New Delhi: India needs to reduce pendency of cases and cut delays in the judicial delivery system to further improve its ranking in the World Bank’s ease of doing business index, according to the Economic Survey.

The Survey suggested that the government act in coordination with the judiciary to reduce the backlog of cases in the judicial system and help boost economic activity.

India has jumped 30 positions to break into the top 100 for the first time in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report, 2018.

Judicial delay hampers dispute resolution and contract enforcement, which discourages investments, stalls projects, hampers tax collections and increases legal costs, the Survey said.

Timely justice is a prerequisite for business and commerce, the Survey said, adding that a clear legislative and executive regime, backed by an efficient judiciary, protects property rights, preserves sanctity of contracts, and enforces rights and liabilities of parties.

The Survey attributed the high pendency of cases in courts to the increase in the overall workload of the judiciary, due to expanding jurisdictions and the use of injunctions and stays by courts.

The average pendency of civil suits at the Delhi high court is 5.84 years, while that in the lower courts of Delhi is 3.66 years, says the Survey.

Another aspect of judicial delay is the increase in filing of cases as special leave petitions (SLPs), which was to be used only in “exceptional circumstances".

An SLP can be filed by a party directly from any tribunal or court before the Supreme Court under the provisions of the Constitution. The use of SLPs has increased from 25% of the total cases filed in the apex court in 2008 to nearly 40% in 2016.

Lengthy interim orders, ex parte and ad interim stays, increasing rate of pendency of cases at final argument stages, and few final judgments in intellectual property cases (IPR) are common, leading to judicial delay across different high courts.

The Survey suggests building capacity in lower judiciary so that lower courts can deal with economic and commercial cases, and allowing high courts to focus on streamlining and clarifying questions of law.

Another step suggested by the Survey is downsizing or removing original and commercial jurisdiction of high courts, and enabling the lower judiciary to deal with such cases. Full utilization of existing judicial capacity will be required to achieve this.

It also suggested the formation of more subject- and stage-specific benches in the Supreme Court as it would result in specialization in combating pendency and delay. Improving courts’ case management and automation systems would also lead to reduction in judicial delays.