Weighed down by a whopping 3.5 crore pending cases in courts nationwide, the Government today proposed a National Arrears Grid to compile accurate data and appoint high court and lower court judges temporarily to bring down 15-year delays in justice delivery to three years. Law Minister M Veerappa Moily, unveiling a Vision Statement to tackle judicial pendencies, also proposed to shorten the Memorandum of Procedure for appointing judges in High Courts to fill up backlog vacancies within eight weeks.
The document presented to Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan here said, “all efforts shall be made to put in place 700 judges in select high courts having greater pendency.”
The judges would be appointed on contract and paid Rs 1 lakh per month on an understanding that they clear at least 2,500 cases per year — the average disposal rate of a sitting HC judge.
Similarly, 15,000 judges would be employed in trial courts for a two-year term and work in three shifts. “Judges need not spend eight hours in court, but instead could work in five-hour shifts…In between shifts, the judges can sit with special staff for dictating judgements,” the statement said, adding it would be possible to bring down the pendency of cases by December 31, 2011.
The document, outlining the National Minimum Court Performance Standards, also suggested that disposal of cases at national level should be raised from 60 per cent to 95 to 100 per cent in the next three years. It said each court should ensure that no more than 5 per cent of the cases be more than five years old.
CJI K G Balakrishnan said vacancies keep arising in courts due to retirements and suggested that 3,000 more judges need to be appointed in subordinate courts. As an immediate measure for implementation under the Action Plan, the National Arrears Grid (NAG) would be set up under a senior Supreme Court judge to ascertain on a scientific bases the accurate number of arrears in all courts.
The NAG will submit a report to the Prime Minister by January 31 next year. As of July 2009, 53,000 cases are pending before the Supreme Court, 40 lakh before high courts and 2.7 crore before lower courts. This is an increase of 139 per cent for SC, 46 per cent for HC and 32 per cent for lower courts.
“Our criminal justice system, with a staggering 2.63 crore cases pending in the district and subordinate courts (of which 29.49 lakh cases pertain to traffic challans and motor vehicle claims), is close to collapse with relatively unimportant cases clogging the judicial system,” Moily said, addressing a national convention on reducing pendency and case delays.