A Supreme Court Bench of Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice Aravind Kumar expressed concern over the large pendency of cases in India and has issued a slew of directions to the High Courts for ensuring speedy trial and to monitor the disposal of cases, especially those pending for over five years.

In that context, it was said that, "it is a solemn truth that we must confront with unwavering resolve—the spectre of delay and pendency has cast a long shadow upon the very dispensation of justice. In this sacred realm, where the scales of justice are meant to balance with precision, the backlog of cases and the interminable delays have reached a disconcerting crescendo. The relentless march of time, while it may heal wounds for some, it deepens the chasm of despair for litigants who await the enforcement of their rights."

Subsequently, it was said "Let us embark on a journey of legal reform with urgency, for the legacy we leave will shape the destiny of a nation. In the halls of justice, let not the echoes of delay and pendency drown out the clarion call of reform. The time is now, and justice waits for no one. Hence, the following requests to Hon’ble the Chief Justices of the High Courts are made and directions are issued to the trial courts to ensure ‘speedy justice’ is delivered."

Senior Advocate Rachna Srivastava appeared for the appellant, while Counsel Rameshwar Prasad Goyal appeared for the respondents.

In this case, the Court was hearing a civil appeal, wherein, even after 41 years, the parties were still litigating as to who should be brought on record as the legal representative of the sole plaintiff.

The Court observed that it was a mirror to the fact that the litigant public may become disillusioned with judicial processes due to inordinate delay in the legal proceedings, not reaching its logical end, and moving at a snail’s pace due to dilatory tactics adopted by one or the other party.

On hearing the parties and perusing the records, the Court held that, "it requires to be noticed that respondents herein themselves having filed an application in WP (M/S) No.342 of 2005 for bringing the present appellant (Yashpal Jain) as her legal representative in the writ petition (M/S) 342/2005 and prosecuted the same, would reflect that they were in the acquaintance of the fact that present appellant being the legal representative of deceased Urmila Devi but yet are attempting to contend that Manoj Kumar Jain is to be brought on record as legal representative of Urmila Devi. In this background the impugned order which has resulted in rejection of the application filed by the appellant to be brought on record as legal representative of Urmila Devi if sustained would result in the estate of deceased plaintiff not being represented, as a consequence of which suit would abate or would be put to a silent death by the defendants without claim made in the suit being adjudicated on merits. Hence, point No.(i) is answered in favour of the appellant and against respondents and therefore, the impugned order is set aside."

Subsequently, the Court called upon all stakeholders to join hands in a concerted effort to untangle the web of delay and pendency, and the following directions were issued:

i. All courts at district and taluka levels shall ensure proper execution of the summons and in a time bound manner as prescribed under Order V Rule (2) of CPC and same shall be monitored by Principal District Judges and after collating the statistics they shall forward the same to be placed before the committee constituted by the High Court for its consideration and monitoring.

ii. All courts at District and Taluka level shall ensure that written statement is filed within the prescribed limit namely as prescribed under Order VIII Rule 1 and preferably within 30 days and to assign reasons in writing as to why the time limit is being extended beyond 30 days as indicated under proviso to sub-Rule (1) of Order VIII of CPC.

iii. All courts at Districts and Talukas shall ensure after the pleadings are complete, the parties should be called upon to appear on the day fixed as indicated in Order X and record the admissions and denials and the court shall direct the parties to the suit to opt for either mode of the settlement outside the court as specified in sub-Section (1) of Section 89 and at the option of the parties shall fix the date of appearance before such forum or authority and in the event of the parties opting to any one of the modes of settlement directions be issued to appear on the date, time and venue fixed and the parties shall so appear before such authority/forum without any further notice at such designated place and time and it shall also be made clear in the reference order that trial is fixed beyond the period of two months making it clear that in the event of ADR not being fruitful, the trial would commence on the next day so fixed and would proceed on day-to-day basis.

iv. In the event of the party’s failure to opt for ADR namely resolution of dispute as prescribed under Section 89(1) the court should frame the issues for its determination within one week preferably, in the open court.

v. Fixing of the date of trial shall be in consultation with the learned advocates appearing for the parties to enable them to adjust their calendar. Once the date of trial is fixed, the trial should proceed accordingly to the extent possible, on day-to-day basis.

vi. Learned trial judges of District and Taluka Courts shall as far as possible maintain the diary for ensuring that only such number of cases as can be handled on any given day for trial and complete the recording of evidence so as to avoid overcrowding of the cases and as a sequence of it would result in adjournment being sought and thereby preventing any inconvenience being caused to the stakeholders.

vii. The counsels representing the parties may be enlightened of the provisions of Order XI and Order XII so as to narrow down the scope of dispute and it would be also the onerous responsibility of the Bar Associations and Bar Councils to have periodical refresher courses and preferably by virtual mode.

viii. The trial courts shall scrupulously, meticulously and without fail comply with the provisions of Rule 1 of Order XVII and once the trial has commenced it shall be proceeded from day to day as contemplated under the proviso to Rule (2).

ix. The courts shall give meaningful effect to the provisions for payment of cost for ensuring that no adjournment is sought for procrastination of the litigation and the opposite party is suitably compensated in the event of such adjournment is being granted.

x. At conclusion of trial the oral arguments shall be heard immediately and continuously and judgment be pronounced within the period stipulated under Order XX of CPC.

xi. The statistics relating to the cases pending in each court beyond 5 years shall be forwarded by every presiding officer to the Principal District Judge once in a month who (Principal District Judge/District Judge) shall collate the same and forward it to the review committee constituted by the respective High Courts for enabling it to take further steps.

xii. The Committee so constituted by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of the respective States shall meet at least once in two months and direct such corrective measures to be taken by concerned court as deemed fit and shall also monitor the old cases (preferably which are pending for more than 05 years) constantly.

Cause Title: Yashpal Jain v. Sushila Devi & Ors.

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