Why is there a huge delay in disposing off a civil suit?

pendency of cases

Delay in filing a case means the case filed in the appropriate court after the time within which it has to be filed. Such delay leads to injustice. Any democratic government is entitled to render the public with justice at proper time. Delay in rendering justice is unfair to the parties of the case. There must not be any unreasonable delay in filing a case. The right to speedy trial is held to be a constitutional right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.[i]

Pendency of cases in judiciary:

A lot number of cases pending before the courts of India are one of the reasons for delay. The number of cases pending across India has increased in the last decade. There is an 8.6% increase in the pendency of cases in all courts across India and the rate of pendency of cases is increased by 36% in the Supreme Court. As of April 2018, there are over 3 crores pending cases in all courts. Over 86% of the pending cases are in the subordinate courts.[ii]

Provisions in Civil Procedure Code, 1908:

The matters relating to suit in India is governed by the Civil Procedure Code, 1908.

  • As under Order VI of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908, a suit is instituted in the appropriate court by the presenting a plaint and such plaints can be registered in the register of civil suits.[iii] The parties to the suit can either abandon the claim or can request the court to record the compromise as between them in case of marriage cases.[iv] After such a compromise decree any person cannot appeal as it may delay the functioning of the judiciary.[v]
  • Under Order XVII Rule 1 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 deals with the adjournments procedures. No adjournment shall be granted more than three times to a party during the hearing of the suits.
  • Section 89 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 deals with the settlement of disputes outside the court. The section paves way for settlement of disputes through alternate resolution methods like arbitration, mediation and conciliation. This method is gaining popularity among the public.

Reasons for the delay:

  • Availability of the judges: Many subordinate courts across India lack proper amount of judges. The vacancies of judges are not filled properly. In the year 2018, the vacancies of judges around all the courts in India has increased from 26% ( In 2006) to 35% ( In April 2018). The vacancies of judges are 23%, 28% and 26% in the Supreme Court, High Courts and Subordinate Courts respectively.
  • No adequate courts: The issue of inadequacy of courts to deal with the existing issues reflected in the case of Imtiyaz Ahmed V State of U.P[vi], which directed the law commission to report on this particular matter, which suggested the establishment of additional courts to eliminate the delay in civil suits.
  • Judges are not having specialised knowledge regarding certain issues: The current trends in technology had lead to different arenas of legal issues. In order to curb these issues, the judges had to gain knowledge in those specific fields.
  • Large number of appeals: The courts had to spend their precious time in disposing off a large number of appeals appearing before rather than concentrating on the new suits.
  • Vexatious Public Litigation Interest litigations: As the locus standi for the PIL is not limited to the parties in issue, there are large numbers of petitions that are not worth discussing in the court of law.
  • Delay in issuing summons to the concerned parties: Summons compels the person to attend the court proceedings. Order V Rule 20 deals with the substituted services helps in resolving the delay in the service of the summons.
  • Cases being adjourned without hearing proper reasons: Frequent adjournment process lead to the slow functioning of the courts. The law commission in its Seventy Seventh Report[vii] stated that the frequent adjournments are the important cause for the delay.
  • Delay in filing the written statements: According to the provisions of Order VIII of Civil Procedure Code, the defendant should file the written statement within 30 days from the date of issue of summons. Non compliance with this provision leads to the delay in administering justice.
  • Frequent strikes conducted by the lawyers: Lawyers practising across India have different issues that are needed to be addressed by the government. They involve in strikes in order to get their demands addressed. This slowdowns the functioning of the court.
  • Non appearance of the parties to the hearing: Parties to the suit fail to appear for the proceedings due to the certain reasons. This may result in injustice to the other party.[viii] 

Time limit as prescribed under Limitation Act:

Section 2(j) of the Limitation Act, 1963 defines the term period of limitation. According to the section period of limitation is defined as the period prescribed for any suit, appeal or application as mentioned under the Schedule. Prescribed period means the period of limitation in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

Section 3(1) of the Act states that every suit instituted, appeal preferred and application made after the prescribed period shall be dismissed although limitation has not been setup as defence.

Section 5 of the Act is an exception to the above-mentioned section where extension will been given certain cases when the applicant or the appellant satisfies the court that he had sufficient cause for not preferring the appeal or making any application within the said period.[ix]

Written statements:

Order VIII of the Civil Procedure Code deals with the written statements. As per Order VIII Rule 1 of the CPC, the written statements must be filed by the defendants within 30 days from the date of receipt of the written statement cum counter claims of the petitioners. In certain cases where the reason has been stated, the period can be extended up to 90 days. When the written statement has been filed after 120 days the defendant lost the right to forfeit and court shall take no action for the same.

Vigilantibus Non Dormientibus Jura Subveniunt:

The doctrine states that the law will only help only those people who are well aware of their rights and are vigilant. Law will not help those who sleep on them. Each and every person must be watchful of their rights.

Law prescribes statutory limitations for enforcing one’s relief against another. Any person cannot institute or file a suit after the prescribed period. Such person cannot claim his/ her rights after such prescribed period within which the relief has to be sought. [x]

This doctrine is found to be incorporated in different case laws and legislations across India. In Mrs. Sarah Mathew V The institute of Cardio Vascular Diseases[xi], the court incorporated this legal maxim and held that the bare reading of Section 489 of the criminal procedure code leaves no manner of doubt that the bar of limitation as on the date of cognizance.


Pendency of cases before the courts is one of the main concerns of the judicial system. The public as well as the judges and advocates have a responsibility in curbing the issue and the parties to the case holds greater responsibility in reducing the pendency of cases.

Edited by Pragash Boopal

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje


[i]  Hussianara Khatoon and Ors. V Home Secretary, State of Bihar, Patna (AIR 1979 SC 1369)

[ii] https://prsindia.org/policy/vital-stats/pendency-cases-judiciary

[iii] https://www.nls.ac.in/lib/bareacts/civil/cpc/cpco4.html

[iv] Order XXII Rule 3 of the Civil procedure Code, 1908

[v] Order XXII Rule 3A of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908

[vi] MANU / SC/ 0007/ 2017

[vii] http://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/51-100/Report77.pdf

[viii] http://www.legalservicesindia.com/law/article/1049/4/Delay-defeats-Justice-A-study-of-provisions-of-Civil-Procedure-Code-and-Limitation-Act

[ix] Act 36 of 1963 

[x] https://definitions.uslegal.com/v/vigilantibus-non-dormientibus-jura-subveniunt/

[xi] LNIND 2013 SC 997

Shuruthi Jegannathan
This is Shuruthi Jegannathan pursuing BA LLB in Sastra Deemed to be University. My areas of interest include Constitutional Law, Sociology, Criminal Laws and Jurisprudence. I would always love to play the role of the researcher in the moot court competition and has staunch interest in quiz competitions. I work best as a team member and I believe team works bring effective results. I am fond of Indian vegetarian cuisine and I'd love to claim myself as a foodie. I like binge-watching Tv Series. I see myself to be a person who continues to read and write a lot about legal issues in the coming future.