judge is to adequately discharge his duties of supervision and control, it is essential that he should be given relief in his judicial work. Unfortunately, the present trend is in the direction of an increase of his judicial work under various special Acts. It is abundantly clear, therefore, that the judiciary at the level of the district judges is heavily deficient in strength in most of the States.

15. Need for temporary additional courts.-

Our conclusions on the statistical data surveyed by us may now be summarized: Firstly, in most of the States, the existing strength of civil judiciary at the level of munsifs and subordinate judges seems to be roughly adequate to deal with the current file. Secondly, at the level of district judges the judiciary is largely deficient in numbers, so that the existing strength is unable to cope even with the current institutions. Thirdly, the pendency of old suits is very high in most of the States.

We are of the view that it is necessary to establish in most of these States temporary additional courts at all the three levels for such periods of time as may be necessary. To these temporary courts must be assigned exclusively the task of disposal of the old suits.

It is difficult for us to estimate the number of temporary additional courts needed for each State. We feel that there should be an increase in the permanent strength of the higher judiciary at the district judge level in all the States. The extent of this addition to the permanent strength will have to be determined having regard to the conditions in each State.

16. Causes of accumulation of arrears (Delay in appointment of additional judges) (Increase of work).-

The root cause of the progressive accumulation of old cases in several States is that, in the past, in spite of the growing volume of work, the strength of the judiciary was not proportionately increased. The existing accumulation of arrears is also partly due to additional work thrown on judicial officers by recent legislation. The area of work to be covered by the judicial officers has been greatly widened. The Employees State Insurance Act, Displaced Persons (Compensation and Rehabilitation) Act, the Administration of Evacuee Property Act, the Land Reforms Acts and the Hindu Marriage Act, are some of the Acts which have brought fresh work to the judiciary even at its lower levels.

The proceedings under these Acts are not treated as regular suits and the judicial officer seldom gets credit for the volume of work which he turns out under these heads. Attention to this special work, naturally, leads to the ordinary suits or appeals being kept aside and accumulated. We have referred to these facts in order to emphasize that the statistical data furnished by the administration reports do not always give a correct picture of the work which a judicial officer is called upon to do. All suits and proceedings other than regular suits and regular appeals appear to be classified under a miscellaneous head; and there is a tendency to assume that all miscellaneous work is of a lighter and easier description. In point of fact, most of such work is definitely not of that nature.

17. Persistent complaints by High Courts.-

The inadequacy of the strength of the subordinate judiciary has been pointed out by the various High Courts from time to time in their administration reports. The Madhya Pradesh High Court in its report for the year 1954, on the administration of civil justice, attributed the rise in the average duration of cases among other things to "inevitable reĀ­grouping of Courts, keeping of some Courts vacant for want of judges, heavy sessions and criminal work".1 In Uttar Pradesh, year after year, the High Court has observed, that the work in subordinate courts, both civil and criminal, has been increasing rapidly but the addition to the strength of judiciary has not kept pace with the increase in the volume of work.

They have also pointed out that courts had frequently to be kept vacant for want of officers and that the judicial officers who were doing magisterial work were entrusted with other work with the result that they were unable to devote themselves to regular trial work. In West Bengal also, the High Court has repeatedly referred to the mounting arrears in subordinate courts, though it does not seem to have made specific observations as to the inadequacy of the judicial officers in the annual administration reports. In Orissa, the delay in the disposal of pending cases was attributed to the availability of a lesser number of officers than was necessary. Similar observations have been made by the Patna High Court also.

1. Report, p.6

It is, therefore, abundantly clear that the inadequacy of judicial officers has been repeatedly brought to the notice of State Governments through the administration reports issued by the High Courts. The High Courts have also from time to time made representations to the government seeking for an increase in the cadre of the subordinate judiciary.

18. Observations of Uttar Pradesh Judicial Reforms Committee.-

In Uttar Pradesh, the problem of inadequacy of strength received specific attention during the enquiry conducted by the Judicial Reforms Committee. The Committee observed:

"As we will show hereafter, the civil judiciary is under-manned and consequently over-worked. Where a Munsif previously handled a file of about 200 cases, he has now to deal with a file of even 700 or 800 cases. The condition in the courts of Civil Judges is no better."1

1. Report of the Uttar Pradesh Judicial Reforms Committee, (1950-51), p. 15.

In dealing with the strength of the judiciary, the Committee stated:-

"We are of the opinion that considering the amount and nature of work that is coming before the civil courts, the cadre should be substantially increased as early as possible if the arrears, which are accumulating from day-to-day, are to be cleared off. It may also be mentioned that besides this temporary phase of accumulated arrears, the work has gone up both in volume and complexity and the old cadre of civil judicial officers will not be sufficient to deal with the volume of work now coming before the civil courts. What is required, therefore, is a permanent increase in cadre and also some increase for the time being to deal with the accumulated arrears, civil work has been falling into arrears year by year since 1942.

