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Reasons of largest case backlogs in India

While India is considered to become one of the major superpowers in the upcoming decade and with having more than 65% of the youth population in the country[1]. It is believed that India will be a hub to supply manpower all over the world[2]. While these news are praiseworthy but the ground reality presents a different picture of our socio-economic and political situation.

India on its own is not being able to live up to the expectations of its masses in almost all scenarios. One of such basic and vital problems that our country faces is the inefficiency of the judiciary which has not quite been able to deliver to its potential as India has become a center to a vast number of pending cases, the largest pile-up in the world. The social, political, and economic health of a country depends upon the prevailing legal environment in the country as it is the law and its enforcement mechanism which watches, regulates, and timely checks the health of a country. But the judiciary has lagged behind despite a lot of efforts being made for many decades.

The preamble of The Constitution of India, 1950 mandates justice in social, economic and political fronts[3]. Even after 68 years of enforcement of constitution, a person who faces any deprivation knocks the doors of the judiciary with utmost faith but unfortunately the courts fails to repay their faith of the citizens due to its inefficiency. A large sum of backlog of cases adversely affects the newly instituted cases and a result of which it takes years to deliver justice.

Image used for representational propose only.

Supreme Court of India has in many cases held that lack of sufficient judges is one of the prime reasons among others for the delay in timely delivery of justice. In All India Judges Association v. Union of India[4], the Supreme Court of India quoted“An independent and efficient judicial system is one of the basic structures of our Constitution. If a sufficient number of Judges are not appointed, justice would not be available to the people, thereby undermining the basic structure. It is well known that justice delayed is justice denied. Time and again the inadequacy in the number of Judges has adversely been commented upon. Not only have the Law Commission and the standing committee of Parliament made observations in this regard, but even the head of the judiciary, namely, the Chief Justice of India has had more occasions than once to make observations in regard thereto.”

Also, the Supreme Court of India also held that Article 21[5] also includes the Right to expeditious disposal of justice under the right to life. Article 21 of the Constitution of India takes in its sweep the right to an expeditious and fair trial. Even Article 39-A of the Constitution recognizes the right of citizens to equal justice and free legal aid. To put it simply, it is the constitutional duty of the Government to provide the citizens of the country with such judicial infrastructure and means of access to justice so that every person is able to receive an expeditious, inexpensive, and fair trial[6]. The litigants seek and the courts grant adjournments at the drop of the hat. In the cases, where the judges refuse to accede to the requests of unnecessary adjournments, the litigants deploy all sorts of methods in protracting the litigation.

It is high time that courts become sensitive to delays in the justice delivery system and realize that adjournments do dent the efficacy of the judicial process and if this menace is not controlled adequately, the litigant public may lose faith in the system sooner than later. The courts must ensure that on every date of hearing, effective progress takes place in the suit. It is true that cap on adjournments to a party during the hearing of the suit provided in the proviso to Order XVII Rule 1 C.P.C. is not mandatory and in a suitable case, on the justifiable cause, the court may grant more than three adjournments to a party for its evidence but ordinarily the cap provided in the proviso to Order XVII Rule 1 C.P.C. should be maintained. The parties to a suit must cooperate with the court in ensuring the effective work on the date of hearing for which the matter has been fixed[7].

[1] Sanjay Sanghoee, India: The next superpower?, FORTUNE (Jan 25, 2015), http://fortune.com/2015/01/25/india-the-next-superpower/.

[2] Ibid.

[3] The Constitution of India, 1950, Preamble (Justice, social, economic and political)

[4] (2002) 4 SCC 247

[5] The Constitution of India, 1950.

[6] Brij Mohan Lal v. Union of India and Others, (2012) 6 SCC 502

[7] Shiv Cotex v. Tirgun Auto Plast (P) Ltd., (2011) 9 SCC 678; (2011) 89 ALR 232; (2011) 4 SCC (Civ) 817.