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Report No. 14

3. City Civil and Sessions Court.-

Since 23rd February 1957, the original civil and criminal jurisdiction of the High Court has been curtailed by West Bengal Acts XXI and XX of 1953. Section 5 of the former Act provides that the High Court shall not have jurisdiction to try suits and proceedings of a civil nature not exceeding Rs. 10,000 in value, subject to the provisions contained in sub-sections (3) and (4) of that section and also of section 9. According to sub-section (4), suits and proceedings specified in the first schedule to the Act shall not be triable by the City Civil Court. Entries 2 to 9, 11, 12 and 15 of the first schedule read as under:?

2. Suits and proceedings relating to or arising out of shipping or navigation (including in particular carriage by sea, ships, cargo, freight, collisions, salvage, average, maritime lien, bottomry, respondent, wages of seamen or master, and disbursements) not otherwise triable under entry 1.

3. Suits and proceedings relating to or arising out of carriage by air.

4. Subject to entry 1 and entry 2, suits and proceedings exceeding five thousand rupees in value,-

(i) relating to or arising out of import or export of merchandise, or

(ii) relating to or arising out of stock exchange transactions or futures markets, or

(iii) relating to or arising out of documents of title to goods as defined in the Indian Sale of Goods Act, 1930, or

(iv) arising out of transactions of merchants and traders relating to the buying or the selling of goods or relating to the construction of mercantile documents, or

(v) relating to or arising out of transaction of mercantile agents as defined in the Indian Sale of Goods Act, 1930.

5. Suits and proceedings exceeding five thousand rupees in value relating to or arising out of bills of exchange, hundies or other negotiable securities for money, letters of credit or letters of advice, but not suits and proceedings relating to or arising out of cheques, promissory notes or currency notes.

6. Suits and proceedings exceeding five thousand rupees in value for dissolution of partnership and for an account of partnership transactions.

7. Suits and proceedings relating to or arising out of mortgages of, or charges or lien on, immovable property.

8. Suits and proceedings for the administration of assets of deceased persons.

9. Suits and proceedings relating to or arising out of trusts or endowments.

11. Suits and proceedings under the Arbitration Act, 1940, other than suits and proceedings under Chapter IV of that Act.

12. Proceedings for the relief of insolvent debtors triable by the High Court.

15. Suits and proceedings triable by the High Court as a Court of matrimonial jurisdiction.

In effect therefore the jurisdiction of the City Civil Court is limited to Rs. 10,000 in value, excepting commercial causes in which its jurisdiction is limited to Rs. 5,000 and mortgage suits which it cannot entertain.

4. We may next examine the judge-power that is needed to cope with the work on the original side. We were told that usually six judges sit singly to dispose of the suits and proceedings arising on the original side. In 1956, one judge sat for six days to hear suits, matters, applications and other matters, three judges sat separately but simultaneously for five days, four judges for thirty days, five judges for ninety-five days, six judges for fifty-two days and seven judges for four days. For the rest of the period, they were engaged in hearing insolvency cases, original side appeals, cases reported under Chapter V, rules 2 and 3 of the Original Side Rules and criminal cases, criminal appeals and other matters arising on the Original Side. In spite of the fairly large number of judges employed for the determination of civil and criminal matters on the Original Side, the arrears have been progressively on the increase, as is evident from the figures given in the Table No. 1 above and in the Table set out below:-

Table No. 2

1954

1955

1956

Nature of Proceedings

Pending at the beginning

Institutions

Disposal

Pending at the beginning

Institutions

Disposal

Pending at the beginning

Institutions

Disposal

Pending on 1st Jan, 1957

1. Appeals from Original Side including Letters Patent Appeals and writ Appeals

228

175

139

324

182

102

404

208

155

457

2. Leave to Appeal to Supreme Court

..

12

12

..

15

15

..

20

20

..

3. Original Suits

13042

4247

3691

13598

3702

3562

13738

3600

3570

13768

4. Miscellaneous

426

398

351

473

509

428

554

424

440

538

1. Criminals Appeals

2

24

24

2

35

26

11

25

30

6

2. Criminal Sessions

51

72

69

54

63

72

45

62

54

53

The establishment of the City Civil Court in 1957 had not the effect of reducing the number of pending proceedings in the High Court on its Original Side as section 20 of the Act XXI of 1953 specifically prohibits the transfer of any suit or proceeding pending in the High Court to the City Civil Court.

5. As in a few other States petitions under Article 226 of the Constitution of India are in this State laid before a Judge of the High Court sitting singly both for admission and later for final disposal. We were informed that in many cases long delays had occurred in the disposal of these petitions after rules had been issued and that in many cases the relief prayed for had become infructuous when the matters came up for hearing. During the three years preceding 1957 the writ business transacted by the High Court was as under:-

Table No. 3

1954

1955

1956

Nature of Proceedings

Pending at the beginning

Institutions

Disposal

Pending at the beginning

Institutions

Disposal

Pending at the beginning

Institutions

Disposal

Pending on 1st Jan, 1957

1. Appeals from Original Side including Letters Patent Appeals and writ Appeals

228

175

139

324

182

102

404

208

155

457

2. Leave to Appeal to Supreme Court

..

12

12

..

15

15

..

20

20

..

3. Original Suits

13042

4247

3691

13598

3702

3562

13738

3600

3570

13768

4. Miscellaneous

426

398

351

473

509

428

554

424

440

538

1. Criminals Appeals

2

24

24

2

35

26

11

25

30

6

2. Criminal Sessions

51

72

69

54

63

72

45

62

54

53

The establishment of the City Civil Court in 1957 had not the effect of reducing the number of pending proceedings in the High Court on its Original side as section 20 the act XXI of 1953 specifically prohibits the transfer of any suit or proceeding pending in the High Court to the City Court.

5. As in a few other States petitions under Article 226 of the Constitution of India are in this State laid before a Judge of the High Court sitting singly both for admission and later for final disposal. We were informed that in many cases long delays had occurred in the disposal of these petitions after rules had been issued and that in many cases the relief prayed for had become infructuous when the matters came up for hearing. During the three years preceding 1957 the writ business transacted by the High Court was as under:-

Table No. 4

1954

1955

1956

Pending at the beginning

Institutions

Disposed of

Pending at the beginning

Institutions

Disposed of

Pending at the beginning

Institutions

Disposed of

Pending at the close of the year

353

701

459

595

647

585

657

1067

613

1211

We were further informed that quite a number of writ petitions pending on.-1-1957 were more than two years old. Such delays in the disposal of these petitions defeat the very purpose of this extraordinary remedy and are a negation of the administration of justice. Measures must be immediately devised to scrutinize these petitions at the admission stage so that the obviously unsustainable ones may be weeded out at that stage, to quicken the pace of their hearing which at the moment appears to be a very leisurely pace and if necessary to make available for their disposal more judge-power. In this respect the High Court of this State may well follow the example of some other High Courts.

It appears that approximately only 15 to 20 per cent. of the judgments pronounced on writ petitions are taken in appeal. The fact that the number of judgments in writ matters that go up in appeal is small, would appear to show that the litigants are satisfied with the pronouncements made by a judge sitting singly. To minimise delays at the appellate stage the advisability of introducing the practice obtaining in Madras of posting writ appeals for admission may be considered.



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