The Supreme Court on Friday called for urgent reforms in the country’s judicial system so as to tackle delays and clear the backlog of civil cases in courts across the country [Yashpal Jain vs Sushila Devi and ors].
A bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat (now retired) and Aravind Kumar stressed on the need to shed procrastination and bureaucratic inefficiency and said that the time is now to act against delays and pendency of cases in courts.
“The time for procrastination is long past, for justice cannot be a casualty of bureaucratic inefficiency. We must act now, for the hour is late, and the call for justice is unwavering. Let us, as guardians of the law, restore the faith of our citizens in the promise of a just and equitable society … In the halls of justice, let not the echoes of delay and pendency drown out the clarion call of reform,” the Court said.
We must embark on a journey of legal reform with urgency, for the legacy we leave will shape the destiny of a nation, it added.
Hence, the bench issued a slew of directions towards this end.
The directives are:
– All courts at district and taluka levels shall ensure proper execution of the summons and in a time bound manner as prescribed under Order V Rule (2) of CPC and 49 same shall be monitored by Principal District Judges and after collating the statistics they shall forward the same to be placed before the committee constituted by the High Court for its consideration and monitoring.
– All courts at District and Taluka level shall ensure that written statement is filed within the prescribed limit namely as prescribed under Order VIII Rule 1 and preferably within 30 days and to assign reasons in writing as to why the time limit is being extended beyond 30 days as indicated under proviso to sub-Rule (1) of Order VIII of CPC
– All courts at Districts and Talukas shall ensure after the pleadings are complete, the parties should be called upon to appear on the day fixed as indicated in Order X and record the admissions and denials and the court shall direct the parties to the suit to opt for either mode of the settlement outside the court as specified in sub-Section (1) of Section 89 and at the option of the parties shall fix the date of appearance before such forum or authority and in the event of the parties opting to any one of the modes of settlement directions be issued to appear on the date, time and venue fixed and the parties shall so appear before such authority/forum without any further notice at such designated place and time and it shall also be made clear in the reference order that trial is fixed beyond the period of two months making it clear that in the event of ADR not being fruitful, the trial would commence on the next day so fixed and would proceed on day-to-day basis
– In the event of the party’s failure to opt for ADR namely resolution of dispute as prescribed under Section 89(1) the court should frame the issues for its determination within one week preferably, in the open court.
– Fixing of the date of trial shall be in consultation with the learned advocates appearing for the parties to enable them to adjust their calendar. Once the date of trial is fixed, the trial should proceed accordingly to the extent possible, on day-to-day basis.
– Learned trial judges of District and Taluka Courts shall as far as possible maintain the diary for ensuring that only such number of cases as can be handled on any given day for trial and complete the recording of evidence so as to avoid overcrowding of the cases and as a sequence of it would 50 result in adjournment being sought and thereby preventing any inconvenience being caused to the stakeholders.
– The counsels representing the parties may be enlightened of the provisions of Order XI and Order XII so as to narrow down the scope of dispute and it would be also the onerous responsibility of the Bar Associations and Bar Councils to have periodical refresher courses and preferably by virtual mode.
– The trial courts shall scrupulously, meticulously and without fail comply with the provisions of Rule 1 of Order XVII and once the trial has commenced it shall be proceeded from day to day as contemplated under the proviso to Rule (2).
– The courts shall give meaningful effect to the provisions for payment of cost for ensuring that no adjournment is sought for procrastination of the litigation and the opposite party is suitably compensated in the event of such adjournment is being granted.
– At conclusion of trial the oral arguments shall be heard immediately and continuously and judgment be pronounced within the period stipulated under Order XX of CPC.
– The statistics relating to the cases pending in each court beyond 5 years shall be forwarded by every presiding officer to the Principal District Judge once in a month who (Principal District Judge/District Judge) shall collate the same and forward it to the review committee constituted by the respective High Courts for enabling it to take further steps.
– The Committee so constituted by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of the respective States shall meet at least once in two months and direct such corrective measures to be taken by concerned court as deemed fit and shall also monitor the old cases (preferably which are pending for more than 05 years) constantly
It was directed that the judgment be circulated by the top court’s Secretary General to all the Registrars General of the High Courts, to be placed before Chief Justices for necessary action.
The ruling came while disposing of a 43-year-old civil suit.
The Court stated that in the bid to achieve expeditious justice, courts, litigants, staff, and lawyers may encounter some level of inconvenience. However, the same should take a backseat in light of the fundamental duties enshrined in the Constitution, specifically Article 51A(j) which obligates every citizen to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievement.
It was acknowledged that the judiciary stands as the beacon of hope for those who seek remedies and the need for reform was, thus, urgent.
“The spectre of delay and pendency has cast a long shadow upon the very dispensation of justice. In this sacred realm, where the scales of justice are meant to balance with precision, the backlog of cases and the interminable delays have reached a disconcerting crescendo. The relentless march of time, while it may heal wounds for some, it deepens the chasm of despair for litigants who await the enforcement of their rights,” the judgment stated.
A swift and efficient judiciary acts as a bulwark against tyranny and is the guarantor of individual liberties, it was emphasised.
“Every pending case represents a soul in limbo, waiting for closure and vindication. Every delay is an affront to the very ideals that underpin our legal system. Sadly, the concept of justice delayed is justice denied is not a mere truism, but an irrefutable truth … The edifice of our democracy depends on a judiciary that dispenses justice not as an afterthought but as a paramount mission,” the Court stated.
The apex court stressed that the judicial system must adapt, reform, streamline procedures, bolster infrastructure, invest in technology and ensure that justice is not a mirage but a tangible reality for all.