Although on a steady decline, pendency of cases in Pune District Court still remains high with as many as 3.14 lakh cases still awaiting an outcome in various courts in the district. These include 99,253 civil matters and 2,15,039 criminal cases. A look at the numbers for the last five years shows that there has been a steady decline in the number of pending cases including crimes against women, cases registered under Prevention of Atrocities against SCs/STs, corruption , land acquisition and accident compensation claims.
The numbers provided by the District Court administration show that in January 2011, a whopping 4,27,961 cases were pending with various courts in the city, including 3.67 lakh criminal cases and 60,121 civil suits.
The 27 per cent decrease in pendency—if compared with the numbers today—has been brought about by a marginal increase in the number of judges and regular conduction of Lok Adalats, which dispose off thousands of cases amicably, observers say.
“Initiatives like Lok Adalats have certainly played a huge part in bringing down the pendency. We conduct about half a dozen Lok Adalats every year—each settling almost 6,000 to 10,000 cases. This year alone, in the last six months, we have settled 61,032 cases,” said RV Kokare, Secretary, Pune District Legal Service Authority, which conducts the Adalats.
Notwithstanding this, activists and lawyers feel that there is a need to increase the disposal rate of the cases to ensure timely delivery of justice. “Initiatives like Lok Adalat can avoid increasing the burden on the judiciary by way of out-of-court settlements. But there is a huge proportion of cases that cannot be settled, and the law has to take its course. There are cases regarding rapes and murders that are dragging for years. What is needed is more judges and special courts that would speed up disposal,” said Vihar Durve, a city-based activist.
According to Durve, as per a directive of the Supreme Court after the Delhi gangrape, 10 per cent of the existing courts should be additionally created as fast-track courts to deal with crimes against women.
“Thus Pune should have got 12 special fast-track courts. However, what the District Court administration has done is that they have designated two judges as special judges to hear these cases. They are so much overburdened now that the cases are being heard even slower,” Durve said, citing the example of the 2010 Nayana Pujari case which is yet to see a judgment despite the case being heard in a special court.