Report No. 14
12. Average duration.-
The magnitude of the problem can also be appreciated if we take into consideration the average duration of time taken to dispose of the proceedings in the High Court. Thus the average duration of a contested First Appeal rose from 1393 days in 1950 to 2145 days (i.e., 5 years-11 months) in 1955. Even uncontested First Appeals took 1511 days (i.e., more than 4 years) to be disposed of. The average duration of a contested 2nd appeal in 1955 was 1276 days i.e. 31/2 years. The figures speak for themselves.
13. The chief malaise of the High Court is undoubtedly the shortage of judges. This was pointed out by the Uttar Pradesh Judicial Reforms Committee, as early as in 1950. The Committee stated:
"It is the unanimous opinion of all of us as also of those who have replied to the questionnaire, that the main cause of delay in the disposal of appeals in the High Court is the shortage of judges. At least 21 judges are necessary for disposing of the cases coming up from day to day. It will not be possible for them to touch the arrears and at least three more judges are absolutely necessary in order that the arrears may be cleared off within a reasonable time."1
1. Report, p. 72.
We may only add that the position has been seriously aggravated since that Committee made its Report. The total number of pending proceedings of all classes in the High Court at the end of 1949 was only 15,604, but this has since swollen to 41,512 in 1957. It is a matter of regret that in spite of timely warnings the gravity of the problem should not have been fully realised by the concerned authorities.
14. Raising of strength necessary.-
It is apparent from the figures relating to 1956 as well the year 1957, that the existing strength of 25 judges will be unable even to keep pace with the current institutions. It is accordingly necessary, that the normal strength of the High Court Judiciary should be raised without any delay to prevent a further deterioration in the situation. If this is not done, further increase in the arrears is inevitable. It is not easy to calculate the minimum number of judges, required to deal with the current institutions. We have on the basis of figures for the years 1954 to 1957, computed that the average judge-disposal per year is about 850 cases. In making this calculation we have taken all classes of judicial proceedings in the High Court together.
On this basis, the normal strength of the High Court will have to be at least 30 judges, to be able to cope with the current institutions. More judges would be required to clear the large accumulation of arrears. We have already noticed that at the end of the year 1957 the total number of proceedings, civil and criminal, pending in the High Court were 41,512. Deducting therefrom 21,250 cases, which would normally be disposed of by the existing strength of 25 judges during the current year, the balance of 20,262 cases, i.e., the arrears will require for their disposal 24 more judges required for one year or 12 judges for two years. Such a large addition to the strength of the High Court is of course not feasible. Other, measures are necessary and we have indicated some of them in earlier chapters. We shall suggest some other measures in this chapter.
15. Delay in filling vacancies.-
The malaise is the direct result of the complacent attitude of the Government and their failure to appreciate the seriousness of the problem. The apathy of the executive is evident from the long delays in the appointment of judges, to fill the vacancies which have occurred in the High Court from time to time. We have dealt with this question at some length in our chapter on the "High Court". The instances of delay which occurred in the case of the appointments of the 17 judges during the period beginning from December, 1950 to March, 1955 show that for a period of 1421/2 months, i.e., 11 years and 101/2 months, the post of one judge or the other was allowed to remain vacant on account of delay in filling up the vacancies. This is equivalent to the loss of 12 judges for one year. Had these delays not occurred, probably, half the existing, arrears would not have come into being.
16. Powers of Single Judge.-
One of the methods which we recommend for increasing the disposals is the increase of the powers of a single judge. The rules of the High Court were amended in 1954 with this end in view. Prior to the amendment, the power of a single judge in civil appeals and revisions was restricted to cases where the value of appeal and the cross-objection if any, did not together exceed Rs. 2,000. All writ applications had also to be dealt with by a Division Bench. As a result of the aforesaid amendment, the jurisdiction of a single judge has been increased to Rs. 5,000 in civil appeals and civil revisions.
Writ petitions other than for Habeas Corpus or those challenging the decisions of the Board of Revenue, Election Tribunals and Labour Tribunals are now finally disposed of by a Single Judge, who has also jurisdiction to hear all criminal appeals except those where sentence of death or transportation for life has been imposed. The enlargement of the powers of a single judge has undoubtedly added to the judicial out put. This is evident from the figures of disposal for the years 1953-56 in Table No. 1. Thus the number of Second Appeals disposed of in 1955 were 2570 as against 1670 in 1953.
Civil revisions disposed of in 1955 were 1681 as against 1072 in 1953; the disposal of writ petitions also substantially increased after 1953. The impact of the amendment of these rules on the judicial output is, therefore, obvious. But a further increase in the powers of a Single Judge appears to be imperative if even the current work of the court is to be brought under control. An enlargement of the jurisdiction of a single judge to enable him to hear all first appeals below Rs. 15,000, or even Rs. 20,000-all Second Appeals and all civil revisions should be made.
17. Appellate jurisdiction of District Judges.-
Following the recommendations of the High Court Arrears Committee, the appellate jurisdiction of District Judges has been raised from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 10,000, by an amendment of the Bengal, Agra and Assam Civil Courts Act, 1887. This amendment came into force in November, 1954. The High Court has however held,1 that the amendment has no retrospective effect and has no application to decrees in suits instituted prior to the amendment of the Act. If the amendment is to serve a useful purpose it is necessary that it should immediately by suitable legislation be given retrospective effect and be made to apply to all suits, whenever instituted.
