J. Venkatesan

Judges express concern over a case pending for 50 years

New Delhi: Expressing serious concern over long delay in disposal of cases, the Supreme Court has asked authorities to ensure speedy disposal if the people’s faith in the judiciary is to remain.

“People in India are simply disgusted with this state of affairs and are fast losing faith in the judiciary because of the inordinate delay in disposal of cases,” said a Bench consisting of Justices A.K. Mathur and Markandey Katju while deciding a suit relating to a land dispute pending for 50 years at various stages in different courts.

“Before parting with this case we would like to express our anguish at the delay in disposal of cases in our law courts. The present case is a typical illustration. A suit filed in 1957 has rolled on for half a century. It reminds one of the cases, Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce in Charles Dickens’ novel ‘Bleak House,’ which had rolled on for decades, consuming litigants and lawyers like.”

Quoting a passage from this novel, the Bench said: “Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit has, in course of time, become so complicated, that no man alive knows what it means. The parties to it understand it least; innumerable children have been born into the cause; innumerable young people have married into it; innumerable old people have died out of it. Scores of persons have deliriously found themselves made parties in Jarndyce and Jarndyce, without knowing how or why; whole families have inherited legendry hatreds with the suit.”

Was this not descriptive of the situation prevailing in India today?

The Bench was disposing of a civil appeal filed by Rajindera Singh (dead) through his legal representatives against an Allahabad High Court judgment. Initially Prem Mai and others filed the suit in 1957 and it was decreed in 1963. Then the matter went for first appeal, second appeal and finally the execution appeal was disposed of by the High Court in September 1999. The present civil appeal is directed against this order.

“Insofar as the present proceedings are concerned, we set aside the impugned judgment and order of the High Court and allow this appeal,” the Bench said.

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