Parliament passes Delhi High Court (Amendment) Bill, 2015

Parliament passes Delhi High Court (Amendment) Bill, 2015

Delhi High Court (Amendment) bill, 2015 which aims at reducing the workload of the Delhi High Court by increasing the pecuniary jurisdictions of civil suits from the existing Rs 20 lakhs to Rs 2 crore was passed by parliament on August 5.

Having earlier passed by the Upper House, the bill passed in the Lok Sabha was adopted by a voice vote in the absence of most of the members who are boycotting proceedings to protest the suspension of 25 Congress members for five days by the speaker. Post its enforcement and enactment, the Act will empower the nine district courts to take up civil suits valued upto Rs 2 crore from Delhi High Court. It is to be noted that the bill was introduced by the UPA government in February last year. Soon after, it was referred to the Standing Committee on Law & Personnel which cleared it.

The NDA government approved the measure without any changes and the measure was passed by the Upper House in the Budget Session. Replying to the debate on the bill, Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda said that the measure would considerably reduce the workload of the Delhi High Court.

"People staying in far­flung areas will also get relief as they won't have to come to the High Court. Currently, 11 district courts (in Delhi) are assigned to deal with the cases, but three more district courts will be added to the list," he said. When South Delhi MP Ramesh Bidhuri sought increasing the cap to Rs 5 crore because of the growth in property rates, Gowda said the enhancement of the pecuniary jurisdiction was done with due consultations with the Bar Association of Delhi and a resolution by the High Court. "When time comes, it can be enhanced in future", the Minister said.

Lower court lawyers in Delhi have been on an indefinite strike since July 21 till date demanding expeditious passage of the bill, while those of the high court were on strike for about six days from July 22 opposing the bill.

Responding to the issue of pendency of cases, Gowda said some 3.6 crore cases were pending in courts, ranging from the Supreme Court to subordinate courts. The government has taken steps like appointing more judges and creating additional infrastructure to clear the backlog, the Minister said.

At present, cases involving even a small property are required to be filed before the High Court as it has the jurisdiction of civil suits involving Rs 20 lakh and above.

The statement of objects and reasons of the bill reads, "this has increased the workload of the Delhi High Court ... The poor people living in Delhi also have to cover considerable distance to approach the Delhi High Court to seek justice in their cases." Since there are so many district courts, it is easier for the litigants to approach them and the cost of litigation is also less there, it said.

The measure to amend the Delhi High Court Act comes in the wake of a recommendation made by former Delhi High Court Chief Justice D Murugesan in 2013.