Delay in a litigation

The most disturbing and worrying problems that prevail with regard to the law is that of the delay in litigation. In fact, even after a uniform civil code was enacted that is the Code of Civil Procedure, this problem could not be solved and lead to many other problems. This problem can be looked into effectively but discussing it mainly under three pretexts, that are – the causes, the position at and before CPC, 1908 came into existence and after the Amendment how did it bring solution along with concluding remarks.

It has been observed generally that delay in litigation gets futile to the administration of justice. It blurs the truth, weakens the memory of the witness and makes the presentation of evidence difficult. Many a times, due to this delay, meritorious litigants might relinquish or abandon their claims leading to an implied miscarriage of justice. Or in other cases the parties might resort to unjust settlements of their disputes out of court. It has been observed by the Law Commission’s report that to avoid anarchy, fairness has to be actually felt by the aggrieved persons and it the court which provides the systematic outlet. Obedience to law has been described as the strongest of all the forces making for a nation’s peaceful existence and progress.[1]

The Law Commission while dealing with this problem has also pointed out some causes and possible solutions thereto in dealing with the problem. These ranges from, firstly, the increasing number of litigations. It is apparent that litigations have been increasing over years and it would be appropriate to say if the courts are flooded with litigations. Since, the court is having the approximate number of judicial officers only taking their respective time to deliver justice, the pile of new litigations has been observed to went on an on increasingly. The next problem associated with the first one itself is the general feeling among the people that there are no sufficient numbers of judges to deal with the litigations stands scrutiny. Left alone the fact that there are no fresh appointments, even vacancies remain unfulfilled which further agitates the whole situation.

The third reason stands in corroboration with improper compliance to the statute. Taking in terms of a civil litigation, the procedures therein the Code is not exactly followed by the court and the litigants. For instance, non payment of fees by the plaintiff after institution of a plaint for summons to be served to defendants is a delay which must be condemned for the litigants for causing delay at institution of suit itself. Then the defendant does the same seeking long adjournments, etc. Evidence production is another stage where inconsistencies occur and non compliance to procedure of production and inspection of documents and interrogatories has been observed customary and henceforth, the judge could do nothing else then waiting idly on the bench.

A newly realised problem which has crept up is the consonance with increasing number of litigation to the amount of statues that are introduced. Since the umbrella defining and covering the cause of action is increasing by providing new rights and remedies thereto, the people being affected by things which may not even stand actionable under the pillars of natural justice becomes aggrieved and claims their respective remedies. These claims, at the risk of repletion cannot be even called the alleged claims since these have been duly defined and provided remedy by a statute. Not only the legislature has been observed to misappreciate under privileges but at the same time, this enables the litigants to claim uncanny litigations. It has been observed appropriately in case of Zinabhai v. State of Gujarat[2] considering the provisions of the Gujarat Panchayats Act, 1961 with regard to this statute that “we must confess to a feeling of reluctant respect which one feels for an old tough sparring partner whom one has never been able to knock out”[3]

The interpretation of the term “state” in Article 226 of the Constitution of India, 1950 allows the petitioner to file a writ petition against Union Government, State Governments, statutory corporations, national banks universities and any authority which is an instrumentality or agency of the Government which whereby widens open the sphere for a petitioner to file petition against any of them. Problem lies not therein for a person exercising right of litigation but when judiciary is criticised for the act of Government, then the problems prevails. It is to be understood that the legislature, executive and judiciary are three different bodies and shall perform their work independently, and accordingly.

More worrying situation also prevails where the lawyer himself misleads the litigants or causes delay in the litigation for his own personal motives ranging from his own time scheduling or hikes in his fees, whatsoever for consequences which leads to miscarriage of justice. Provided that professional ethics of a lawyer does not allow him to do such acts and same are equally condemned in the eyes of law.

The situation was much worse prior to the Amendment Act of 1976 which mainly revolve around languages employed in relevant sections of the Code[4] which was mainly amended in pursuance to, widening the doctrine of res judicata, summary procedure, appeal by indigent persons, costs of vexatious litigations, etc. However, these changes were not sufficient which brought, on recommendation of Justice Malimath Committee brought amendment in 1999 and 2002 with regard to provisions dealing with the delay such as issuance of summons, production of documents, examination of witnesses, pronouncement of judgements and decree, and most importantly and up to a great relief, introduction to a new provision was made which deals with the settlement of disputes out of court.

Therefore, on the abovementioned problems, causes and the amendments brought about by legislature to deal with them might not be tagged sufficient, though if worked upon efficiently can solve such problems up to great extend. Since the problem of delay is so apparent worldwide that in fact, Charles Dickens in his work Gulliver’s Travels has sarcastically made mockery of such delay.

[1] Law Commission’s One Twenty-seventh Report

[2] (1972) 13 Guj LR 1

[3] Ibid.

[4] Babulal v. Hazarilal AIR 1982 SC 818

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