Report No. 14
25. Inadequacy of judicial strength-a long standing problem.-
The acute shortage of judicial officers is not a new feature in Uttar Pradesh. In fact, shortage of personnel has persisted for a very long time, resulting as we have seen earlier, in the progressive accumulation of pending cases year after year. The High Court has repeatedly drawn attention of the State Government to it in their Administration Reports as well as in official correspondence. We have earlier quoted the observations of the Uttar Pradesh Judicial Reforms Committee on this subject.
The High Court in its reply to our Questionnaire stated that in a large number of cases, the period actually taken for disposal of civil and criminal proceedings exceeded what may be considered reasonable. They, however, pointed out that:
"the overriding cause for this is the great inadequacy of Judges, Munsifs and Magistrates. The work has increased greatly in recent years but there has been no corresponding increase in the number of officers."
The High Court in their letter addressed to the State Government in October 1957 observed:
"The Court takes a very grave view of the delay with which cases are disposed of in civil courts and sessions courts. It reflects no credit on the administration of justice that sessions trials (barring those for capital offences) take about a year and a half for disposal, civil suits take more than a year for disposal in the trial court, civil appeals are not disposed of for two and three years and criminal appeals also take a long time for disposal. The delay in the disposal of a suit and a civil appeal means that the aggrieved party is left without any redress for many years. In many cases it would be hardly worthwhile filing a suit in a civil court for redress.
If the administration of civil justice is not to be reduced to a farce, urgent measures are necessary to prevent the delay. The judicial officers are, as a rule, making the fullest use of their time and Court does not think they can dispose of substantially more work. They are generally punctual in attendance and barring a few isolated cases they do full day's work every day. The accumulation of arrears is due mostly to inadequacy of officers of all grades and the Court would urge Government to take into immediate consideration the question of increasing the numbers of officers of all grades."
In the end, the Court stated:
"No less than 275 officers would be required if the existing arrears' were to be cleared off in two years, the number of officers required would be 1.'37 if they were to be cleared off in three years, the number would be 92 if they were to be cleared off in four years, the number would be 69 if they were to be cleared off in five years The largest number of officers required is in the court of Munsifs because the heaviest arrears are in suits triable by a Munsif. Roughly about half the number of officers required to clear off the arrears should be Munsifs, the number of Civil Judges required would be about half that of Munsifs and the number of Civil and Sessions Judges, about one third."
Increasing the strengt.- chief remedy.-
From the foregoing, it is quite obvious that the root of the trouble in U.P. is the acute shortage of judicial personnel at all levels and unless this aspect of the matter is faced and the deficiency made good, any other measures taken will be of but little use. It is not possible for us to estimate the required strength of the subordinate judiciary as that requires a more detailed knowledge of local conditions than we possess. That is a matter for the High Court and the State Government, but we wish to emphasise that nothing substantial can be done in the way of reducing the arrears unless the judicial personnel is raised to the adequate strength.
26. Delays in filling up vacancies.-
It has also been stated that whenever the High Court asks for an increased number of judicial officers, there has been considerable delay on the part of the Government in sanctioning the posts. For instance we understand that the High Court sent proposals to the State Government for increasing the cadre of Civil Judges by 33 and of Munsifs by 152 as early as November 1952. No reply was received by the High Court to this communication till.-3-1954 when a reminder and further proposals for increase in the strength of the judiciary were submitted to the Government.
In the meanwhile the requirements of the judiciary had become altered and a much larger number of judicial officers were found necessary. At that stage the Government wrote back to say that the letter of 1952 was not traceable and a copy of the original proposal might be sent. The Government was reminded by the High Court on.-8-1954 when the High Court was informed that the matter had been taken up in right earnest. When the officers of the Commission visited
Allahabad in February, 1956, it was learnt that the matter was still being "actively" considered at Government level. When we visited Allahabad in December, 1956, we were told that the strength of the subordinate judiciary had been increased by 44 as against the demand for 185 officers made by the High Court. This sorry tale reflects little credit on those responsible for the administration of justice. The High Court also may, to some extent, be blamed for not pursuing the matter with Government and for not reminding them more frequently. It is no part of our enquiry to allocate the responsibility for this or to apportion blame.
