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Academics comment on case pendency: Lawyers are to blame but Kapadia’s cure worse than disease?

Visualising cases: Courtesy of Mint (Print edition of Tuesday, 30 November '11)
Visualising cases: Courtesy of Mint (Print edition of Tuesday, 30 November '11)
Mint has summarised the revolutionary case pendency stats prepared by the Supreme Court in a concise chart, while Legally India asked two academics researching case pendency for comment on Kapadia’s Law Day speech and the new figures.

As reported in Legally India on Monday, 71 per cent of cases are delayed because of reasons such as unpaid fees, unserved notice or unfiled documents, rather than judges taking too long, as revealed by new data compiled by the apex court.

Indiana University Maurer School of Law professor Jayanth Krishnan, who is currently researching a major project on case pendency in India, said: “What the data produced by the court shows is something empirical researchers have been noting for some time.  Delay by lawyers is a problem and one that traces its roots back decades. 

OP Jindal Global Law School dean Raj Kumar, who has also jointly researched the topic with Krishnan, added: “The problem of delays by lawyers underscores the need for reforms in legal education as well as raising the quality of legal profession. The data released by the Supreme Court demonstrates that delay is indeed a reality and the causes of these delays are multi-fold in nature, but good part of the burden needs to be taken by the lawyers.”

In his Law Day speech, Kapadia also said he wanted to appoint a “working committee on arrears and court management”.

But Krishnan noted that Kapadia’s cure could be worse than the malady. “To the Chief Justice's credit, he has rightly observed that the problem is complex and that not one set of parties is to blame.  Yet, whether appointing a separate committee to handle the matter is the solution is an open empirical question that needs to be considered carefully.”

“Past research has shown that creating bypasses or alternative forums to deal with delays has mixed results in terms of efficiency and quality of justice rendered,” said Krishnan.

Kumar added: “I also believe that we need to develop alternative dispute resolution and redressal mechanisms that can reduce delays in the adjudicatory processes. But ADR cannot substitute systemic reforms in the functioning of the courts and the stronger enforcement of the accountability of the lawyers by the courts themselves.”

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