New Delhi, Oct 25 The central government Sunday declared a war against huge backlog of over 31 million court cases, finalising an ambitious scheme to appoint 15,000 trial court judges and 700 high court judges on contract for two years to work in three shifts to eliminate arrears within three years.
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government finalised this ambitious scheme at the end of a two-day “National Consultation for Strengthening the Judiciary Towards Reducing Pendency and Delays”. Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily organised it with active participation of Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
At its conclusion, the seminar adopted the law ministry’s “vision statement”, which finalised a multi-pronged scheme to eliminate the staggering backlog of court cases.
The schemes ranged from evolving a National Litigation Policy to make the government shed its dubious tag of being the largest litigant and transform it into “a responsible and reluctant litigant from a compulsive one”. It also sought establishing a National Arrear Grid for scientific monitoring of pending cases and to reduce time taken in their adjudication at various levels.
During the seminar, the judiciary, led by Chief Justice Balakrishnan and the Supreme Court’s second senior most judge, Justice S.H. Kapadia, made a vehement demand for a hike in court fees, specially in corporate and business matters, for better funding of the judiciary.
Moily readily acceded to the demand and promised requisite legislative or executive steps for the purpose.
The judiciary also demanded establishment of commercial courts in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, and the law minister said the bill for the purpose would be introduced in the forthcoming winter session of parliament.
As per the vision statement, retired judges and senior lawyers would be appointed as ad hoc judges for a limited period of one to two years on contract on a consolidated honorarium of Rs.50,000 or more a month.
These judges would work in three shifts, with the night shift judges often working till midnight to decide cases so that the pendency of cases is brought down from 15 years to three years.
The vision statement envisaged this radical scheme would reduce the backlog of cases to three-year pendency period by Dec 31, 2011. A status report on the goals achieved will be submitted to the prime minister on Jan 31, 2010.
At present, there are 2.7 crore (27 million) cases pending with the trial courts, the lowest rung of judiciary, where the sanctioned strength of judges for these courts is 16,721.
The high courts have a sanctioned strength of 886 judges, and are grappling to deal with a pendency of 40 lakh (4 million) cases.
The Supreme Court has around 53,000 cases pending, and the sanctioned strength of 31 judges to deal with these.