The proposal for setting up 112 district and metropolitan courts in the country and creating posts for judges and supporting manpower has at last gained momentum after it was pending for five years.
The law ministry amended the proposal, originally made in 2015 and sent it again to the public administration ministry on August 20 this year.
Of the proposed 112 courts, 91 are additional district and sessions judge courts and 21 additional metropolitan and sessions judge courts.
According to sources at the Supreme Court and the Ministry of Law, the then chief justice took an initiative in mid-2015 to resolve the backlog of cases. As part of the move, the Supreme Court sent a proposal to the law ministry for creating these 112 courts and posts of judges.
According to the law ministry, it took cognisance of the proposal and sent it to the public administration ministry towards the end of 2015.
The file lay in the ministry of public administration for about two years. After scrutinising the file, the ministry sent it back to the law ministry on July 10, 2017, seeking some clarifications.
The public administration ministry sought details on the proposed courts, judges' posts, supporting manpower, necessary equipment and required allocation for the purpose.
After three years and a month of receiving the note, the law ministry amended the proposal and sent it again to the public administration ministry on August 20 this year.
Dr Shahdeen Malik, a senior Supreme Court lawyer and a constitutional expert, told The Business Standard that such a delay in responding to the public administration ministry's note provides evidence of the law ministry's negligence to the issue.
There is no alternative to increasing the number of courts in order to reduce the case backlogs in the country. The process that was initiated in 2015 to create 112 courts and judges should have been completed within six months or a year, he added.
The proposal was made by the Supreme Court, and the law ministry hardly takes cognisance of any Supreme Court proposal
"The proposal was made by the Supreme Court, and the law ministry hardly takes cognisance of any Supreme Court proposal," said Dr Malik.
Shaikh Yusuf Harun, secretary of the public administration ministry, said, "We are working on the amended proposal that we received on August 20. After taking necessary steps, we will send it to the finance ministry."
Law Minister Anisul Huq told The Business Standard that his ministry was working sincerely on it. "We hope the file, after getting quick approval from the public administration ministry, will secure a nod from the finance ministry as well. After that we will start the process relating to the 112 new courts."
Asked why the law ministry had taken the initiative so long after the file was returned from the public administration, the minister replied that it was working on it on a priority basis.
"The delay is owing to some official reasons. And such issues [of setting up courts] take some time," he said.
The delay is owing to some official reasons. And such issues [of setting up courts] take some time
According to Supreme Court sources, about 36 lakh cases are pending in courts countrywide while there are only 1,889 judges to deal with them. It means each judge has 1,905 cases on average to handle.
Meanwhile, 112 additional district and sessions judge courts and 18 additional metropolitan and sessions judge courts in the country have a burden of around 2.27 lakh cases to dispose of.
Most criminal cases are tried by additional district and sessions judges and additional metropolitan and sessions judges, court officials said.
Hence, there is no alternative to increasing the number of such courts if criminal cases are to be settled speedily, they added.
According to the proposal on the setting up of 112 new courts, eight will be established in Bogura, five each in Gazipur, Cox's Bazar and Jashore, four each in Narayanganj and Satkhira, three each in Narsingdi, Brahmanbaria, Rajshahi and Natore, and two each in Kishoreganj, Netrakona, Jamalpur, Rajbari, Gopalganj, Chattogram, Naogaon, Khagrachhari, Moulvibazar and Joypurhat.
Alongside the creation of courts and posts, the infrastructure of the courts should also be enhanced
Besides, there will be one additional district and sessions judge court and additional metropolitan sessions judge court each in Munshiganj, Manikganj, Feni, Lakshmipur, Cumilla, Bhola, Chandpur, Rangamati, Habiganj, Sunamganj, Pabna, Sirajganj, Bagerhat, Magura, Jhenaidah, Rangpur, Narail, Meherpur, Pirojpur, Gaibandha, Kurigram, Lalmonirhat and Dinajpur.
For these proposed courts, a 605-strong manpower has been recommended. The one-time expenditure for the proposal has been estimated at around Tk57 crore.
Former district and sessions judge SKM Anisur Rahman Khan said the initiative to set up courts and create posts for officers and assistants in these courts is good. But currently there are not enough chambers in the courts. Judges still share seats in the chambers.
"Alongside the creation of courts and posts, the infrastructure of the courts should also be enhanced," he said.