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Report No. 129

Chapter II

Nature of Litigation in Urban Courts

2.1. While the nature of litigation qualitywise is undergoing a change, quantitywise the graph of number of causes brought to the court is shooting up. Two developments have contributed to this situation. When the country undertook planning for its economic development as reflected in successive Five Year Plans, the pace of industrialisation accelerated. In the initial stages, industries were located in urban areas where electric motive power and water were easily available. An industrial undertaking generates local employment at lower levels.

With the proliferation of industries in urban areas, coupled with the lack of employment in rural areas except as farm labourer which is dwindling on the elimination of zamindaris, process of urbanisation accelerated people in search of petty jobs moved in numbers from rural to urban areas. Housing as an industry had not developed. There was a body of opinion that Rent Restriction Acts have proved to be a disincentive to development of housing as an industry. Availability of accommodation in urban areas compared to its demand gradually became scarce.

Slums came into existence. In cities like Bombay, pavement dwellers became a regular feature. The demand on the availability of housing accommodation compared to the supply was so high that in order to protect tenants from being exploited, every State enacted its Rent Restriction Act. Today, the largest litigation in urban courts relates to rent and possession of urban dwellings.

This is the major head under which there is maximum litigation. The Law Commission in the course of its enquiry has collected certain figures in relation to about 16 States showing the litigation under the heading 'Rent and Possession'. Maharashtra leads. The information in this behalf, which is set out in details in Appendix III, will show at a glance that if litigation under this head is tackled in a scientific manner, the burden on the court system in urban areas would be considerably eased.

2.2. Before the advent of freedom, when money-lending was a controlled avocation, money suits used to clog the courts. Money suits comprised suits for recovery of money advanced or suit to recover the price of goods sold. Where money-lending has been a regulated business under the local laws, the litigation under the heading 'Money Suits' has dwindled, though various devices are resorted to extricate oneself from the rigours of the money-lending regulation acts.

2.3. The next head under which suits used to be filed were 'Suits on Mortgage'. The banking industry probably alone is the initiator of suits on mortgage.

2.4. The next important heading under which there is considerable litigation in urban courts can be appropriately described as 'Property Suits'. They include suits for inheritance/succession, partition, maintenance, easements and trespass. The last may include also the boundary disputes.

2.5. One more sub-head under which the suits are filed is 'Suits on Contracts'. Either the suits are for specific performance or for damages for breach of contract or for recovery of amount payable under the contract.

2.6. The suits for inheritance and partition have more or less remained at the same level but suits for recovery of damages for breach of contract or for injunction or for specific performance are proliferating.

2.7. Suits on easements are few and far between.

2.8. Litigation involving family disputes such as divorce, judicial separation, restitution of conjugal rights, custody of children and alimony is on the increase. This is broadly the pattern of litigation in urban areas.

2.9. The pendency in various courts in urban areas is staggering. As on 31st December, 1984, 2,48,845 cases were pending in Sessions Courts. Similarly on the same date, 77,41,459 cases were pending in Magisterial Courts. As on the same date, 29,22,293 cases were pending in civil courts of original jurisdiction and 10,91,760 cases were pending on the appellate side. The relentless rise in the pendency may be judged from the information supplied in a tabulated form hereunder:-



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