Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu and Kashmir High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Gita Mittal, CJ and Tashi Rabstan, J. allowed an application whereby a suspension of sentence was prayed.

The facts of the case are that the appellant was arrested in early 2005 and by the time the custody certificate was issued; the appellant had undergone actual incarceration of over 13 years and 5 months. It was found that the appellant was convicted under Section 302 RPC and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The High Court relied on the case of Akhtari Bi v. State of M.P., (2001) 4 SCC 355 where it was held that if the appeal is pending for five years and there is no chance of an appeal being heard in near future then in such a case the applicant/appellant should be enlarged on bail.

The application was thus allowed. [Darshan Lal v. State, 2018 SCC OnLine J&K 1011, Order dated 27-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Vineet Kothari, J. decided a batch of writ petitions filed under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution, wherein the Court held that it is the right of the State to engage any particular advocate to represent it in cases.

The petitioners (practicing advocates in Bangalore courts belonging to Scheduled Castes) filed the writ petition seeking direction from the Court to remove Respondent 5 who was engaged by the State to represent the State in various cases relating to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe persons in the State. Petitioners contended that the said respondent was inefficient and incompetent due to which a large number of cases relating to SC/ST persons were pending before the courts. They also submitted that adequate opportunity should be given to other advocates to represent the State.

The High Court perused the material available on record and observed that the Court cannot interfere in such matters under Article 226 of the Constitution. It is the discretion of the State, like any other client, to engage any advocate to represent it in cases. Further, the delay in disposal of cases cannot be solely attributed to anyone advocate appearing for a litigant. The Indian judiciary is overburdened with number of cases and it is a well-known fact that there is a huge delay in disposal of cases for countless reasons.

The Court categorically held that, “a particular Advocate engaged by the State cannot be blamed for delay in disposal of the cases, as is sought to be made out by the petitioners. The petitioners do not have any locus standi to issue any kind of Certificate or brand any Advocate like 5th Respondent. Whether he is efficient or inefficient, whether his services are proper or not, it is for the State to decide. It is a choice of the State to select its own Advocate. It is none of the business of the Court much less of the complaining petitioners – Advocates to interfere in the same.”

Accordingly, any relief as prayed for by the petitioners was declined and the petitions were dismissed. [Prabhu V. v. Deptt. of Social Welfare, Karnataka, 2018 SCC OnLine Kar 489, order dated 28-02-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Taking note of the fact that at present, thirty four Debt Recovery Tribunals and five Appellate Tribunals are functioning in the country which suffer from a lack of adequate infrastructure, manpower and resources, the Court said that the legislative changes to provide for expeditious disposal of proceedings before the Debt Recovery Tribunals may not by themselves achieve the intended object so long as the infrastructure provided to the Tribunals is not commensurate with the burden of the work and nature of judicial duties.

The Court noticed that though the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993 provides for the disposal of recovery applications within one hundred and eighty days, cases have remained pending for years together. In order to deal with the large pendency of cases, the Enforcement of Security Interest and Recovery of Debt Laws and Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 11.05. 2016. The Bill has eventually been passed by both the houses of Parliament on 16.08.2016. The Court, however, that having due regard to the important adjudicatory function which is entrusted to these Tribunals, the efficacy of parliamentary legislation will depend in a large measure on the efficiency with which the Tribunals discharge their duties. Hence, the Court directed the Union of India to file affidavit dealing with the following issues:

  • Whether the timelines set down in the amended legislation are capable of being achieved with the existing infrastructure including judicial personnel and staffing pattern of the Debt Recovery Tribunals and Debt Recovery Appellate Tribunals;
  • The underlying basis, if any, upon which the revised timelines have been stipulated and whether any scientific study has been conducted on the availability of infrastructure;
  • What steps the Union government intends to adopt to enhance the infrastructure of Debt Recovery Tribunals and the Appellate Tribunals in terms of physical infrastructure, judicial manpower and non-judicial personnel required for the efficacious functioning of the Tribunals;
  • The specific plan of action including time-schedules within which the existing infrastructure would be upgraded so as to achieve the time frame for disposal indicated in the amended legislation; and
  • Empirical data on the pendency of cases for more than ten years and the list of corporate entities where the amount outstanding is in excess of Rs.500 crore.

The 3-judge bench of T.S. Thakur, CJ and Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and A.M. Khanwilkar, JJ has directed the Union Government to file affidavit within 4 weeks from the date of this order. [Centre for Public Interest Litigation v. Housing & Urban Development Corporation Ltd., 2017 SCC OnLine SC 13, decided on 03.01.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Terming the inadequacy of judges to be the root cause for the delay in disposal of cases resulting in huge backlog, the 3-Judge Bench of T.S. Thakur, CJ and Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and L. Nageswara Rao, JJ said that until National Court Management Systems Committee (NCMSC) formulates a scientific method for determining the basis for computing the required judge strength of the district judiciary, the judge strength shall be computed for each state, in accordance with the prevailing ‘Unit system’ of the High Courts.

Under the ‘Unit system’, weightage is given to cases based on their nature and complexity. The High Courts have established disposal norms for the district judiciary based on units allocated for disposal of different cases. On the basis of the units prescribed, performance is rated from “excellent” and ‘very good’ to ‘unsatisfactory’. Earlier, the ‘rate of disposal method’ was being applied to resolve this issue. Under the Rate of Disposal Method, the Commission first looked at the current rate at which judges dispose of cases and how many additional judges working at a similar level of efficiency would be required so that the number of disposals equals the number of institutions in any one year time frame. However, the method was criticized on the ground that a lower rate of disposal may not necessarily reflect upon the efficiency with which a judge has conducted the court. Trials are held up because of a paucity of public prosecutors, absence of witnesses on dates fixed for trial, laxity of police in service of summons, etc.

The Court said that while prescribing units for disposal, a robust attempt must be made by the High Courts to ensure that due importance is given to the disposal of old cases. The units prescribed for disposal must provide adequate incentives to attend to complex and time consuming cases. It was also said that the District judges with long years of experience in the service are in a position to appreciate practical realities and to indicate the manner in which the unit system can be revised in each state to encourage judges at both the trial and the appellate level to take up those cases which consume judicial time and which should not be placed on the back-burner for fear that the judge will not be able to fulfill the units expected. The Chief Justices should initiate the process of revising unit based norms in relation to their states.

The Court further said that in prescribing the judge strength it is necessary to ensure that a backlog does not result in the future as a result of an increase in annual filings. One method of estimating the extent of the increase in future filings is to have regard to the increase reflected over a comparable period in the past for which data is available. Those figures can be extrapolated to determine the increase in annual filings. The enhancement in the strength of the district judiciary should be such that a ‘five plus zero’ pendency is achieved i.e. wiping out the backlog within a target period of five years.

The Court has requested the NCMSC to submit it’s final report by 31 December 2017. [Imtiyaz Ahmad v. State of U.P., 2017 SCC OnLine SC 7, decided on 02.01.2017]