When Chief Justice of India (CJI) TS Thakur broke down in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the burden of work on the judiciary, the huge backlog of cases in courts at all levels came into the limelight. A look at the tricity shows that Chandigarh has the maximum pendency of cases at 33,506 in its district courts at present.
The city is followed by Panchkula (Haryana) at 15,496, and SAS Nagar (Punjab) at 20,172 cases. And, more than the shortage of judicial officers, it is the shortage of public prosecutors and the increase in filing of cases that has added to the pendency, experts say. No wonder, the CJI also talked of depleting faith of the common man in the justice system.
In Chandigarh, criminal cases (17,850) are more than the civil matters (15,656). There are a total of 30 judges, which roughly means pendency per judge is 1,117.
Of these cases, only a little over 2% are 5-10 years old, while 18% cases are 2-5 years. The majority, nearly 80% are less than two years old. But the growth rate exceeds the disposal rate — according to National Judicial Data Grid, at the Chandigarh district courts, 2,658 cases were disposed of but 2,998 cases were instituted last month.
Sunil Toni, president of Chandigarh District Bar Association, said, “Though the pendency here has gone down in comparison to previous years, judiciary can work more efficiently if we get more judges. Primarily, we require more clerical staff too.”
Balram K Gupta, director of the Chandigarh Judicial Academy, echoed this: “Pressure is mounting every day so we need to increase the number of judges. Other alternative dispute redress (ADR) systems and lok adalats are efficient means to expedite cases.”
In Panchkula, 15,496 cases are pending before the district courts, of which the primary chunk is criminal cases. There are 9,527 criminal cases while civil disputes are 5,969. Including the two benches at Kalka, there are 14 judges, which means the per-judge pendency at 1,107 is slightly lower than that in Chandigarh.
Here, too, more cases are being filed than disposed of. In April, 1,757 cases were disposed of while 1,997 cases were filed.
President of the District Bar Association, Panchkula, Jagpal Singh said, “Courts should prioritise cases by how long they have been running. Lok adalats and mediation should be encouraged where advocates could also contribute. Specially designated courts such as those for crime against women also help. And we must have more judges.”
SAS Nagar, however, has a slightly different shade as civil matters dominate the district courts assigned for it. While there are 12 judges, no less than 20,172 cases are pending here; of which 12,141 are civil while about 8,031 are criminal proceedings. The per-judge pendency is significantly higher here at 1,681.
“With numerous real estate projects coming up in SAS Nagar district, civil cases pertaining to land acquisition and disputes among the owners dominate. Interestingly, in Dera Bassi the major chunk of cases pending pertains to road accidents while in Kharar petty offences dominate the civil cases,” said a court official.
Over 4,400 cases are pending in Kharar sub-division alone which has just four judicial magistrates, while in Dera Bassi there are over 4,200 cases in the courts of three judicial magistrates.
SAS Nagar’s district courts came into existence in 2006 when it became a district; and it was only last week that a district and sessions judge was appointed here as such.
Before that, its district courts were being administered by the district and sessions judge of Rupnagar.
The court operating from Kharar earlier was shifted to Community Centre, Phase 3B1, SAS Nagar, in 2006 and it was only in January this year that the court was shifted to a new complex in Sector 76.
“Procedures need to be changed along with appointment of judicial officers and public prosecutors. Also, efficiency of the process-service agency that delivers summons has to be made increased,” said SAS Nagar district bar association president Amarjit Singh Longia.