The High Court has posted an overall case disposal rate of 65.72 % in the Covid-19 period between March 2020 to July 2021, both through physical as well as virtual modes.
In all, nearly 41,937 new cases were filed in the Himachal Pradesh high court between March 24, 2020 to July 4, 2021, of which the court disposed of 27,561 cases.
A break-up of these cases show 18,376 cases were disposed of through virtual mode, i.e. video conferencing, while the other 9,185 through physical hearing.
The disposal rate at the High Court before the pandemic time was 60.30 %. Against 46,027 cases instituted during 2019, the court had decided 27,752 cases.
This had dropped down to 52.97 % in 2020 when the pandemic hit the country. The number of new cases instituted were 41,909. The courts disposed of 22,203 cases.
Putting together the figures of 2019-20 including miscellaneous applications filed, the disposal was still quite impressive at 56.81%.
Month-wise data maintained by the High Court also reflects an encouraging trend as disposal was almost 107.97 % in August 2021—the month when the courts resumed the physical hearing after the Covid-19 situation in the state improved.
Himachal Pradesh High Court was quick to adapt to the Covid-19 change and evolved its own model for justice delivery system based either on virtual mode or hybrid i.e. a mix of physical and online hearing of the cases.
There was only a brief period when the Courts suspended its working during the peak Covid-19 crisis and gradually started taking up urgent matters through virtual mode for the Justice delivery system.
“We were quite ahead of the rest of the High Courts and Supreme Court (SC) of India in reverting back to physical hearing of the cases. The justice delivery system rate during the Covid remained very impressive both the years i.e. 2020 and 2021” says Ashok Sharma, Advocate General.
In August, for example, the High Court heard and disposed of 3,862 cases against 3,578 instituted during the month.
During September 2021, also reflecting a disposal rate as high as 97.47 percent i.e. of total 4,471 cases filed, the High Court decided 4358 cases.
In October 2021, the High Court had a record Case Clearance Rate (CCR) of 80.59 percent of 2680 cases instituted during the period the court disposed of 2180 cases.
Earlier to this, High Court also posted 61 .5 % disposal rate in June 2021. Against a total 2046 cases instituted during this period, the Court disposed of 1252 cases.
The high disposal rate, however, doesn’t mean that the High Court has cleared the entire backlog of the cases but definitely has shown adaptation to an efficient justice delivery system despite the pandemic crisis and fears of the virus infection.
The High Court had a pendency of 54,452 cases in 2019, which rose to 74,158 by the end of December 2020. This was, however, brought down to 65,003 till March 23, 2020 before the pandemic disrupted the courts working all over in the country.
“We are sure it has come down quite significantly,” a senior official of the High Court said.
As per National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG)-- an online resource maintained by the Union Ministry of Law and Justice, the case clearance rate (CCR) in the High Courts had dropped down by 50% during the pandemic period.
Before the second wave of the pandemic, Himachal Pradesh had gradually started opening-up its doors to resume virtual mode of hearing , but soon the state witnessed the biggest spurt in the cases affecting the justice delivery system as had happened in case of many other services .
In September 2021, a Lok Adalat was also held in the state as part of an alternate system of justice delivery to give relief to the litigants.