WITH MORE than 22 lakh cases pending in various courts in the state, Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court Justice R Subhash Reddy on Sunday wondered if Gujarat could be called a developed state, as he stressed on the need for alternative mechanisms for clearing the backlog.
Addressing a seminar organised by Rajkot Bar Association and Bar Council of Gujarat, Justice Reddy underlined that 22.42 lakh cases were pending before various courts in the state. “Recently, I was in the chief justices’ conference. One of the items of was state-wise pendency of cases. A young law officer representing the Supreme Court gave excellent presentation — power-point presentation with maps. Gujarat was in red colour at the top with 22.42 lakh cases pending in various subordinate judiciary. Pendency in the (Gujarat) High Court is not that high compared to other state high courts. But in Gujarat, 22.42 lakh cases!… Yes, now we have to say, are we doing our job? You advocates, we judges are responsible for this. If we we are delaying cases for decades that is not justice to the poor litigants who come to us,” the Chief Justice observed while addressing judges of district and subordinate courts and advocates at Hemu Gadhvi Hall.
Justice Reddy, who was elevated as CJ of the Gujarat HC this February from the High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad, said high pendency of cases was undermining development credentials of Gujarat and that there was an urgent need to address the issue. “We have to reduce pendency on mission mode. That’s how we can compare Gujarat with many other states. Gujarat is a developed state. But we cannot say that keeping this number of arrears (in mind). This is one of the factors to asses a state how it is a developed state. It is 22 lakh arrears — this number of cases — and we call it a developed state!,” said Justice Reddy.
He said there was a large number of cases under the Prohibition Act and Negotiable Instruments Act in the state. “But, there is a way further. It’s not that a big task. If all of us prioritise, it’s not a big thing…. After taking over (as CJ of Gujarat HC), I got figures from various districts in Gujarat. Most are from Rajkot, Surat, Baroda and Ahmedabad. If we’re able to manage four cities well, definitely we will be able to bring down the pendency,” he said.
He observed that prolonged trials were costing litigants invaluable time. “Youngsters who come to family courts at the age or 25 years or 30, by the time they go out from High Court, they are 40-45 years. Prime age is lost in the court… Is it possible by our conventional system to clear these arrears? We have to apply our mind and say ‘No, it is not possible.’ When we are in a traffic jam, what we do? We search for bylanes-what Section 89 (of Civil Procedure Code, providing for out of court settlement) gives us. There are mechanisms. These are not new. They are very old ones. There is a need to revive systems of arbitration and ADR (alternate dispute resolution). There is need to give a professional colour to that,” Justice Reddy suggested.
He stressed that there was a need to improve efficiency and infrastructure of courts in the country. “World Bank, while rating the judicial systems, rated us as 178th-ranked, I think in the assessment of about 200. They have given bad ranking to us for criminal justice delivery system. That is the beginning stage to think about because, the corporate culture (world) may not come to court in future. Very small rooms of courts are there. They may not like to sit there. So, I think some good atmosphere needs to be created for corporate culture. To upgrade the image of the country, some good ambiance needs to be created,” said Justice Reddy, emphasing on what he called creation of “commercial courts”.
He added that one such commercial court, with big rooms and proper ambiance, would be set up in Rajkot. He asked the local judicial officers and advocates to identify land for such a court and assured that funds would be released on priority basis.