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Clogged up courts

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  19 Aug 2016 12:00 AM GMT

Pendency of cases in Gauhati High Court and lower courts continues to be a huge problem. Some cases have been dragging on for 15-20 years. When the matter came up in the just concluded Assam assembly budget session, Sports and Youth Welfare minister ba Kumar Doley, replying on behalf of the Law minister, said that delay in filing chargesheet, absence of witnesses during hearings, even death of party or parties involved are some of the reasons why cases go on and on. As on June 30 this year, 25,943 cases were pending in the Gauhati High Court; in lower courts across the State, the total number of pending cases was 2,55,376. Given that the country has a unified judiciary, this is a problem that goes right up to the top. Recently, the Supreme Court had some sharp words for the Centre while hearing a PIL plea filed by a war veteran complaining about the enormous backlog of cases in various courts ‘which has acquired uncontrollable proportions’. The three-judge SC bench led by the Chief Justice had to ask why the Central government is ‘sitting over’ judges’ appointments and transfers, creating a situation ‘where courts are allowed to be shut down’. The problem seems overwhelming — nearly 3 crore cases are pending in various courts of the country as per latest tiol Judicial Data Grid figures; around 15 percent or over 33.5 lakh cases are ‘unlisted’, which means their next date of hearing has not been assigned. In the 24 High Courts, 478 judicial posts remain vacant; the Supreme Court itself has three vacancies. The problem has been aggravated by the Central government’s determition to have a greater say in appointments to the higher judiciary. The confrontation has sharpened since last year, after the Parliament cleared a tiol Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) to replace the Supreme Court Collegium on judges’ postings, which however was later struck down by the apex court. Unless this Executive vs Judiciary standoff is resolved at the earliest, other reform measures to ease the logjam in courts will also remain long overdue, which is but another me for denial of justice.

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