The litigant in this State has a just cause for complaint. Notwithstanding the levy of a heavy court fee, the State does not provide the litigant with a court which can take up the trial of his case in a reasonable time. With the fullest appreciation of the financial obligations of the State, a state of affairs in which session cases cannot be taken up for a year, and civil cases have to be repeatedly adjourned to a fresh date for giving a date is without parallel anywhere else in India. If this state of affairs is allowed to continue the time is not far distant when the administration of justice may well break down. There is no excuse for not establishing necessary number of courts in a State where the fees paid by suitors for having their cases "heard" contribute a handsome surplus to the general revenues.
If necessary an emergency recruitment may be resorted to fill up the vacancies at different levels.
27. Deputation of judicial officers.-
An important matter brought to our notice was that the services of a large number of judicial officers are requisitioned by the State Government from time to time for Secretariat and other non-judicial or quasi-judicial work. We were informed that some time ago about 33 judicial officers were on deputation to the State Government as against the deputation reserve of only 8. This naturally resulted in a large number of permanent courts lying vacant without presiding officers and cases not being heard.
We recommend that in fixing the strength of the judiciary the requirements of the State Government in regard to deputation to non-judicial posts should be taken into consideration and the strength of the cadre fixed on that basis. Further, under no circumstances should the number of officers sent on deputation exceed the deputation reserve or otherwise result in a shortage of judicial officers to preside over the courts.
28. Other adjustments.-
In addition to increasing the strength of the judiciary, it may also be possible to quicken the pace of disposal by certain adjustments. Thus if the small cause jurisdiction of Munsifs is raised to Rs. 500 and of Civil Judges to Rs. 2,000 as recommended by us, a large number of cases can be disposed of by them under the simpler procedure. If the pecuniary jurisdiction of Munsifs is raised to Rs. 5,000 it would enable the Munsifs to deal with a larger number of suits and to that extent relief can be afforded to the Civil Judges. But in view of the shortage of munsifs this might only result in transferring arrears from one class of courts to another. However, it is easier and less expensive to appoint more munsifs than civil judges.
The main reason for the congestion in the Civil Judges' courts is that they have to deal with a large variety of work. They have to try not only original suits, but also Session cases and hear civil and criminal appeals. Thus, in addition to their normal work, nearly 55 per cent. of regular civil appeals are disposed of by Civil Judges and about 15 per cent. of the sessions cases are heard and tried by them. Such a conglomeration of various types of proceedings, inevitably results in delay in the disposal of civil suits.
Apart from increasing their number and enhancing their small cause jurisdiction some improvement can be effected by assigning particular officers to a given type of work, for example the trial of old suits and appellate work for limited periods of time. The Civil Judges in this State hear succession certificate cases but the jurisdiction in guardianship, probate and land acquisition matters has been conferred only upon the Civil and Sessions Judges who function at places other than headquarters of the division. Delegation of powers in these matters also to the civil judges will ease the strain on the District and Civil and Sessions Judges and perhaps even reduce the number of extra officers to be appointed to this cadre.
Some relief can also be given to the District Judges by relieving them of their non-judicial duties as for example Registrars under the Indian Registration Act, with which we were told they had been entrusted. We are doubtful of the wisdom of the circular prohibiting the posting of sessions cases other than capital cases to a period beyond two months. In many other States there is no such limitation, but cases are posted for a period of three months or even more. If however in any station cases have to be posted in the court of session to a date more than three months in advance, an additional sessions judge is promptly appointed and posted.
29. Minimum standards of out-turn of work.-
Certain minimum standards as regards the quantum of work that should be done by a judicial officer during a particular period of time have been laid down by the High Court. Credit for one day's work is given for a civil suit up to Rs. 2,000, 2 days for a suit between Rs. 2,000 and Rs. 5,000 and 3 days for suits, above Rs. 5,000. Credit is given only for suits disposed of after full trial which is explained as a suit finally decided .after real contest between the parties. No credit is given if a suit is compromised even after evidence is recorded and arguments are heard. Suits decreed ex-parte or dismissed for default or decided after reference to arbitration irrespective as to whether objections to the award are filed or not, do not count for disposal. . In the case of small cause suits credit of one day is given for 10 contested suits or 40 decided otherwise.
