Justice at doorsteps of litigants?


Bar Associations of High Court and District Courts are in conflict over benefits of Delhi High Court (Amendment) Bill, 2015 to litigants

The enhancement of pecuniary jurisdiction of the Delhi High Court from Rs.20 lakh to Rs.2 crore, with the concurrent increase in the jurisdiction of the district courts, is believed to be a step in the direction of providing justice at the doorsteps of litigants.

The value of a property in dispute at the time of a case is decided on the basis of the circle rates in which it is located. If the value of the property in dispute is estimated up to Rs.2 crore, the district court under which it is located will have the jurisdiction to hear the case. It is called pecuniary jurisdiction in the legal terminology.

Besides this, justice will get speedier, cheaper and its quality will also improve as more courts will now hear civil cases, litigants will have to pay less fee to their lawyers and the average time spent on hearing a case will also increase substantially.

Also, more cases are likely to be filed as the litigants will not be required to travel all the way to the Delhi High Court for redressal of their grievances. Earlier, litigants would avoid moving the High Court due to the long distances and the high cost of litigation.

» District Court lawyers say the decision would cut down time and money spent by litigants in fighting civil suits
» High Court lawyers say it would add to confusion and increase financial burden on litigants.
» A large number of cases likely to be transferred back to High Court if Commercial Courts Bill is passed

The enhancement of pecuniary jurisdiction was also necessitated due to the skyrocketing value of properties in the Capital, along with the falling worth of money. The Rs.20 lakh limit for the lower courts was fixed in 2003. Before that it had the power to hear cases valued only at Rs.5 lakh.

It took about seven years to increase the pecuniary jurisdiction of thedistrict courts in the Capital after they were divided into 11, following a judgment of the Supreme Court in 2008.

Immediately after the increase in the number of the lower courts, District Courts’ Bar Associations submitted a representation to the High Court in 2009 demanding an increase in pecuniary jurisdiction as well as giving unlimited powers to the lower courts.

Only four of the 24 High Courts in the country have the original jurisdiction to hear civil cases.

The High Court later formed a committee which heard various stakeholders for three years prior to the submission of a report before the Chief Justice in 2011. A full court of the High Court accepted the report and made a recommendation to the Union government for enhancement of pecuniary jurisdiction.

Thereafter, a Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha seeking amendments to the Delhi High Court Act, 1966. It was not passed due to the procedural objections raised by a Member. But the Bill remained alive.

When the NDA replaced the UPA at the Centre, it took it up for passage and it was sent to the Rajya Sabha’s Select Committee for consideration. The Select Committee later recommended increase in the pecuniary jurisdiction to Rs.2 crore as well as removing the monetary ceiling and giving unlimited powers to the lower courts to hear civil cases.

Yet it remained stuck in Parliament forcing the lower courts’ bar associations to be out on the street for the required amendment to the law. The coordination committee of All District Courts’ Bar Associations spearheaded the agitation, abstention from courts, sit-ins and relay fast for about nine months.

Intermittently, they ran the agitation for one-and-a half month which caused inconvenience to litigants. The High Court lawyers, on the other hand, opposed the move to debate and pass the Bill in Parliament and abstained from judicial work.

In August this year, the Lok Sabha as well as the Rajya Sabha gave their consent to the pending amendments. But it did not come easy. Before Parliament passed the Bill, lawyers had to sit on fast-unto-death as they feared that it would not come through in view of the continuous disruption of the proceedings in both the Houses.

Though the President has given his assent to the Bill, it has not been implemented as the government is yet to notify the rules. The coordination committee has approached the government for notification of rules without any delay, said Sanjeev Nasiar, the convener of the lawyers’ body. After the rules are notified, about 12,500 cases are likely to be transferred from the High Court to the district courts.

Mr. Nasiar said he is hopeful that a time will come when the lower courts in the Capital will have unlimited powers sans any monetary ceiling to hear civil suits.

Greater power for lower courts

With the passage of the Delhi High Court (Amendment), Bill 2015, district courts have jurisdiction over suits valued up to Rs.2 crore

High Court’s pecuniary jurisdiction has been enhanced from Rs.20 lakh to Rs.2 crore

About 12,500 cases set to be transferred from Delhi High Court to district courts following increase in pecuniary jurisdiction

There are only six courts having original civil jurisdiction in Delhi High Court

More than 100 courts in six district courts of the Capital to hear civil suits now

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 5:24:15 PM |

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