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Report No. 14

6. Low percentage of old suits.-

We have not been able to obtain similar information from other States. It will be noticed, however, that the number of pending cases, which according to our definition can be classed as arrears, bears a comparatively low percentage to the total number of cases pending at the end of 1954 while the percentage of the number of cases pending for more than three years is still lower. In the munsifs' courts of Bihar, out of a total pendency of 53130 only thirteen per cent. were cases pending between one and two years and only 1.6 per cent. were more than three years old. In the district and subordinate courts, out of 6661 suits pending, thirty-four per cent. were more than two years old and only 8.2 per cent. were three years old.

The figures for West Bengal are slightly higher. The exceptionally high percentage of old cases in Madras in that year is said to be due to the passing of the Madras Act V of 1954 which had the effect of staying proceedings in all suits for the recovery of debts from agriculturists and in consequence of which a large number of old suits were stayed although the number of institutions fell. It is true that in all these States some of the older suits have been pending for five, six or even ten years. Such delays, however, which occur in all courts in all parts of the country are due, in part, to certain extraneous factors beyond the control of the courts.

7. Delays at the stage of appeal.-

The result of this statistical analysis, therefore, shows that on the whole, more than sixty-five to seventy per cent. of the cases are disposed of within the target time of one to two years in the civil courts. If that were the end of these cases, the average litigant would not have much to complain about. But the law does not give finality to the decision of the courts of first instance. The aggrieved party has generally a right to challenge the decision against him in one or more appellate courts, the number of appeals permitted being regulated by the nature and value of the subject-matter in dispute in each case.

This right of appeal is a necessary corrective to the errors and omissions of the courts of first instance which is rightly availed of by a large number of litigants. In fixing, therefore, the ideal time limit for disposal of cases, one has to bear in mind the time necessarily required for reaching the final decision after all the appeals provided by law have been exhausted. For instance, in original suits triable by a munsif's court, except suits of a small cause nature, the law provides a first appeal to the district appellate court and a second appeal to the High Court. In our view, litigation originating in the munsif's court ought to be disposed of within one year in the trial court, within six months in the district appellate court and within one year in second appeal in the High Court.

In an ideal sense, therefore, such a suit should reach final decision within two and a half or at the most three years but not more. In important suits of higher valuation triable in the courts of the senior judges, our target is eighteen months to two years in the trial court and the same duration for the first appeal in the High Court. Such a suit should, therefore, be finally decided in about three to three and a half years. But the time in fact taken will appear from the following two Tables which show the average duration of suits commenced respectively in the munsifs' and subordinate judges' courts at the stages of trial and of first and second appeals. The figures relate to the year 1954.

Table Showing The Average Duration of A Regular Suit Instituted In Munsif's Court from The Showing Date of Institution to The Final Disposal In Second Appeal

Name of the State

Average duration (in days) of suits disposed of by the courts of munsifs after full trial

Average duration (in days) of appeals disposed of by the district appellate courts after full hearing

Average duration (in days) of second appeals disposed of by High Court after full hearing.

Andhra

365

D.J.

228

Not available*

S.J.

382

Assam

490.1

D.J. & A.D.J.

310

603.4

S.J.

537.1

Bihar

503.6

D.J.

658.2

822.4

S.J.

348.7

Madhya Pradesh

321

Not available

1604

Madras

491

D.J.

553

1168

S.J.

367

Orissa

561.2

D.J.

628.4

2038

S.J.

581.7

West Bengal

423.6

D.J. & A.D.J.

199.6

1487

S.J.

153.9.

*. The Court started functioning in July 1954.

D.J.-District Judge

S.J.-Subordinate Judge

A.D.J.-Additional District Judge

Table Showing The Average Duration of A Regular Suit Institute In Subordinate Courts from The Date of Institution to The Date of Final Disposal.

Name of the State

Average duration of suits disposed of after full trial by the Courts of subordinate judges

Average duration of suits disposed of after full trial by the Chief Courts of districts

Average duration of suits disposed of after full trial by the High Courts after full hearing

Andhra

620

386

Not Available*

Assam

369

126.2

1122.2

Bihar

762.6

1144.5

1887.1

Madhya Pradesh

522

588

2503

Madras

725

437

1305

West Bengal

630

483

1454

*. The Court started functioning in July 1954.

