Staff crunch in courts affecting justice delivery

  • Out of 34,353 cases the Supreme Court had to dispose of in the fiscal 2016-17, 23,713 were backlog cases

Kathmandu, May 13

Cases have increased twofold in last 10 years but the country’s courts still have the same number of employees they had 10 years ago.

Joint Registrar of the Supreme Court Lal Bahadur Kunwar said in 2006 there were around 4,500 employees, including judges in the courts across the country, and in all these years only around 400 judges were added to the courts.

“Court’s jurisdiction and scope have increased in these years and yet we have the same number of employees that existed 10 years ago,” Kunwar added. He said the Supreme Court had submitted a new operation and management survey  three years ago, seeking approval for 7,000 employees which would add up almost 2,000 employees of different ranks.

“The government has not endorsed the new operation and management survey yet,” Kunwar said, and added that the Ministry of Finance had told the SC that it would make provisions for providing some of the additional employees that the Supreme Court had sought. “We have been sending employees on deputation to two High Court benches in Birgunj and Okhaldhunga due to non-endorsement of operation and management survey. In these benches the vacancies of judges have been fulfilled but the vacancies of employees have not been fulfilled yet,” he added.

Another source at the Supreme Court said that employees’ crunch had affected the preparation of the full texts of court verdicts. “We have cases where the judges have already retired and yet the full texts of the verdicts passed by them have not been prepared,” the source added.

In the past, there was a provision for 25 justices at the Supreme Court which was reduced to 21 in the new constitution. The source said the Supreme Court was receiving large number of cases in the form of petitions which had also increased the workload at the apex court.

The Supreme Court adjudicated 11,321 cases in the fiscal year that ended in mid-July 2017. This was only 1.17 per cent more than the case disposal rate in the fiscal 2015-16. Out of 34,353 cases that the Supreme Court had to dispose of in the fiscal 2016-17, 23,713 were backlog cases. Currently, the Supreme Court has yet to adjudicate 23,032 cases.

According to the Supreme Court’s new annual report, the total numbers of cases in courts were 254,529 in the fiscal 2016-17, including 88,850 backlog cases, out of which 157,495 were disposed of, a disposal rate of 61.88 per cent.