Pendency refers to the long-pending backlog of the cases in all the Judiciary levels, i.e., The Supreme Court, the High Court, and the District or Subordinate courts. According to Black Law's Dictionary, Pendency can be defined as "Suspense; the state of being pendent or undecided; the state of an action, etc., after it has been begun, and before the final disposition of it." In law, there is a leading saying that[i]"Justice Delayed is Justice Denied". In the present time, numerous components control the legal executive from the desired justice in time. Among those variables the central and a major point is Pendency. Pendency of cases alludes to the accumulated build-up of the cases that are being dealt with in the Court of Law for quite a long time.
The problem of pendency is known to everyone who is somehow involved in seeking justice. Pendency is a problem arising due to a long clog of different sets of problems with different natures that were left unnoticed. The Stakeholders are also significant for the purpose of accumulation of the backlog at an increasing rate. All those problems increase the time consumed by the Court of Law , resulting in a delay in providing the Justice sought. Major among those problems being:
Our legal system is clogged with pending cases, and the situation has deteriorated not just because of a lack of judges to dispose of the matter, but other factors have also contributed to the worsening of the situation of huge arrears of pending cases in the country. One important factor can be categorized as administrative problems, which is not given much emphasis, but its role in worsening of the situation has been paramount. A report published by the Supreme Court of India mentioned that the subordinate judiciary has not been provided with a sufficient number of courtrooms, support staff and residential accommodation for judges, which leads to a severe shortage of resources required to dispose of a case within a reasonable period of time. This report stated that the subordinate judiciary requires more than 5000 courtrooms to accommodate more than 20000 judicial officers, and the number of courtrooms in the present scenario is not sufficient to cater to the demand. These problems do not end here; there is also a need to fill more than 40000 staff positions, which have been lying vacant for many years and the administration has done very little to address this issue. The data provided reveals the deteriorating condition of our subordinate judiciary along with constant pressure under which they are working every day due to a lack of human resources. These problems require immediate attention along with proper actions from the administration with the objective to resolve them [ii]. Along with heavy working burden already on the subordinate judiciary due to the reasons above, the problem is grave due to fewer working days.
Infrastructure is the basic requirement for anybody to work to the best of its ability. Courts have formed devoted stakes for court administrators to benefit court processes, enhance case drive for productive judicial time. But some courts have occupied up such posts and many courts have not yet filled the devoted stakes so far. Old technology used in administration and the slow change is a heavy loss on adaptation and a hindrance to the efficiency of courts. The low budget allocation towards the Judicial infrastructure has resulted in a depleted structure of buildings which is miserably grim due to which the Judges are unable to deliver quality judgments in efficient time.
Every case that is heard in the Court of Law, requires a certain time to be heard before it attains finality. But the time invested in the investigation, hearing of the cases, and delivery of the judgment is not the best effective and efficient utilization of the Courts Time. In January; 2019, the Supreme Court Judge asked People not to file frivolous cases and stop wasting the time of the courts[iii]. Many procedural conducts are not being followed by the Courts, like, providing more than three adjournments in cases, which is not advised by the Law and leads to the pendency of cases.
It is an evident situation that if a person is overwhelmed by the work supposed to be completed by him, the effectiveness and efficiency of the person will deteriorate at a high scale. A similar situation can be seen in the Indian Judiciary, where the Judicial officers are overwhelmed by the count of cases they have to deal with, and with the continuous addition of new cases. The problem of pendency arose due to the lack of the appointment of new Judicial officers to match the requirement and fill up the vacant positions.
The new cases are increasing exponentially. As the literacy rate is increasing, the awareness of the people regarding their rights and the obligations the state has towards them is increasing too. This has resulted in approaching the Court of Law in case of any violation, more frequently than it was seen in the past. Among the proportion of Pending Cases, major cases are related to the State or the Centre. There are many problems identified with the Administration of police which are frequently handicapped for the need of recent and technical equipment to accumulate evidence. Even with a lot of inspiring examples that are results of the police administration's hard work and devotion, the lack of orderliness made by the old technology used by them and the slow rate of change cannot be overlooked.
