Parties to a civil case are deprived of justice as the suit pending with court has seen deaths of plaintiff and defendant.
Hailing from Gowainghat of Sylhet, one Asirunnesa filed the civil suit with Munsif Court on December 18, 1958. The case bearing number 397/58 was filed to settle dispute over partition of a land.The plaintiff obtained a favourable order on August 23, 1962. Defendant Abdul Ali filed an appeal with District and Sessions Judge’s Court the same year. Such court slightly modified the order which also went in favour of the plaintiff. The defendant filed second appeal in 1970. The High Court (HC), on February 8, 1989, upheld the lower court order with little modification.
In 1994, the court appointed an advocate commissioner to partition off the land to be given to the parties, including the plaintiff. Advocate commissioner took six years to finish his job and submitted a report to the court on April 24, 2000. The lower court issued a decree in favour of the plaintiff on December 14.
The defendant again filed an appeal challenging the decree in 2000 and the court upheld the previous order on August 14 the following year.
Being aggrieved, the defendant filed a civil revision petition with the HC in 2001. The apex court, December 6, 2015, scrapped order of the lower court decision ordering appointment of advocate commissioner to partition off the land again.
In 2016, the plaintiff filed civil leave to appeal with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court challenging the HC order. On October 8, 2017, the SC accepted the leave to appeal and ordered the plaintiff to file regular appeal.
Sources claimed plaintiff died 19 years ago and her daughter Hamida Khatun (70) is waiting to see outcome of the appeal which is pending with the Supreme Court. The defendant also expired long ago. Several lawyers, who appeared for both sides in the case in the past, have also died.The case of Asirunnesa manifests the country’s protracted judicial system which results in backlog of cases. Many litigants in the land dispute cases have to wait for decades and many others die without seeing final order of the court. The cases are contested by the successors.
Legal experts have blamed delay in issuing notice, replying by the defendant and seeking frequent adjournment for non-disposal of the cases. Faulty civil law and shortage of judges and other resources are aggravating the situation.
The litigants have been subjected to harassment and financial loss due to long pending cases. The Civil Procedure Code 1908 has become obsolete requiring massive amendment. None of the civil cases is settled in a decade.
Any country’s capacity to dispense with justice as per constitution indicates its level of development and civilisation, said former law minister Barrister Shafique Ahmed.
Many countries are going for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as the case backlog is not resolved through the traditional judicial system, he said.
“ADR may be very much effective against land dispute cases. Retired judges can be assigned to hold arbitration. If the land disputes are settled locally, contending parties will not come to court.”
Terming frequent time prayers and adjournment petitions by the case parties and their lawyers ‘major barriers’, he said the courts should settle the cases at one go.
Around 32 lakh criminal and 14 lakh civil cases are pending with various courts across the country, said SC and other sources. Most of the civil cases are relating to land disputes. A number of 15,533 civil cases are pending with the Appellate Division and 1,00,000 with the High Court.
Nearly 1,13,000 cases are pending with various lower courts in Dhaka district. Only District Judge’s court is bogged with 97,000 cases. The situation is worsening due to new cases.
Senior Advocate Manzill Murshid said root causes of filing cases need to be addressed. Police and other authorities concerned will have to play due role in resolving grievance of the people and prevent any offence beforehand, he opined.
Chancal Kumar Biswas, lawyer for Asirunnesa, said usually influential people are in possession of disputed lands and weak parties come to the court. The powerful land grabbers always try to obstruct and linger the case disposal.
Citing defect of Civil Procedure Code (CPC), he said the law allows the parties to a land dispute case to seek time for thrice before and during the deposition in the civil cases. CPC is silent about consequence of seeking time on frequent occasions, requiring to be amended, he opined.
Attorney General AM Amin Uddin said pace of settling civil cases by the apex and lower courts is slow.
The lower court takes time to verify documents and issue summons while shortage of bench in the apex court is causing problem, he said.
Recommending solution measures, he said, “The plaintiff needs to be examined by the lower court just after his swearing in affidavit. The apex court should get more benches. Digitisation of summons and other court proceedings is also needed.”