A. Subramani

Biggest beneficiaries to be litigants of motor accident cases

Claims up to Rs. 15 lakh to be heard by single judgesDisposal rate expected to doubleMadurai Bench too will have a similar set up

CHENNAI: Continuing its drive to dispose of long-pending civil cases, the Madras High Court has amended its Appellate Side Rules.

This will enable it to clear over 19,000 cases in double quick time. The biggest beneficiaries will be litigants fighting motor accident cases, say advocates.

From January 17, 2006, all appellate side cases and civil miscellaneous applications (CMAs) involving claims up to Rs. 15 lakhs will be heard by single judges, instead of Division Benches. Amendments to Order I, Rule 1(5) and Rule II(5)(b) of the AS Rules were gazetted by the Tamil Nadu Government on January 9.

Chief Justice A.P. Shah had set the process in motion. It was felt that Division Benches, instead of being burdened with claims involving even a few thousand rupees, should handle claims of higher value.

The Rules Committee of the court, comprising judges and senior advocates, recommended that claims up to Rs. 15 lakhs could be posted before single judges. The decision was communicated to the Government after the Full Court gave its approval.

The disposal rate is expected to double as four single judges, instead of two Division Benches, will hear the matter in the Principal Seat of the court here. The Madurai Bench too will have a similar set-up. As earlier, the appeals will lie only in the Supreme Court.

Three categories

Pending cases of these two genres could be bracketed in three different categories - cases involving claim sums up to Rs. 10 lakhs; cases of sums ranging from Rs. 10 lakhs to 15 lakhs and those involving more than Rs. 15 lakhs.

Of these, the largest chunk of cases belongs to the first category, with a total of about 6,400 appeals and 11,500 CMAs awaiting disposal. Some of them are pending since 1985. More than 15 cases are of 1986-87 vintage. Over 60 of them are pending since 1988-89. Over 230 cases are pending from 1990 and nearly 300 from 1992.

Over 320 cases involve an appeal sum from Rs. 10 lakhs to 15 lakhs.

The oldest case in this category belongs to 1992. In all, about 400 cases involve Rs. 15 lakhs and above. All these will now be listed before a Division Bench. Sources said these cases would be posted before the Tax Bench, and be heard once or twice a week.

To prevent the litigants from resorting to unfair means for delaying hearings, the authorities have specified that cases will be posted year-wise. While cases up to the year 1999 will come up for hearing before one judge, cases of subsequent years will be posted as a block before separate judges.

The higher judiciary hopes to wipe out most of these long-pending civil cases in a matter of few months. Early disposal of customs and stamp duty matters will mean a higher tax recovery for the Government, say advocates.