Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, January 3
The Punjab and Haryana High Court reopens on Monday after a short winter break with pendency of over six lakh cases — up by more than a lakh since January 2020. Facing a shortage of 33 Judges, litigants may have to wait for decades for justice.
As of now, the Allahabad High Court has the highest number of pending cases at 7.46 lakh, followed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The virus from Wuhan, that struck the world hard, also left the justice delivery mechanism afflicted. The early signs of slowing down came soon after the High Court went into restrictive functioning mode in March-end. But Covid’s effect on the already ailing system manifested itself with full force in January this year with a pendency of 6,37,188 cases against 5,28,340 last year.
The National Judicial Data Grid — the monitoring tool to identify, manage and reduce pendency — indicates the pendency of 2,64,191 criminal cases, predominantly involving life and liberty. Otherwise, 96,503 (15.15 pc) of the pending cases are up to a year old; 2,31,637 (36.35 pc) have been pending between one and three years; 92,551 (14.53 pc) between 10 and 20 years and 10,519 (1.65 pc) have been awaiting adjudication for 20-30 years.
The data, however, does not reflect the severity of ailment. The High Court is hearing over 1,200 cases daily through video-conferencing — a formidable task. Primarily, matters involving public interest or urgency are being taken up. Approximately, 58,981 cases were filed from March 24 to September 30. But 23,474 cases could be disposed of. The High Court is expected to witness an unmanageable flood of litigation once it reopens for normal “physical” operations.
The situation is expected to further worsen because of the impending retirement of Judges. The High Court now has 52 Judges against the sanctioned strength of 85. No less than eight Judges are retiring this year. The collegium has recommended five advocates for elevation. But the process may take time because of the lengthy procedure.
The oldest case, perhaps, is a regular second appeal filed 45 years back by Rachhpal Singh against Sohan Singh in a land matter pertaining to Gurdaspur area. The more than four decades of wait is not exceptional. One regular second appeal filed in 1978, followed by another in 1979 and “thousands” more subsequently are still pending.
National Judicial Data Grid
15.15% of pending cases up to a year old
36.35% pending between one and 3 years
14.53% pending between 10 and 20 years
1.65% awaiting adjudication for 20-30 years