Civil Procedure Act : historic changes
The Civil Procedure (Amendment) Act, 2002, has been hailed widely. It seeks to dispose of all civil cases, though it remains to be seen to what extent the measures introduced in the Act will be implemented in letter and spirit to help clear the huge backlog of cases. Some of its unique features are:
- One-year time limit for the disposal of all civil cases.
- Only three adjournments to be allowed in a case; costs to be levied on the party that tries to adopt delaying tactics.
- Empowering courts to fix a time-limit for oral arguments; asking parties to file written submissions, if necessary.
- Time-limit for a judge’s ruling so as to make him accountable — the judges will have to give their ruling within 60 days of the completion of hearing.
- Allowing the service of summons through private couriers and the use of fax, e-mail.
- Clause to preempt avoidance or refusal to accept summons by providing that the person to whom it was issued “shall be presumed” to have received it even if the summons is returned with an endorsement that the party is refusing to accept it
To study the problem of arrears in courts and to suggest steps for their expeditious disposal, a Committee headed by Justice V.S. Malimath, the then Chief Justice of Kerala High Court, popularly known as the Malimath Committee, was constituted in January, 1989. In all, 177 recommendations were made by the Malimath Committee in its report in 1990. A few of the recommendations made by the Malimath Committee are listed here which have been implemented in majority of the States :
- Abolition of Original Civil Jurisdiction of the High Court.
- Abolition of Letters Patent Appeals.
- Filing of certified copy of decree to be dispensed with.
- High Courts to specify categories of cases which could be heard by Single Judge, or by a Division Bench.
- Magisterial Courts to try in a summary way the offences specified in Sections 260 and 261 of the Cr. P.C.
- Work of serving summons and notices should be entrusted to the process servers of the courts in addition to the police at present.
- Convention to be evolved that would discourage granting adjournments.
- Court should avoid writing long and elaborate judgements.
- Reserved judgements should ordinarily be delivered within a reasonable time.
- Court to prepare lists of old cases and arrange their early disposal.
The Malimath Committee made another set of recommendations in the same report for setting up of Alternative Tribunals to reduce pendency in High Courts.
- Setting up of Industrial Relations Commission.
- Setting up of Rent Tribunals.
- Expansion of jurisdiction of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) to the teaching and non-teaching staff of universities. Earlier the teaching and non-teaching staff were not covered by the CAT’s jurisdiction.
- Setting up of tribunal/machinery for early disposal of cases concerning students’ admissions/ examination malpractices, educational programmes, affiliation and de-affiliation of colleges, election to universities/ bodies etc.
The Union Government is in the process of amending the age-old Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). It will study the recommendations of the Justice V.S.Malimath Committee on the Criminal Justice System in India and the suggestions of the 16th Law Commission (LC) while amending the CrPC. Some of the important changes envisaged are:
- The law of arrest — The LC has suggested that no one should be arrested for bailable and non-cognisable offences. Instead of treating these two offences as separate categories, they should be called non-cognisable offences.
- In case of bailable and cognisable offence, the LC suggested no arrest be made and only an “appearance notice” served on the accused.
- The term “bailable” should be removed in case of these offences and they should be termed cognisable offences.
- Offences punishable with seven years be treated as “bailable cognisable” offence.
- No change has been suggested on offences punishable with more than seven years.
- The LC suggested that no arrest should be made merely on suspicion and representatives of registered NGOs be allowed to visit police stations.
- Amend Section 164 to check witnesses from turning hostile; the investigating officer must get statements of all witnesses recorded under oath by the magistrate.
- This is expected to prevent witnesses from turning hostile and help the police in investigating and submitting a final report, based on the recorded statement.