The social environment is one of the most delicate forms of the environment which gets disrupted easily. Pendency also has social impact, such impact is related to the non-timely delivery of justice resulting in scant regard for the Rule of law and assets being locked into . This problem results in overcrowding of prisons due to many under trial prisoners because of the deficient infrastructure.
Pendency is a problem that requires different perspectives to be resolved, as it has many factors . All the problems that are major reasons for the increasing pendency rate can be dealt with some advancement in the procedure and perspective.
1. Judicial administration
The clogged legal system of our country can be unclogged by enhancing the existing situation and by providing a better environment to work.
i.) For productivity enhancement: Due to lack of administrative support the productivity of the Judicial system can be enhanced again by some suggestive changes:
a.) The number of days of work that is done in higher courts should be increased so the judicial officers are able to handle an increased number of cases by their end to overcome the pendency.
a.) In the thirteenth Finance Commission report it was mentioned that in view of enhancement in the management of the courts and resultant improvement in the disposition in the pendency can be dealt with the appointment of professionals in the name of court managers to assist the judges. A lack of staff is a major dent in the management of the courts. As per supreme court's report, it was evident that the Subordinate courts were understaffed because of which the management of the courtrooms is difficult. This was a major step towards better management.
b.) In accordance with the constitution of India i.e. Article 127 and 128 the Supreme Court and the High Court can act in order to appoint effective and efficient Judges with experience as AD-HOC Judges and presence of retired Judges.
iii.) Definite time frame:
Time is a factor that if used more than required, to complete a task, can create a problem. Similarly, in the judiciary, the consumption of the time by the Court more than required in one case creates the problem of pendency. There are many changes that can be adopted to resolve and reduce the problem of pendency at a higher rate. Those being:
a) There should be a specification regarding the time consumption with regards to an offence and the trial proceedings.
b) There should be an annual target and action plan for subordinate Judiciary and high courts for the disposal of cases every year which can make the pace of a case go a little faster, thus, coping up to the pendency.
c) Stricter rules of conduct to be applicable to officials to ensure adequate performance in the duties and tasks which are a part of creating the problem of pendency.
iv.) Strict regulation with regards to adjournment of the cases: As per the guidelines of the Code of civil procedure order number 17 of rules 1, the Court of law should provide adjournment of a case not more than three times to parties. There is an ignorance of the order in the practical practice that creates an opportunity for people to misuse and wastes the time of the Hon'ble courts by having adjournments more than three times in their respective cases.
B. LEGISLATIVE INTERVENTION:
1.) There should be the establishment of new Non-Judicial bodies for the Subordinate Courts as well so that they are not indulged in completing the non-Judicial aspects of the trial.
2.) AIJS (All India Judicial Services) would benefit the Lower subordinate courts by increasing the quality of judges which will result in a reduction in the problem of pendency.
C.) INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (IT) INTERVENTION:
Information technology is now a tool essential for modernisation of the judicial system. Judicial Administration can play a major role in making justice more accessible and transparent with the help of IT tools in the following way:
1.) Development and upgradation of the old technology can enhance effectiveness and efficiency of courts in the following way:
i.) A planned timeline for e-courts, computerisation of documents and automation of technology will make justice delivery more responsive towards the need of litigants (eg. Virtual courts of Delhi).
ii.) By changing digital infrastructure of the courts, the miscellaneous default that occurs sometimes due to which the court has to waste its time can be rectified.
iii.) IT modification will result in more reliable data collection, better categorisation of cases on the basis of their urgency and priority , tracking and monitoring of cases will make the justice procedure litigant friendly.
2.) Increase in the Pace of the e-Court Mission Mode Project. The e-Courts National Portal additionally gives Training material to Judicial officials and staff, connections to District Court sites, and measurable reports that can be utilized as a Judicial administration data framework. This Portal is assumed to play a key job in achieving legal changes.
