OpEd – How to List Cases Better

OpEd - How to List Cases Better

Issue :-

  • Chief Justice of India recently flagged rising pendency in appeals lying with High Courts based on the findings of the Supreme Court’s Arrears Committee

What Actions did Chief Justice of India took to address this issue ?

  • He has since directed High Courts to prepare action plans for disposal of five and 10-year-old cases
  • He has also asked for High Court Arrears Committees to periodically review the situation.

But there is also a need to revisit the manner in which  judicial performance & accountability is measured.

What have been the issues so far with judicial performance ?

The primary measure of court efficiency has been case disposal rates. Public perception of court performance and individual judges now hinges on the number of cases pending before them which also puts pressure on judges to dispose of as many cases as possible which leads to :-

  • A problematic situation as it does not consider the quality of adjudication itself
  • It also does not shed light on the exact nature of cases that have remained pending the longest, or the stage at which pendency recurs the most.

Why there is an Impact of Listing Techniques which influenced case movement and maintain pendency ?

  1. Listing patterns of cases in courts are generally erratic. The number of matters listed for the same courtroom range from 1 to 126 a month
  2. A large number of cases listed in a day means that inevitably, matters listed towards the end of the day remained left over
  3. Old pending matters barely make it to court.

What can judiciary do?

  • Case listing needs to be made more systematic :- Courts must assess their performance based on the actual number of cases being heard. Cause List preparation can be made more scientific if supported by a consistent study of the variance in the number of cases listed across courts, identifying the exact stages at which cases are clogging the pipeline for the longest duration, and the nature of cases left over.
  • The cause list should have cases methodically distributed by type and stage. The court can decide on a minimum and maximum number for particular matters.
  • Disposing of old and pending matters must be prioritized.
  • A solution would be to implement a policy where no adjournments are granted for frivolous reasons

Benefits of scientific listing :-

  • It will introduce standardisation across courts and help dis-incentivise judges from using discretionary practices in the number and nature of cases listed before them
  • It will promote fairness — a reasonable number of cases would be listed every day, and distributed across the day based on stage and case type
  • There will be better quality of adjudication

Way forward

  • The quality and efficiency of court functioning can be improved with simple tweaks. It is time that the judiciary as an institution opens itself to the services of competent external agencies that can help them record, manage and analyse their data better, to build and sustain a healthy institution

Leave a Reply