Ranchi, Sept. 16: Chief Justice Prakash Tatia has embarked on Mission Impossible.
He wants all courts in Jharkhand to clear the ever-increasing backlog of cases and ensure that by December no case more than five years old is pending.
Tatia, who has written to all district judges about the mission, has put forth a plan, that includes meetings with judicial officers — on the first Saturdays of a month, that too, after office-hours — to impress upon them the importance of the issue at hand.
The idea, according to Tatia, was to make Jharkhand a “five-plus free” state, signifying the maximum number of years pendency of cases would be allowed. District judges have, therefore, been asked to conduct monthly reviews of case disposals at each court and submit reports to the high court.
Till July, there were as many as 46,092 cases pending for anything between five and 10 years. Of around 3 lakh pending cases in subordinate courts, 1,54,391 were less than five years old, while 12,337 were delayed for over 10 years.
“The Union law ministry has set up a national mission for justice delivery and legal reforms with the objective of increasing access to justice by reducing delays and arrears in the system,” Tatia told The Telegraph, explaining the reasons behind the initiative.
“It is in this regard the initiative was taken under the 13th Finance Commission as a mission mode programme for reduction of pendency in courts,” he added.
During the process of clearing old cases, Tatai said, operating standards for all courts in the state would be established and structural changes introduced to increase accountability.
Cases involving senior citizens, minors, disabled, women, SCs/STs and undertrial prisoners would be given priority. “I will be personally monitoring the disposal of cases in big districts like Dhanbad and Jamshedpur, and through video-conferencing in other districts,” he said.
There are over 9,100 undertrials in various jails of the state. Soon after he took over as chief justice last year, Tatia wrote to district judges in May 2011, asking them to identify the oldest cases in their respective districts and dispose of 20 of them.
Thereafter, all 22 district courts (Ramgarh and Khunti are yet to have courts) identified 7,280 cases and disposed of 3,443 of which around 1,850 were over 10 years old.
In April this year, Tatia discovered to his horror that over half the first lot of 20 old cases were still pending. Only 17 district courts had managed to clear all 20 cases in each of their domains.
Now, the chief justice feels the timing of launching the mission was right. Judicial officers, for once, were a highly motivated lot as a number of niggling service issues had been resolved.