As regards criminal matters, credit of 31/2 days is given for trial of serious offences like murder, rioting and dacoity; one day for cases falling under section 75 I.P.C., two days for other sessions trials. As regards appeals, three represented appeals or six jail appeals or six criminal revisions or two regular civil appeals or four civil miscellaneous appeals are expected to be done per day. We understand that the quantum of work of a judicial officer estimated by these standards is commented upon in the annual report and it is accordingly remarked that Shri A or B has done X days' work in Y days' time.
It is generally felt that the standards laid down by the High Court are very liberal and that in general, the judicial officers are able to turn out more work than required by the prescribed standard, whereas the previous standards in force upto 1935 were very high. With rare exceptions we discovered that the standards were generally exceeded. It was stated that in assessing the ability of a judicial officer, note is taken of the generous nature of the present standard.
Therefore, the High Court while laying down the principle that merit of an officer will be judged primarily from the quality of his work has also made it clear in its instructions, that the judicial officer of average ability doing his work with proper care and discretion, should be able not only to reach the standard but also show disposals above the prescribed standard, and that an officer who cannot attain even this standard will in the absence of a satisfactory explanation, be marked down as below average. In our view these instructions themselves demonstrate the futility of laying down such standards.
A standard which an average officer is consistently expected to surpass, ceases to serve any purpose and merely tends to mislead. It also tends to create a feeling of complacency in the minds of both the judicial officers and their superiors. There is also the very real danger that such arbitrary standards will induce judicial officers to pick and choose light work and carefully avoid the heavier suits. It tends to make for window-dressing in disposals and relegates supervision to a routine mechanical task which it should not be. The need for alteration in the system in its present form should be considered by the High Court.
30. Scrutiny of returns and inspection (Administrative Judge).-
The judicial officers submit periodical returns of their work to the High Court. The subordinate courts are also expected to be inspected by the District Judge once in every two years. The Administrative Judge also inspects the Courts of District Judges and other subordinate courts. The returns submitted by the judicial officers are scrutinised by the Registrar and are put up before the Administrative Judge. It may be pointed out that in the High Court, there is only one Administrative Judge who is expected to look after the judicial work of all the 51 districts in the State. We are convinced that it is impossible for a single individual to exercise effective or even the necessary minimum supervision over so many judicial officers, either by scrutiny of statements or by inspections, particularly when his administrative duties are merely part-time.
Opinion was, however, divided as to whether administrative work should be assigned to one or more than one Judge of the High Court. One of the Judges whom we examined, while conceding that a single administrative Judge cannot possibly look after his own judicial work as a Judge of the High Court and also do the supervision work, objected to the distribution of administrative work among more than one Judge on the ground that there would be no proper and uniform standard of comparison of the work turned out by different sets of judicial officers.
One of the Judges, however, suggested that the State may be divided into groups of 10 districts, each group being placed in charge of one Judge of the High Court. The five Judges of the High Court may constitute the administrative committee of the Court and the uniformity of standard in assessing the work of the judicial officers can be established by them by laying down proper standards.
The Administrative Judge himself admitted, that while the existence of a single administrative judge tended to make for uniformity, yet it was difficult for a single individual to control and effectively supervise all the judicial officers of the State. In our view it is possible to pay too high a price for uniformity. The present system may merely ensure a uniform lack of supervision and that is what we noticed was happening. While the criminal returns are fairly closely scrutinised as several judges are entrusted with that task, that did not appear to be the case with regard to the civil returns judging by the few samples that we examined. They merely seemed to be filed without any attempt being made to examine them.
It is physically impossible for any one judge to inspect and keep a watch on the work in all courts in the fifty one districts and division of administrative work is essential if it is to be done at all. In fact in several High Courts there is more than one administrative judge. At least two High Courts go even further and distribute the administrative work on the basis of subjects and districts among all the judges. We trust that the Allahabad High Court will speedily undertake a division of the responsibilities of supervision and inspection among the judges to give relief to the administrative judge and ensure the better supervision which the courts in Uttar Pradesh need.