3.) The e-committee of the Supreme Court while searching for the resolution for the time consumption of the cases during their early stage, a mobile application called National Service and tracking of electronic processes were launched by them In light of the life span of the cases it was observed that a huge portion of it was spent at the starting of the trial while serving of notices.
4.) Redesigning the core operations: Filing of the cases via electronic medium. All the data relating to the status of the case, like, date of hearing, last notice/order, details of the court in which the matter is pending, documents submitted by the parties.
D.) EXECUTIVE INTERVENTION:
1.) Infrastructure resolve:
A quality infrastructure can help a person complete assigned work in the most effective and efficient manner possible. Similarly, in the Judicial System, the infrastructure plays an important role in the enhancement of delivery. Many resolves can be adopted with regards to the infrastructure:
i.) Land for infrastructure is important and it is the duty of the state to provide such land for the formation of the Court Premises which is best suited. And due to lack of abundance of the ground the infrastructure should be undertaken to be vertical. Because of which there will be a more effective usage of space at the allocated land.
ii.) The change in the low budget allocation towards the Judicial infrastructure has to be initiated as a result of which the depleted structure of buildings which is miserably grim due to which the Judges are unable to deliver quality judgments in the most efficient time can be exterminated.
The issue of pendency cannot be addressed unless the problem of the shortage in the appointment of the Judicial officers is dealt with. It is visible that the Judiciary lacks in the number of the Judicial officers and that is not compensated with the number of new appointments that are being done but a new framework is required to deal with the situation:
i.) Appointment of new Judges in higher judiciary can be done by getting an optimal no. of judges appointed through democratic and transparent procedure that can handle the backlog of pendency in a very efficient and effective manner.
ii.) The one hundred and twentieth Law Commission of India report also suggested the fixation of the judge strength formula.
E.) RESOLVE FOR LITIGATION ISSUE:
The resolution of the issue pertaining to the litigation is not result of the new cases, and more awareness of people regarding what can constitute an infringement in their right. It is also a result of the non-dealing of the existent cases in a quality manner. A person cannot be restrained from the filing of new case when they feel that their right has been violated. But the Executive, legislature and Judicial administration can play a major role in dealing with existing cases and newly filed cases in a planned manner:
1.) Pre-litigation Mediation can be a method that can be undertaken towards the reduction of the Pendency in the judicial system. In this method, Legal Services Authorities can regulate the inflow of the cases into court by conducting pre-litigation mediation. ADR should be followed in order to discourage litigation.
2.) For the settlement of the Civil and Family related matters, regularly organized Lok Adalats can be planned and enacted upon. This action will reduce the burden on the Judiciary and the System will be able to overcome the Pendency.
3.) There is a huge work load on the Judiciary as they have to deal with every possible claim irrespective of it being a minor claim or a major claim. This problem can be addressed by setting up Gram Nyayalayas, which can be an effective and efficient way to manage these claims from rural areas.
4.) Establishment of the Legal care and Support centres by the High Judicial system at the rural areas or village areas to address the very grass root level issues in order to make the State litigations more effective and friendly to the litigants.
5.) The Courts can improve their ability of management by utilizing the Administrative mechanisms Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR), Lok Adalats, Gram Nyayalayas to their full potential. And set up more tribunals Fast Track Courts (FTCs) and Special courts for better managing the important cases in a faster and more efficient manner.
'The need of the hour to mitigate the problem of pendency is to think out of the box', said by Justice Chandrachud signifies that our obsolete ways to dispose of cases has resulted in clogging of the system and overburdening of the judiciary with pendency. We must contemplate and must take immediate steps to address and resolve these problems so that people don't lose their faith in the judiciary and its power to impart justice. This article has made an effort by highlighting problems our judiciary has been facing with possible and practical solutions that may solve these existing problems, if implemented .