NEW DELHI: A pilot project report by Delhi high court on backlog of cases has found that the national capital required 43 more judges above the current 143 to clear all pending cases in one year. Called the ‘zero pendency courts project’, it is one-of-its-kind project in India aimed at studying the life cycle of cases and to come up with ideal timelines for disposal of the cases.
With lesser number of judges, the workload of an individual judge would increase. "It is therefore important to arrive at an optimal judge strength to handle the cases pending in the system," the report said. It suggested boosting the current strength of judges from 143 to an “ideal" 186 judges to clear all the pending cases in one year.
The report said sessions judges dealing with murder cases took on an average 16 hours to dispose cases within 6.5 months, while fast track courts dealing with rape cases took an average 4.4 hours to dispose cases within 90 days.
The report attributed the reason for delays or backlogs to absence of witnesses.
It said that since the evidence stage forms the most important phase of a case, absence of witnesses during the evidence stage causes a serious impediment to the progress of the case. Also, there was delay in the servicing of summons, especially to outstation parties.
It said the highest amount of time per hearing on average was spent on the final arguments stage followed by the final order or judgment. A significant amount of time was spent on dictation, researching on case laws etc. before pronouncing the final judgment. Thus, a lot of time is spent on each of the hearings, it said.
It noted that the number of criminal cases in Delhi was far more than the number of civil cases. As on March 20, 2019, there were 5.5 lakh criminal cases and 1.8 lakh civil cases pending in subordinate courts in Delhi.
A high court committee under Justices S. Ravindra Bhat, R.S. Endlaw, and R.K. Gauba monitored the work of 11 pilot courts that were assigned fresh cases without any pendency from January 2017.
A Bengaluru-based civil society organization, “Daksh", assisted the Delhi high court with the project with designing and building an application for data collection, implementation of the application in the selected courts, data analysis, and drafting of the report.
"There is no doubt that the data collected from the pilot and the reference courts has ample potential. While the report examines some of the aspects of the data, various kinds of analyses can be further carried out with the help of this data...The project can go a long way in providing judges, advocates, litigants, and researchers a deeper understanding of a case life and different variables that have an impact on disposal of cases," the report said.