Budget 2018: The average pendency of civil/criminal cases is as high as 10.71 years in the Allahabad High Court, said the Economic Survey 2017-18, while making a strong case for reducing judicial delays. The survey, quoting data, said the Calutta High Court’s average pendency of these cases stood at 3.01 years. Similarly, it was 2.92 years and 2.49 years for Madras High Court and Bombay High Court, respectively. The average pendency was calculated based on the difference (in days/years) between the current date and the date on which the case was filed. It said that coordinated action between the government and the judiciary would address the issue pertaining to pendency of cases and boost economic activity. The survey also noted that the creation of tribunals at different points in time did not alter pendency at the high courts nor their ability to deal with other economic cases.
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Further, it said that projects in the ministries of power, road and railways have been the “hardest hit” because of delays and pendency of cases. “The project costs (stocks) of stayed projects — at the time they were originally stayed — amounted close to 52,000 crore,” it added. The document said pendency, delays and injunctions are overburdening courts and “severely” impacting the progress of cases, especially economic cases, through the different tiers of the appellate and judicial arenas. In such circumstances, the government and the courts need to work together for large-scale reforms and incremental improvements to combat a problem that is exacting a large toll from the economy. It has suggested several steps to deal with the problem. The measures include expanding judicial capacity in the lower courts and reducing the existing burden on the high courts and the Supreme Court; creation of an independent panel to decide on appeal of tax related cases.
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“For a smooth contract enforcement regime, it may be imperative to build capacity in the lower judiciary to particularly deal with economic and commercial cases, and allow the high courts to focus on streamlining and clarifying questions of law,” the survey said. It suggested for incentivising expenditure on court modernisation and digitisation. “This needs to be supported with greater provision of resources for both tribunals and courts,” it said adding courts may consider prioritising stayed cases and impose stricter timelines within which cases with temporary injunctions may be decided, especially when they involve government infrastructure projects.