This is due to the fact that after the entry of Japan into the War and the enactment of a large number of new laws creating new offences, for example, under the Defence of India Act and Rules, criminal work to be done by Sessions Judges and Assistant Sessions Judges increased enormously with the result that these officers who are also District Judges and Civil Judges, were unable to give sufficient time for the disposal of civil work. This is clearly reflected in the figures of pending file of regular suits and civil appeals in the courts of District Judges and Civil

Judges

"It will be seen, therefore, that the number of pending suits in 1949 was almost double of the number pending in 1942. Same is the case with appeals. The reason for this is that Civil Judges and District Judges have been busy in disposing of criminal work, with the result that many Civil Courts remained lying vacant and many a time Civil Judges were working as Assistant Sessions Judges without doing any appreciable civil work. The cadre could not unfortunately be increased to cope with the increased criminal work thrown on Sessions and Assistant Sessions Judges in the last five years.

Similarly the institution, which was just above 4,100 in 1942, has gradually increased and was just above 5,900 in 1949, i.e. an increase of about 40 per cent. in civil suits. Institution of appeals also rose from just over 2,200 in 1942 to over 4,300 in 1945, but then it came down to 2,900 in 1949. Even so, it is 25 per cent. above the figure for 1942. The reason why the number of appeals has come down since 1945 is that a number of Munsifs have had to be kept vacant and additional Munsifs' Courts could not be created and the Munsifs did thus not dispose of as much work as they should have done. Similarly, if we compare the figures in the Munsifs' Courts, the state of affairs will be found to be the same."1

1. Report of the Uttar Pradesh Judicial Reforms Committee, pp. 20-21.

Proceeding further, the Committee stated:

"In recent times there has been a great increase in the duration of cases. This increase in duration in subordinate courts started some time after the beginning of the last war due, to a large extent, to the fact that very many new laws were introduced leading to new types of cases both in the criminal and civil courts. Then came the transfer of power in 1947 leading to a shortage in the cadre of officers required for the disposal of judicial work, the civil, criminal and revenue. There was also an increase in crimes and criminal work due to the troubles following in the wake of the partition of 1947. This led to a sudden appointment of a large number of young men to make up the deficiency in the cadre with the natural result that the quality of the officers also deteriorated to a certain extent.

It has resulted in a good percentage of the cadre consisting of inexperienced officers of less than five years' standing. Over and above this, there is no doubt that so far as the administration of civil justice is concerned, there is an actual shortage of officers to carry on the day-to-day work. In old days a pending file of 200 was considered sufficient for a Munsif and whenever a file went above 300 or so, an Additional Munsif was provided.

In those circumstances, it was expected that a suit would not last for more than six months to a year in the Munsif's court. At the present time, a pending file of 300 to 400 is not considered too high for a Munsif while some of them have a pending file of even 700 to 800. In the case of Civil Judges 50 used to be a normal file but now it is generally over 100 and sometimes even 200 or 400. No option is, therefore, left to the officer who fixes dates sometimes six months ahead and sometimes dates have to be fixed only for the fixation of dates. Adjournments cannot be avoided in this state of circumstances.

Then if the file of an officer is overburdened, he has to deal with interlocutory matters in a large number of cases every day which occupied most of his time. The cases also become old and it is common experience that with the duration of the case parties procure more voluminous evidence and create greater complexities. It is, therefore, imperatively necessary before the entire administration of justice collapses because of the tremendous weight of arrears which cannot be cleared off, to increase the cadre of judicial officers considerably to dispose of the work lying unattended .1"

1. Report of the Uttar Pradesh Judicial Reforms Committee, (1950-51), pp. 21-22.

Shri T.R. Misra, a former Judge of the Allahabad High Court who was a Member of the Committee made some important observations in his note of dissent:

"There is an undoubted shortage of Judges and Magistrates and there is urgent need of making this shortage good as soon as possible. There should be one Munsif for a file of 250 Munsiff's suits and one Civil Judge for a file of 75 or 80 Civil Judge's regular suits. If Civil Judges are required to do criminal work also, extra officers should be provided As far as I am aware the work in most of the courts is much too heavy for a single officer to cope with expeditiously and satisfactorily.

Most of the Munsifs have a pending file of 500 to 1000 regular suits which means the work of two to four Munsifs. The criminal work with District and Sessions Judges and Civil and Assistant Sessions Judges has also considerably increased. Partly owing to this increase and partly owing to the faulty manner in which it is arranged, civil work is greatly dislocated causing much avoidable trouble, expense and delay to the parties. So long as this heavy burden is not removed or appreciably lightened by the appointment of more officers, Government's object to give cheap and speedy justice to the people of the State cannot be achieved ."1

1. Ibid., p. 127.



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