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A pile-up that chokes the judicary

Madras High Court stands fourth in the list with 5.63 lakh cases pending cases. And Tamil Nadu ranks 14th with over 10.93 lakh cases pending in district and subordinate courts

A pile-up that chokes the judicary
The recent data of the Union Law Ministry has revealed that the High Court of Madras, along with its Madurai bench, has over 5.63 lakh pending cases as of July 29, 2022.

CHENNAI: The recent data of the Union Law Ministry has revealed that the High Court of Madras, along with its Madurai bench, has over 5.63 lakh pending cases as of July 29, 2022. With this, the Madras High Court finds a fourth place in the lists of HCs having top pendency of cases. Kiren Rijiju, Union Minister of Law, stated this in the Rajya Sabha on August 5 while responding to an MP’s question in the parliament. The data also noted that the Madras HC has a total pendency of over 5.08 lakh civil cases and 54,859 criminal cases.

According to Rijiju, there are more than 59.55 lakh cases pending in 25 High Courts across the country as of July 29 this year. It’s worse in subordinate courts, which have 4.13 crore backlogs. The High Court of Allahabad, including its Lucknow bench, tops the list with over 10.26 lakh pending cases, followed by Rajasthanand Bombay High Courts with more than 6.06 lakh cases and 5.92 lakh cases respectively.

Though the Madras HC stands fourth in the list, Tamil Nadu’s district and subordinate courts stand at 14th place with 10.93 lakh cases pending, including 6.05 lakh civil cases and 4.87 lakh criminal cases, as per August 4 data. The total number of cases pending in the lower courts across the country is more than 4.13 crore with 1.05 crore civil cases and 3.07 crore criminal cases. Uttar Pradesh’s district and subordinate courts account for1.05 crore of pending cases. Maharashtra’s district and subordinate courts are second on the list with 50 lakh pending cases. Third place goes to Bihar with 34.24 lakh pending cases in district and subordinate courts. While district and subordinate courts in TN have a lower pendency rate, when compared to other states, the judiciary circle says this is due to the swift action of Madras HC and the State government for filling up vacancies in the district and sub-ordinate cases. As per Article 233 of the Constiution, the governor should appoint the district judges after consulting the HC. The governor shall appoint the civil judges as per rules framed by the State Public Service Commission, according to Article 234. The Madras HC has a sanctioned strength of 75 judges. Currently, the vacancy in the chartered High Court is 56 judges. Five judges retire this year Justices S Ananthi and S Kannamal in July, Chief Justice MunishwarNath Bhandari on September 12,Justice M Duraiswamy on September 21, and Justice PareshUpadhyay on December 13.

Large pendency of cases avoidable with collective responsibility, say experts

Recently, the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana claimed that cases were piling up due to vacancies in the judiciary. But Union law minister Kirren Rijiju said that the blame should not be placed on the government alone. Concurring with the minister’s opinion was Justice (retd) K Chandru, who claimed that high pendency rate was prevalent even when there were enough judges. “The government, which is having the date of disposal rates, should re-lease the individual disposal records of judges,” he said. Chandru also noted that when the government speaks about the disposal rate, they reveal the details of an original suit and the connected applications like miscellaneous petitions, interim applications, contempt petitions, and others. “But for pending cases, they consider only the original suits and not the connected applications,” he added. “When I was in service over adecade ago, there were about 45 judges, and 6.25 lakh cases were pending. Now, there are about 57 judges and the pendency rate is about 7 lakh. How does the pendency rate released by the government show the constant figure?” Adding that there was no detail about the age of the pending cases, the former judge also pointed out that there was an error in calculating the disposal rate of the division bench. “If there are 9 division benches, the disposal rate for each judge should be calculated individually. But it’s not done that way. Though the courts and the central government have full details of disposals, it has not been declared correctly for the reason best known to them,” averred Chandru. He recalled that the lower court shave a target for disposing cases. “But the high courts do not have targets. They just say a target will affect the quality of the judiciary,” Chandru highlighted. “There is another demand to increase the age of judges. What will be the result when they merely increase the age for all the judges without considering their individual performances?” He further questioned the lack of collective effort to reduce the pendency of the case. “In my 7 years of tenure as a judge, I disposed of 96,000 cases. Though many people are praising me for that, none has asked for the method to implement it. The Supreme Court has a committee for speedy disposal of cases. They never asked me how I disposed these many cases. Without individual and institutional.

‘Fill vacancies, allocate funding’

G Mohana Krishnan, president, Madras High Court Advocates’ Association, cited vacancies in the judiciary and inadequate funding as reasons for the pile-up. “The governments must allocate funds to the judiciary. The appointments of judges in HCs, districts, and subordinate courts should be done in a timely manner. And the governments must nominate their counsels for defending the government departments before the courts,” Krishnan explained.

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M Manikandan
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