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Millennium Post

Speedy justice to end backlog

The Delhi High Court deserves to be congratulated for having reduced its backlog of cases, not significantly but substantially. According to the high court's biennial report, it disposed of up to 94,000 cases in the years 2008-2010, which was more than the fresh cases filed in these years, whereas it is often the other way around. The High Court was able to do this because it spent only a little over five minutes on average over each case, thus quickly disposing of the matters placed before it for adjudication. It is right to do so. Not every case that comes up in appeal to the high court deserves the court's time and there are many frivolous litigations and other time wasting petitions that get placed before it. Even many of the genuine grievances can be speedily disposed of as they deal with matters for which precedents exist for settling the disputes. It is only those relatively rare cases which involve substantial questions of law that should ideally consume the court's time. Other courts around India would do well to follow Delhi High Court's example as the problem of backlog of cases and arrears is endemic in Indian courts with even the Supreme Court not spared. Figures available up to November 2011 indicate a backlog in the Supreme Court of 56,383 cases while those for the high courts and lower courts, available till 2010, show a backlog of 31.9 million cases. This is a very large number of cases and the backlog has reached frightening proportions.

It has been estimated that it would take as long as over 300 years to settle these disputes at the usual rate of disposal within the existing justice system. The well known saying that justice delayed is justice denied is applicable to all these cases awaiting disposal. Apart from the harassment to litigants and the other human factors involved, there are other costs to having so many disputes trapped within the coils of the dispute resolution system. A lethargic judicial process does irreparable harm to the economy, making it inefficient. Many steps have to be taken before the arrears come to be of manageable proportions. At the very least judges posts can be filled and more ad hoc judges can be appointed. Speeding up the delivery of justice is one way which can help. The Delhi High Court's example should, therefore, be replicated in all the courts of the country.
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