In response to the news item titled `High Court Orders Upsets Advocates' in these columns on Tuesday, the Madras High Court Registrar General S. Palanivelu clarifies:
"A Circular was issued by the Registry on 26.7.2006 pursuant to the instructions given by the Honourable Chief Justice on receiving increasing complaints of improper and irregular hearing of cases by lower court Judges. In fact, these complaints had been placed on record at the meeting organised by the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry a couple of months ago in Tiruchi, in the presence of the Honourable Chief Justice and the six seniormost Judges. It is at this meeting that the members of the Bar aired their grievance about the improper functioning of the lower courts. The Circular has been issued only to assuage the grievances of the Bar and to streamline the subordinate judiciary bearing in mind the alarming pendency of cases in each and every court.
"Guidelines have been given in the Circular to ensure punctual attendance of judiciary officers in attending the Court during the Court hours. Guidelines have also been issued regarding the manner in which calling work and petty cases shall be taken up and how much time should be devoted to it. The Circular states that `the monthly list of the courts must contain 40 suits and that 75 per cent of them shall be tackled and disposed of.' It also states that `one money suit and title suit shall be there in the list on every working day.'
"With reference to the above Circular, it is clarified that the High Court has fixed norms for final disposal of cases by judicial officers at different levels. The Circular has not cited the earlier Circular fixing the norms nor increased the norms by the impugned Circular dated 26.07.2006 and thus, it is clear that the disposal norms of the Judicial Officers have not been increased by the said Circular.
"The purport of the Circular is, by experience, it is reported to the High Court that many a times the listed cases were to be adjourned on one reason or the other and the very purpose of following the list system gets defeated and many judicial officers could not reach the norms, and to facilitate the judicial officers to reach the norms by taking up for trial, more cases are required to be included by the said Circular in the monthly list. By tackling 75 per cent of the list, the judicial officers can at least begin the trial in the particular month and carry on to next month if necessary.
"The norms fixed by the High Court for disposal of cases by the subordinate judiciary have not been changed and therefore it would have been better if the Registry had been contacted to verify if, in fact, the subordinate judiciary had been directed to dispose of 30 suits in a month. The attack on the conditions referred to in the news report has been made on this basis, which is not correct.
"The long standing complaint of the public, whose interest alone is relevant in the administration of justice, is that litigation started by them do no come to an end in their lifetimes, so if an attempt is made in order to ensure speedy disposal and conclusion of a litigation, and guidelines are given, no one can complain, least of all the public or the Bar, whose duty is to serve the cause of justice.
"The other directions given in the Circular are focussed towards smooth functioning of the subordinate judiciary and also to ensure the cooperation of the Bar and the Bench in the interest of subserving justice.
"It is true that infrastructure facilities have to be improved and required number of staff members should be increased. The High Court has these requirements in mind too. But for the improvement of infrastructure facilities and the increase of staff, the High Court is not the deciding authority. The decision in this regard will have to be taken by the Government. This Circular is focussed to set right those areas where, with increased discipline, there will be better disposal of cases, which will include Suits. The hearing of cases can be so adjusted that it will facilitate the advocates attending on such cases also. It is only because of some misinformation that the report quotes a Subordinate Judicial Officer as saying that the higher judiciary has failed to take into account matters such as pending Interlocutory Applications etc.
"The report also quotes an official as saying that the target can be achieved only if advocates cooperate with the judicial officers. This Officer also has obviously not read the Circular properly, since the Circular requires that there shall be a meeting between the Bar and the Bench once a month and the report thereof will be forwarded to the Honourable Portfolio Judge of the District concerned, who shall direct the necessary followup action to be taken by the District Judge in respect of the said District.
"There is no gainsaying the fact that ratio of judges with regard to the population is low in our country. But, as stated earlier, these are matters which cannot be dealt with by the High Court alone.
"The Senior Advocate, who, allegedly, is supposed to have said that the Circular had been issued only because of lack of knowledge in trial matters, could have gone through the Circular before making a comment of this nature. The allegation that this is an attempt to take all the Suits to Lok Adalat is also without any basis. The Circular has been issued only with the purpose of ensuring that the Suits are speedily disposed of. If the lifetime of a Suit is shortened, then normally the litigants would prefer to have a decision to their disputes in Court. It is only because matters get prolonged unduly, unnecessarily or unreasonably that they go to Lok Adalats or such alternative disputes resolution fora. So, it is also in the interest of the Members of the Bar to ensure that they cooperate with this sincere and well meant effort to streamline the functioning of the subordinate courts.
"While constructive criticism is always welcome, it distresses us that when we have taken positive steps for improving the functioning of the subordinate judiciary, it should be met with negative comments based on misinformation. We would also greatly appreciate it if reporters verify with the Registry the correctness of the information that they have received before publishing it."