Hyderabad: The Hyderabad High Court is among the most overburdened in the country with an increase in pendency of cases of 36,479. Ten to 15 police stations are attached to each criminal court and about 20 to 25 chargesheets of crime against women are submitted in each court every day. There is one judge for 11,528 cases. The workload per judge in 2017 increased by two per cent over 2016, delaying disposal of cases even further.
It should be noted that all complaints of crimes against women that are lodged don’t make it to an FIR (first information report). Some complainants are given the liberty to compromise at the police station. But for those cases booked under the Indian Penal Code, the police will take from a few months or a year to file chargesheet.
The chargesheet is submitted to the regional criminal court and then it takes six to eight months for the hearing and the judgment. Hence, from the date of filing a complaint, to judgement, the case will take more than a year. It is during this lengthy process that the woman complainant is submitted to threats to drop the case or admit to the magistrate that the accusation is false.
Speaking to this newspaper a rape victim who filed a complaint in 2015 and whose case is still pending in the Nampally court, said, “The accused is known to my family. He beat me and detained my father. He threatened to kill me if I didn’t tell the magistrate that I had filed a false complaint of rape. But I didn’t do as they said. The case is spending for over four years now. I have also a complaint of attempt to murder, and that too is pending.”
A victim of a gang rape whose case is being heard in the LB Nagar court, has been waiting for eight years for justice. The case hasn’t been disposed of yet as the accused is absconding and the police have not been able to nab him. The court has issued a non-bailable warrant against the accused.
“I was in my late teens when I was pulled into a car, tortured and gang-raped. One accused has been arrested while the other is absconding. I went through three dozen court appearances and six separate trials. This is turning into an endless legal wrangle,” said the victim.
In recent years, fast-track courts have been introduced for speedy prosecution of rape cases and other crimes against women. But in other subordinate courts the delays are endless and in Hyderabad criminal courts the pendency rates are high, leading to low conviction rates.
Ms B. Rachana Reddy, who appears in the High Court, says that the number of courts and judges are too few for the number of cases that go to court. “The appointment of judges is delayed. There are a lot of individual, collective, political variables interfering with the appointment of judges,” she said. She added, “Each judge in the lower courts has around 1,000-1,200 cases a day of which only 100-150 are disposed of. The rate of pendency is high in Nampally, Malkajiri, LB Nagar, and Kukatpally courts.”
While the delayed appointment of judges is playing havoc with the judicial system, it is also hampering the disposal of cases at the High Courts and subordinate judiciary levels. A senior High Court advocate, who didn’t want to be named, explained, “The delay in appointment of judges is caught in the blame game played by the government and the judiciary, which is turning intense. There is no answer to why the collegium stopped the appointment of judges for a year when the rate of pendency is high. The Collegium system needs reform to make it truly transparent, in line with a suggestion of the Constitution Bench in the National Judicial Appointments Commission verdict.”