8. Greater delays at the appellate stage.-

The above Tables show that while the lower courts, on an average, are in the time taken for disposal closer to the targets of time indicated by us, the High Courts are more dilatory in disposing of first and second appeals in suits which have originated in the court of a munsif or a subordinate judge. We are aware that statistics do not always afford a true indication of the position and that figures, particularly of averages, may not accurately reflect the state of affairs. If the average duration of a suit in a munsif's court is, say, fifteen months, it is obvious that in many courts a large number of suits must have taken more than two or three years.

As an illustration, we ma$ mention the State of Kerala where we have suits with the duration of five, ten or even twenty years. We were told by the Chief Justice of the State that the practice in the Travancore region was not to regard a suit as old, unless it had been pending for more than five years. The percentages and the average durations might, therefore, present a somewhat rosier picture than justified. We would be right in inferring from the figures referred to earlier that civil litigation is subjected to longer delays in the appellate courts than in the trial courts.

The figures indicated that suits filed in the munisfs' courts or in the subordinate judges' courts suffer great delays after appeals are filed either in the district courts or in the High Courts. These delays in the disposal of appeal are far greater in the High Courts than in the district courts. In all States, the duration of a first appeal or a second appeal in the High Court is much longer than the duration of the suit giving rise to the appeal in the lower courts. This state of affairs is clearly anomalous. Normally, the trial in the original court should be reason of the various stages through which it has to pass take longer time than the disposal of an appeal from the decision of the trial court.

9. Procedural machinery how far accountable for delay.-

It has been frequently asserted that the Chief cause of delay are the laws of civil and criminal procedure which, it has been said, are cumbrous, wasteful and time-consuming. It is pointed out that very often the procedure becomes an end in itself. The fate of the suits is made to depend upon the procedural technique to be gone through to bring them on the files of the court for adjudication. However, it is not possible to refer to a single factor as either the sole or the main cause of delay in civil litigation in India. Every system of legal institutions designed to administer justice in accordance with law must necessarily be based on an adequate procedural machinery aimed at promoting the just adjudication of causes before the law courts.

Procedure not responsible for delays.- It is not suggested that our procedural codes are perfect. It is clear that to the extent to which they hinder the speedy dispensation of justice, they must be improved or amended. But it would, in our opinion, be a mistake to lay the entire blame for the delays in our litigation on the defects or cumbrousness of the procedure. When complaints are made against procedural delays, it is often forgotten that the machinery of justice cannot, like a penny in the slot machine, produce a decision as soon as a dispute is referred to it. The object of procedural laws is to bring the disputants together for the purpose of trial, to ascertain the facts and the law in dispute so as to enable the court to reach a conclusion after full investigation.

The provisions of the Civil Procedure Code are based on the theory that there must be a full disclosure by each party of his case to the other that the rival contentions must, be reduced as quickly as possible to the form of clear and precise points or issues for decision and that there must be a prompt adjudication by the courts upon those issues.

An ordinary civil action brought before a court of law must therefore, necessarily take some time before its final adjudication by the court. The time which must elapse before the matter is thus brought to its conclusion will depend on a number of factors, like the number of parties to the litigation, the time reasonably required for effecting service, the time spent by parties in collecting and producing documentary and oral evidence and in prosecuting bona fides appeals or revisions in important interlocutory matters and above all upon the normal state of the court's business.

A good deal of the criticisms against the procedural laws as the cause of delays when carefully analysed will show that justice is delayed not so much by any defects or technicalities in the prescribed procedure as by its faulty application or by failure to apply it. That was the view of all responsible and experienced persons who answered our questionnaire or gave evidence before us.

10. It was generally agreed that the Code of Civil Procedure is an exhaustive and carefully devised enactment, the provisions of which, if properly and rigidly followed, are designed to expedite rather than delay the disposal of cases. The delay results not from the procedure laid down by it but by reason of the non­observance of many of its important provisions particularly those intended to expedite the disposal of proceedings.

The view which attributes delays, mainly to the cumbrous procedure fails to take into account numerous extraneous and personal factors responsible for delays like, an inefficient and inexperienced judiciary, insufficient number of judicial officers, an incompetent and corrupt ministerial and process-serving agency, the diverse delaying tactics adopted by 'the litigants and their lawyers, the unmethodical arrangement of work by the presiding judge and the heavy file of arrears. In the following chapters we shall endeavour to examine the procedure from the point of view of delays and suggest measures to remove them.



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