It is also necessary to transfer all appeals pending in the High Courts, below the value of Rs. 10,000 from officers other than District Judges to the District Court for disposal. From the available figures, we find, that out of a total of 2800 First Appeals instituted during the period 1952-1956, 982 (i.e., about 35 per cent.) are of a valuation between Rs. 5,000 and Rs. 10,000. Taking this proportion as the average, it would mean that roughly about 1360 of the pending First Appeals would be of a valuation between Rs. 5,000 and Rs. 10,000. If these pending appeals are transferred to the District Courts it should give substantial relief to the High Court. Our general recommendations with regard to increasing the number of district judges and the mode of such transfer will have to be kept in mind.
18. Second Appeals.-
Following the recommendation of the High Court Arrears Committee, reiterated by the U.P. Judicial Reforms Committee, section 102 of the Civil Procedure Code was amended in 1954, raising the limit of non-appeal ability from Rs. 500 (as it was then) to Rs. 2,000. This amendment is in accordance with our recommendation. We have however gone further and suggested that the right of Second Appeal should be barred in all suits below Rs. 2,000 where rights to immovable property are not involved.
19. Paper books.-
The L.P. Judicial Reforms Committee in their Report suggested that one of the causes of delay in the High Court was the printing and translation of records.1 This, however, does not seem to be correct, at any rate at, the present time. The truth is that even cases, in which paper books are ready, cannot be heard because there are many earlier cases to be heard and disposed of. We were told that the printing of paper books in civil cases was temporarily stopped, as there was no room in which the records could be stored and the cases in which paper books were ready were sufficient to occupy the time of the judges.
Under the rules prescribed by the High Court printing of paper books is necessary in capital cases, appeals under sections 411 A(2), and 417 Cr. P.C., and cases where notice is given to show cause why the sentence should not be enhanced to that of death and civil cases where the valuation of the appeal is Rs. 10,000 or more. Parties are, however, permitted with the leave of the court either to file typewritten paper book or to get it printed privately. The U.P. Judicial Reforms Committee suggested that printing and translation of records may be restricted only to those cases which have a valuation of Rs. 20,000 or above. In cases with a valuation of less than Rs. 20,000, paper books may not be printed or translated but may be type-written only when a case is to be heard by a Bench of two judges. It is understood that these recommendations have been accepted by the High Court and the rules have been amended accordingly.
There is, however, considerable delay in the printing of records in criminal cases. We learnt that even in cases where the death penalty was imposed, the Government press was unable to get the paper books ready in time with the result, that the work had to be entrusted to a private press. It seems that the situation has somewhat improved recently after the work of printing has been entrusted to private presses.
Our general recommendations with regard to preparation of paper books are equally applicable to this State.
In our chapter on "Civil Appellate Procedure" we have already referred to the peculiar rule which obtains in this State regarding the levy of extra charges for the translation and printing of papers in an appeal out of turn and have recommended its abrogation.
20. Distribution of work.-
We have recommended elsewhere that the distribution of work should be so arranged, that judges are assigned the work in which they can excel. This is easily possible in the High Courts like Allahabad, which have a large number of judges. We were told that in 1955 the total number of income-tax references, agricultural income-tax cases and sales tax cases before the court were 879, out of which only 63 cases could be disposed of during the year. If judges with an aptitude for this branch of law are continuously put on this type of work, greater expedition would, be possible.
It is necessary to refer to the manner and quantum of disposal of work in the High Court. The figures examined by us seemed to indicate that the speed of disposal generally in all matters in this High Court compared unfavourably with that in some other High Courts. In view, however, of the different methods of maintaining statistics in different centres we were unable to demonstrate this disparity by comparative statements. It must not be forgotten that appointments of persons without adequate experience must necessarily result in smaller disposals. We have dealt with this subject at some length elsewhere. If perchance the Court happens to have such judges it should be the duty of the Chief Justice of the Court to place them in Benches with competent judges so that they may not impede the progress of the work.
21. Delegation of Powers to Registrar etc.-
We have earlier referred to the delegation of powers to the Registrar in this State to admit Second Appeals and have expressed our disapproval of this practice. We were also informed that it was not the general practice of the judges to read the case papers at home. We feel that the system of reading case papers at home can be introduced with advantage in this High Court.
22. Increase in the volume of work (Subordinate Courts).-
During the last few years, there has been a considerable rise in the number of suits instituted in the subordinate courts. In 1951, the number of suits instituted in subordinate courts was 102,788, but in 1955 it had risen to 157,299 i.e., by nearly 50 per cent. This enormous rise in institution of suits of all kinds, including suits relating to immovable property, is principally due to the institution of a large number of suits under the Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, 1950. Suits relating to immovable property form nearly one-third of the litigation in the State. A large proportion of the litigation is, however, of small value. Nearly 92 per cent. of the total litigation relates to suits below Rs. 1,000. Roughly, only about 2 per cent. of the total volume of litigation is above Rs. 5,000 valuation.
23. State of files of regular Suits in the courts of Munsifs and Civil Judges.-
The following two statements show the state of the files of regular suits in the courts of Munsifs and Civil Judges during the years 1951-56.