West Bengal alone has over 13 lac pending litigations in the courts, and mind you it is merely fifth in the national rankings, UP topping the honours.
I tried to look closer into the scenario. Higher judiciary in our country has been fearsomely strong, independent and has in several occasions reversed decisions of the governments and rectified anomalies in our laws and ordinances. There has been a quiet cold and vicious war between the legislature and the judiciary, the former attempting to impose on the supremacy of the judiciary and make it subservient. The judiciary has steadfastly stood firm thwarting most such attempts.
The legislature has an upper hand in throwing crumbs to the post-retirement judges with cushy jobs as head of several commissions and even governorship of states. Judges who are too independent are quietly kept at a distance. The appointment of the judges to the Supreme Court and the High Courts, on the basis of the recommendations of the collegium has been a bone of contentions between the parliament and the Supreme Court, with huge vacancies resulting in pileup of cases all over the country.
The lower judiciary is in shambles. The millions of advocates mostly survive on seeking adjournments of their cases. Cheque bounce cases, despite a Supreme Court diktat to finish within six months, take many years and decades to complete. I mention the cheque bounce cases, for these constitute a huge chunk of pending cases in the country.
The media attention that one could get by filing matters of public interest under Art. 32 in the Supreme Court and under Art 226 in the High Courts have also resulted in bloating the pending lists. They take away precious time of the courts and has resulted in the courts limiting the use of PILs and even imposing penalty on the erring petitioners.
The polarization of parties, seen in India as never before, has also resulted in filing frivolous petitions for disagreement with the government, resulting in imposition of charges under sedition and other grievous sections. Many under trials languish in prisons for years on, some even for decades, even without charges being pressed for even menial offences. Only the speedy disposal of cases can justify the mad rush to file cases and make any issue subjudice.
I used to hear a funny story about people in a particular district of West Bengal which goes like this: A man comes unusually late to the office and asked for the reasons by his colleague. The man replies that he had completed his morning chores a bit early and had a little time with nothing to do. He therefore he chose to file a case against his neighbour about his goat eating grass from the man’s lawn. Talking about goat, a magistrate ordered the arrest of a goat sentencing it for eating away from the mighty’s garden in UP a few months ago!
Have we become too litigating for no reasons, or is the world around becoming too complex to peacefully coexist, not letting us resolve our disputes in simpler, cheaper ways?