Inherent Discrepancies in the Listing System of the Cases and Measures to Arrest Further Backlog

This article was submitted by Raavi Mehta from Amity Law School, Jaipur for National Legal Writing Competition,2016.

Justice is denied when it is not served timely as both time and justice are integral to each other.[1] Disposition of cases in time is necessary to ensure conformity to the law of the state and timely access to justice which is our cardinal right. However, the current legal framework fails to serve justice in time because of huge backlog of cases which has deeply pained and affected most of us; specially, Advocates who are seen running around helplessly from pillar to post as they are compelled by the clients to file an application for early listing. If the matters are getting listed in the cause list, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a matter is getting heard.[2] Cases get listed quickly but are not heard and disposed off soon. Ritually, an application for early listing is allowed but cases are not listed before one or two frequencies and if listed, they do not reach to any conclusions. Repeated applications, although being allowed by courts, do not materialize in disposal of old cases. Further, the cases listed at hearing stage in the cause list either do not reach for consideration by Judges or at the fag end of the day, counsels for both the parties are not available and all of this points towards inherent discrepancies in the cause listing system of the cases in India.

Although, from time to time different measures have been taken by the court to arrest and remove backlog of cases but it has not brought the required results due to inherent lack of congruency in court crafting particularly framing the cause list. But how do we bring about consistency in the listing system?

To overcome the backlog, to ensure speedy justice and to arrest further congestion of cases, all the pending cases must be divided under two categories i.e. current (filed after 2010) and old petitions (filed before 2010). It is desirable that some changes regarding stages in disposal of a petition in the cause list must be executed and the categories in daily cause list can be minimized as far as possible to: Fresh cases with stay or bail, fresh cases without stay or bail, applications and orders, reply not filed, reply filed etc.

To attain the target of speedy disposal of all the current cases, as far as possible, a court date may be fixed to overcome listing follow up and for a while the old cases may be listed on application by advocates according to the general priority in the cause list under categories: reply not filed and reply filed. It is also beneficial to ensure that once an old case under the hearing category is permitted to be listed, it may not be further and forthwith be consigned under the hearing category. Rather the listing of such cases may be permitted on priority basis under the above referred broader categories of reply filed or reply not filed.

Also, the hearing category in the cause list may be abolished and for a while listing of old cases be permitted only on application by the Advocates. Consequently, after some time there will be a definite discernible arrest in accumulation of backlog and the remaining old cases, not being pursued by petitioners, may be disposed of as infructuous or not pressed by serving specific notice on petitioners. The moderation in stages of disposal of petition through cause list will reduce the burden on the cause list and will also yield in better man power management and in thrift of finance. It is expected that the Judges will get more time to dispose of the cases and in all eventuality, cases may be disposed off at the admission stage itself.

The principles of natural justice are defeated, if time given per case is less than what is necessary. Also, having a clear knowledge about the cases listed for particular day and the relevant provisions of law is the most noteworthy aspect of court craft and conduct. Having less number of cases in juxtaposition with the number of cases that get listed for a day would ensure effective hearing per case by the Judges for its early disposal. This would help the Judges to have control over the cause list and the presiding court as well.[3]

Though, the Apex Court has issued a few mandates and uniform standards about how High courts ought to regulate case flow management and how they should function, every High court commissions its own rules and customizes it accordingly for itself. Every court uses different techniques to categorize cases for listing and because of this paucity of a standard measure; there arises difficulty in collection and analysis of data on pending cases. Classification system and case flow management has to be improvised upon rather than having more Judges and setting up of fast track courts. Only efficient standardization of the same can save from further clogging of the cases in High courts.

Some other change are also desirable for effective administration of justice, like the respondents may be permitted maximum 3 months of time to file a reply or counter affidavit and only in special cases and circumstances filing of reply be permitted beyond such period and adequate cost may also be imposed for the same, at the discretion of the court.

Deferral in disposition of cases influences every part of society and not only its execution. Currently, 45 Lakh cases are awaiting decision and about 1 Crore cases are estimated to be pending in the High courts by the end of 2016.[4] The pending cases are not just at the admission stage but are also at the final decision stage in High courts for years on end. Administration of Judiciary has been neglected in our country and proper attention must be given to it now. Power to deal and to dispose off cases increases with time and until then innovative changes are to be brought in justice administration mechanism.

This problem cannot be solved by merely increasing the number of working days of the court because the solutions lie in analyzing as to what happens on the already working days. Having many cases listed for a day affects the quality of justice served and all the efforts and time of Avocates is drained down when the cases are not heard. When case-particular targets can’t be met due to systemic postponements, the legal framework needs to assume responsibility for proper allocation of resources amongst all. Where the deferral is a result of the behavior of parties, the Judges must impose sanctions to such conduct, including rejecting the application, forcing costs etc.[5]

In Karnataka High Court, software is installed to prepare an algorithm cause list which makes the entry of cases in the cause list keeping the order of filing and the number of cases in the waiting list before the court in mind. This way the cases which were admitted before five years or more are given priority in the daily cause list ensuring their disposal at the earliest. This software must be installed nationwide in every court and manual intervention must be minimized.

The cases in the Daily Cause List are shown under various categories of which some categories may be curtailed and some needs to be transferred to Registrars in order to equip Judges with more time for disposal of cases. Categorization of stages for disposal of a petition is excessive and is the sole cause of increase in backlog. The entire accumulation of backlog has arisen from the cause list as the cases listed under hearing category, generally, do not reach to conclusion due to paucity of time and inconsonant systems. Further, even the oldest case under hearing category is listed at the end of the cause list. If some modification is effected in the cause list, further accumulation of cases can effectively be arrested and situation can be improved. Cadre of reform–minded Judges must take a step forward to address these discrepancies and to strengthen the judicial institutions at all levels especially at High courts to keep the faith and confidence of people intact in the Judicial wing of our country.

Hopefully, this proposed moderation in the cause list will boost and improve the justice delivery system in a set time frame. The pendency may be arrested adequately and the position of cases may be brought to normal in the coming years by taking the call to action through these suggestions under aegis of courts which can yield some respite to the judicial system.


[1] Law Commission Of India, Arrears and Backlog: Creating Additional Judicial (wo)manpower, Report No. 245, July 2014, available at https://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/Report245.pdf

[2] Live Mint, ‘How cases move through different high courts’, Krishnayan Sen, August 26, 2015

[3] Justice M.M. Kumar, Sensitization Of Judicial Officers In Dispensation Of Justice With A Focus On Court Craft And Court Conduct And Bench And Bar Relation, available at https://cja.gov.in/data/HMJ%20M.M.%20Kumar.pdf

[4] International Business Times, Mugdha VariyarIndia may see 1 crore pending cases in high courts by end of 2016’, January 7, 2016, available at https://www.ibtimes.co.in/india-may-see-1-crore-pending-cases-high-courts-by-end-2016-662279

[5] Supra, Note 1

October 18, 2016

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