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Delhi lower courts need 43 more judges to clear backlog of 1.3 lakh cases within a year: Report

Delhi lower courts need 43 more judges to clear backlog of 1.3 lakh cases within a year: Report

Aditi Singh

Delhi’s lower courts need 43 more judges in addition to the existing 143 in order to clear over one lakh thirty thousand cases that are pending before them within one year, according to findings of the Delhi High Court’s pilot project titled Zero Pendency Courts.

The Zero Pendency Courts project was kickstarted by the High Court’s State Court Management Systems Committee in January 2017, in collaboration with DAKSH.

The primary goal of the project was to study the flow of cases in the absence of backlog and to identify the variables responsible for delays in disposal of cases.

The Committee was initially headed by then Chief Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed, and later by Justice S Ravindra Bhat. Other members of the Committee were Justices Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and RK Gauba.

As a part of the project, 11 pilot courts (those with zero pendency) and 11 reference courts were chosen from different areas of Delhi. Each of the 11 pilot courts was then tagged with a reference court of similar jurisdiction and regular workload to enable scientific comparison.

The report sets out findings based on the data that was recorded and collected on a day-to-day basis between January 2017 and December 2018.

After studying the functioning of the pilot courts, the report arrived at the following numbers as the ‘Ideal judge strength‘ for those courts:

Ideal judge strengthIdeal number of judges required to dispose pending cases in one yearCases pending in the reference courts as of 9th April 2019
Sessions Courts41,306
Special Fast Track Courts (Rape Cases)1275
District Courts33,238
Labour Courts31,567
Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal21,315
Rent Controller Court21,590

The numbers were arrived at after analyzing several factors such as average days taken to dispose of cases and average minutes required to dispose of cases.

As per the study, the data on average days taken to dispose of cases and the disposal rate in the pilot and reference courts handling criminal cases is as follows:

Categories Case TypesCase TypesAverage disposal days (Pilot)Average disposal days (Reference)Disposal rate (pilot)Disposal rate (reference)No. of days for 100% disposals
Sessions CourtsSessions Cases147 days131 days62%39%275
Criminal Appeal50 days102 days86%28%133
Criminal Revision26 days58 days95%65%53
Sessions Courts (Murder cases)Sessions Cases197 days204 days43%44%461
Special Fast Track Court (Rape cases)Sessions Cases90 days122 days47%25%294

Similarly, the average days to dispose of cases and disposal rate in the pilot and reference courts handling civil cases in district courts were noted as below:

Case TypesAverage disposal days (Pilot)Average disposal days (Reference)Disposal rate (pilot)Disposal rate (reference)No. of days for 100% disposal
Civil Suit for ADJ149 days169 days66%41%297
Execution63 days109 days54%66%143
Misc. Cases for ADJ42 days58 days91%86%56
Probate Cases128 days212 days48%65%301
Arbitration139 days*110 days68%90%158
Regular Civil Appeal for ADJ69 days122 days89%63%126
Trade Mark127 days84 days74%53%166

*Due to paucity of data only a few arbitration cases in the pilot could be taken into consideration. 

Additionally, the report has concluded that the Sessions Courts in the national capital need an ideal strength of 82 judges as opposed to the current number of 60 to clear its backlog of 32,378 cases.

Similarly, the District Courts need an ideal strength of 62 as opposed to the current strength of 49 to successfully dispose of 7,1962 pending cases.

The ideal strength for all courts across Delhi was thus concluded as follows:

CategoryIdeal judge strength to clear all the pending cases in one yearNumber of current judgesNumber of pending cases as of 9th April 2019 across Delhi
Sessions Courts826032,378
Fast Track Courts561,610
District Courts624971,962
Labour Courts261112,308
Motor Accidents Claims Courts71213,340
Rent Controller Courts455,214

The report has also quantified the average days taken by the pilot courts to complete stages in criminal cases, which is as follows:

Delhi lower courts need 43 more judges to clear backlog of 1.3 lakh cases within a year: Report

Similarly, the average days taken to complete stages in pilot courts handling civil cases were identified as follows:

Delhi lower courts need 43 more judges to clear backlog of 1.3 lakh cases within a year: Report

The report has also identified “certain bottlenecks” that are faced by the criminal courts in Delhi. Some of these are as follows:

  • Untraceable prosecutrix or instances where the prosecutrix is unable to appear due to pregnancy or illness.
  • Delay in the examination of exhibits and witnesses due to non-receipt of Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) reports.
  • Absence of witnesses, unserved summons.
  • Non-availability of police witnesses.
  • Non-availability of defence counsel.
  • Not filing police reports together for cross FIRs.
  • Reluctance on the part of the accused persons and their defence counsel to comply with the procedure under Section 294 of Cr. P.C.
  • Several adjournments are sought by counsels at the final arguments stage.

Some of the issues identified in the Civil Courts are as follows:

  • Deficiencies such as court fee, jurisdiction, verification etc. cause delay.
  • Plaintiffs either do not take steps for service on the defendants or the defendants evade summons.
  • Failure to file the written statement in time.
  • Several adjournments.
  • Filing of frivolous applications by parties.
  • Recording of evidence takes the maximum of judicial time.
  • Advocates not being prepared to either answer queries in fresh cases or carry out the cross-examination at the stage of leading evidence.
  • Counsels do not take any interest in assisting the court at the time of framing of issues.

Issues faced by other subordinate courts, such as Labour Courts and their possible solution are also discussed.

Apart from listing the specific issues faced by the subordinate courts and their solutions, the study also details overall best practices for all courts.

These practices are:

  • E-filing of cases and pleadings through the use of modern technology should be encouraged.
  • Use of video conferencing facility for recording of outstation witnesses should be encouraged.
  • There must be a sufficient number of stenographers and staff in each court.
  • Law researchers must be provided for assisting judges.
  • Going through each case file one day prior to the date of hearing would enable better control of the proceedings.
  • Outdated infrastructure in the court should be timely replaced.
  • Evidence should be recorded on a day to day basis.
  • Since case files move from one court hall to another, proper paginations with a distinct colour pen would make it easier to trace the records.
  • Giving headings and subheadings and dividing judgments section wise would make it easier to give the findings.

Read the full Report below: