The local courts are in desperate need of more courtrooms and judges as latest figures reveal approximately 38,000 pending civil and criminal cases in various courts in Patiala, Nabha and Rajpura.

 Out of this, 97% pendency is found in the cases filed in the last five years while the rest account for 5 to 10 years and even more cases.

A senior legal official, seeking anonymity, said that this pendency trend clearly indicates the need for more courtrooms to dispose of old cases but, at the same time, striking a balance with fresh ones too. “The current pendency can definitely be manageable and it will not pile up further if human resource creation is adequately focused,” he added.

A debate has sparked in the country following last Sunday’s episode when chief justice of India Tirath Singh Thakur broke down in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, bringing to light the grim picture of the country’s overburdened and understaffed judiciary.

The HT has found that the main district and sessions court complex in the city is quite overburdened since, out the current district- level pendency, it alone has to deal with 24,200 cases, which are again more than two-to-five years’ old cases.

The local court complex houses a court of the district and sessions judge, 12 courts of additional sessions judges, a CBI court judge and 11 courts of judicial magistrates including chief judicial magistrate.

At present, 8,690 cases, including 5,366 civil and 3,324 criminal, are pending with the sessions courts.

When it comes to the lower courts that cater to civil cases, the number of cases pending with the civil judge senior divisions here is 7,068.

As many as 8,447 criminal cases are pending with judicial magistrates.

Advocate Bhupinder Virk, president of the Patiala Bar Association, said, “Though our disposal rate has tremendously gone up in the last two-three years, we do need more judicial officers and courtrooms to bring down the current pendency so that people can be given justice on time.”

He added that lok adalats had done a good job in disposing of civil matters along with the mediation centre, which is among the best in Punjab. “If these two areas are strengthened further, we can definitely bring down the pendency at least in civil cases,” he added

However, some officials in the court felt that even if the required judges are appointed, the existing infrastructure is grossly deficient. The court building has already reached six floors. The four courtrooms, constructed recently were used to adjust the judicial officers who were earlier operating from a makeshift arrangement by having converted offices of ahlmads (clerks) into courtrooms.

Virk, however, said that there was already a proposal of new courtrooms by extending the building to seventh floor besides there is old court which can also be used for constructing more courts.

13,756 pending cases in Samana, Rajpura and Nabha courts

Pendency is equally worrisome in other courts in the district including that of Samana, Rajpura and Nabha. In Samana courts, 3,500 civil and 3,435criminal cases are pending in Nabha and 6,821 in Rajpura courts.