A SPECIAL committee under the Delhi High Court is trying to find out how long a case will take to be decided by lower courts if judges are not overburdened. The committee is running a pilot project to assess how to run lower courts in the capital with ‘zero-pendency’. Currently, 13 judges (one for each district of Delhi) are part of the project and are adjudicating different types of cases. The scheme was launched on January 2. According to the committee, the objective behind setting up these courts is to study the actual real time ‘flow of cases’ from date of institution to final disposal. The project also aims to figure out reasons for the delay, besides assessing a realistic timeline for final disposal of newly instituted cases.
An additional sessions judge in one of Delhi’s district courts, who deals with partition (suits that seek partition of joint family properties) and specific performance cases, said he is currently dealing with only 113 cases as compared to more than 550 cases he was dealing with earlier. He said the idea of the programme is to ensure judges are not overburdened.
“I usually deal with 12-15 cases a day, at times even fewer than that,” said the judge, adding that this is way lower than the cases a judge deals with otherwise. Cases that he was dealing with before the experiment commenced have mostly been transferred to other judges, he said.
He added that cases are progressing relatively fast in his court as in many cases, issues have been framed. In almost all cases that were initiated in January, he said, written statements (replies) have been filed. At times, framing of issues takes years and lawyers get a 90-day time limit to file written statements.
The judge, however, pointed out that there is a great degree of reluctance among lawyers to be tried in his court. “Some lawyers are even saying, ‘I won’t get justice, the work is happening very fast’… I admit it is a problem for the lawyers, who are used to a system of prolonged litigation.”
According to the committee, the goal behind the experiment is to strictly adhere to the timelines provided in various statutes.
“To file written statements, a lawyer gets 30 days, which can be extended to 90 days. But, very often, the written statements are filed well after 90 days. In my court, lawyers usually file replies within the stipulated 30 days. I usually don’t grant adjournments… and when I allow a case to be adjourned, I give the shortest possible date,” the judge said.
The project is being monitored by the State Court Management Systems Committee. Every court under the project has to submit a weekly report. The judge said the committee will examine all reports and take a call on the effectiveness of the programme.