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'Court backlog can be cleared in 2, not 320 years'

Thousands languish in the country’s jails waiting for their court hearings. But as their cases get lost in the courts’ backlog, their voices never leave the four corners of their cells.

Three years ago, Andhra Pradesh High Court’s Justice VV Rao claimed it would take 320 years to clear the backlog of cases in India. But Former Chief Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, on analysing the data from four editions of Courtnews, from July 2011 to June 2012, has realised that Rao’s statement was an extreme hyperbole.

“Seventy per cent of India’s total prisoners are under trials. And yet time-bound justice is not priority. If we manage the cases properly, the backlog can be cleared within 34 months,” Gandhi told SMD.

“The average pendency for July 2011 to June 2012 comes to 10 months for the Supreme Court, 29 months for the High Courts and 18 months for the lower Courts,” he revealed.

Senior council Adik Shirodkar added, “The number of litigations reaching courts have increased tremendously, but the judiciary strength has not increased proportionately. The irony is that the government doesn’t want a strong judiciary, because that might create problems,” he added.

Shirodkar suggests that in order to attract more lawyers to take up free legal aid cases, the government should increase free legal aid funds; this would substantially help reduce the pendency cases.

Chief Public Prosecutor Rohini Salian feels differently. She said, “The reason for the pendency of cases in trial courts is due to the time consumed for examining and cross-examining. Assuming there are 40 matters slated daily, only three to four matters can be taken at the most in the actual. Also, routine miscellaneous matters such as bail, revision petition, appeal etc are also heard by the trial court, which is usually time-consuming. Also the figures against High Court and Supreme Court are not the actual cases pending but these are appeal cases.”

When asked for a solution to solve the pendency cases, Salian said, “The number of offences getting registered has increased over the period of time and so the cases before the trial court has gone up, but the number of trial courts are few. The need of the hour is to have more trial courts, which means more manpower and infrastructure.” 

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