One-third of the cases in Rajasthan courts are pending because summons haven’t been served, says high court’s acting chief justice Ajay Rastogi. In an interview to Rakesh Goswami, he says the high court is working on amending The Civil Rules of Practice and Circular Orders to make service of summons possible through email and other measures.
Q: We recently saw the Chief Justice of India breaking down before the prime minister over pending cases. There’s a backlog of cases in Rajasthan’s courts as well. What measures have been taken to cut it down?
A: The CJI’s concern over pendency has put every judge into motion. The priority is bail applications because people are languishing in jails. There are about 2,000 bail applications pending before Jaipur bench and around 1,300 before Jodhpur bench. Our vision is to reduce this to zero before summer vacation. Every high court judge is sitting an extra hour daily, beginning May 4, to achieve this.
During vacations, we will have two judges each at the two benches instead of one. Besides this, I requested judges to volunteer to hear civil matters that are more than 10 years old and criminal cases more than 5 years old during vacations. They are all game for it. We have requested lawyers to list such cases with the registry to constitute benches for them. It’s a good opportunity for lawyers to get pending cases disposed.
My experience is that around 35% cases are pending due to non-service of summons. It adds to pendency. I have asked my officers to amend the civil rules of practice suitably to make service of summons/notice possible by email.
One more innovation is nomination of one lawyer by government and statutory bodies, and corporate for accepting summons/notices. Today, sometimes service takes 3-6 months. The new system will bring it down to 15 days. The high court website will have the list of such lawyers. If a body wants to change the lawyer, it has to inform us a month in advance. I have asked advocate general and additional solicitor general to get us these names soon. We haven’t heard from them yet.
Q: While you talk about e-governance initiatives for effective service, we see cause lists still being printed on paper despite the same being uploaded on HC’s website…Shouldn’t we stop printing them?
A: That’s a good idea – time has come for paperless cause lists. But we need to take lawyers into confidence for that. It’s surely a doable idea. When I became the acting chief justice, I observed that all judges were getting bulky (cause lists), composite cause lists of all benches together. Why should I get a list of cases to be heard in some other bench? I changed this. Now the bench gets list of only those cases which are listed in their rosters.
Q: What are you doing to decongest subordinate courts?
A: We are concerned about the issue. The most crowded is Jaipur Metropolitan court. It is the most crowded court in the country. We have proposed to divide it into four parts – as they have in Delhi – one each at Bassi, Chomu, Sanganer and Bagru. The government has agreed to it in principle. That should de-congest Jaipur’s subordinate courts. But congestion is a state wide problem. We held a meeting with all district judges in Jodhpur on May 8 to seek their suggestions on how to bring down pendency, to discuss infrastructure required, and to evolve effective and fruitful mechanism for decongesting courts. I hope we can soon adopt some of those ideas.
Q: The Rajasthan Judicial Service exam was conducted by Rajasthan Public Service Commission. Some years back, the high court decided to conduct it itself. Should that not be considered a judgment against the commission? If it couldn’t conduct RJS exam properly, it can’t conduct other exams, too?
A: The reason for taking the exam from RPSC was not corruption. We decided to conduct it ourselves to cut down delay in recruitment of judicial officers. We proved that we finish the process faster. For 179 vacancies in 2013, the recruitment process was complete in 13 months; and for 105 posts in 2014, we took just nine months. The high court is following a calendar for the exam.