A joint trial for similar suits. That is how Calcutta High Court will speed up disposal of the 300,000-odd cases pending with it. It will club identical matters and hear them together.
This move follows a request from Chief Justice of India Y.K. Sabarwal, who has expressed concern over the staggering number of old cases at the court.
Three senior judges of the high court, assigned with the task of exploring the possibility of clubbing pending cases similar in nature, have approved the proposal.
A recent survey conducted on behalf of the court administration has found that more than 70 per cent of the pending cases could be categorised under heads such as land and property, and matrimony. “Once categorised, similar cases could be heard together and disposed of quickly,” said a senior court official.
“In the first phase, a committee of judges will be set up to scrutinise the cases and classify them. The cases will then be placed before the judges,” the official added.
A.K. Mathur, former chief justice of the high court, had decided in 2004 that the pending cases would be heard two days a week for speedy disposal. “Since then, two benches have been hearing the old matters on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The number of benches has since been increased,” said Uttam Majumdar, former secretary of the High Court Bar Association.
“The practice of hearing old cases twice a week has proved effective. From 3.5 lakh in 2004, the number of pending cases once came down to 2.52 lakh.
But it is on the up again, following a sudden rise in the number of fresh litigations. The tally now stands at 3.2 lakh,” Majumdar added.
A senior official in the state law department said “wrong judgments” delivered by the lower courts is one reason for the rise in the number of cases at the high court.
“The state-run judicial academy has started training sessions for the lower court judges. This will help reduce the number of cases,” he added.
The sharp increase in the number of pending cases at the high court is a matter of concern for the Chief Justice of India Sabarwal, too.
During his recent visit to the city, he had requested high court Chief Justice V.S. Sirpurkar and other senior judges to explore ways to reduce the number of pending cases at the earliest.
The judiciary is also concerned at the pile-up of old cases in the subordinate courts.
The Chief Justice of India has announced that the Centre and the Supreme Court are considering introducing evening shifts in the lower courts to lessen the burden.
But the state government has opposed the move.