Page last updated at 16:39 GMT, Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Delhi justice's 466-year backlog

By Renu Agal
BBC News, Delhi

Scales of justice
The Indian judicial system is notoriously slow

The chief justice in Delhi says the Indian capital's High Court could take up to 466 years to clear its massive backlog of cases.

AP Shah's report said this was despite the court clearing 56,612 cases in 2007-08 at a rate of less than five minutes per case.

One of the reasons for the delays is the lack of a full bench.

It has just 32 of 48 judges who are supposed to sit. The report also says access to justice is too pricey.

'Strong commitment'

Former law minister and noted lawyer Shanti Bhushan says that another reason for the backlog is the quality of judicial appointees.

"The selection and appointment process needs to be altered so that only those with strong commitment are chosen,'' he says.

The judges argue they have far too much work to handle even though they are making every effort to administer justice as speedily and efficiently as possible.

Critics argue that simplification of many laws is needed and that the whole legal process is out of date and long-winded.

Legal experts say there is also an urgent need to avoid duplicating cases, particularly those questioning parliamentary acts, which should be directly handled by the Supreme Court.

"A property case filed in a trial court before the 1950s was only concluded in the Supreme Court in 1995," says Mr Bhushan.

He argues that other countries in the world with lesser resources are able to dispose of cases much faster than India.

The large backlog of court cases in India has often been blamed on lack of resources.

But the Delhi High Court report argues that inefficiency, corruption, lack of willpower and accountability are all factors that compound the problem.

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