Tamil Nadu to set up evening courts


New Delhi : Tamil Nadu is all set to establish evening courts Tuesday to tackle the problem of pending lawsuits at the trial court level.

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Officials of the Department of Justice said that initially 11 evening courts would be established on experimental basis. The state will set up four evening courts in Chennai, two each in Coimbatore and Tirunelveli and one each in Salem, Madurai and Tirucharapalli. The courts would function from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

If the trial proves successful, more evening courts will be set up in consultation with the Madras High Court.

Last November, Gujarat, with around four million pending criminal and civil cases, became the first state in the country to establish evening courts on an experimental basis. The experiment is showing promising results.

With around 62 courts established by it since Nov 15, 2006, Gujarat has been able to dispose of around 62,000 pending cases of petty criminal and civil nature.

Officials said that following Gujarat's example, the Tamil Nadu courts will also be manned by the sitting judicial or metropolitan magistrate on incentive basis and dispose of the petty criminal and civil litigation where the punishment is limited to imposition of fine.

A three-judge committee of the Madras High Court, comprising Justice Dharmarao Elipe, Justice A.C. Arumugaperumal Adityan and Justice M. Jayapual will monitor the functioning of the evening courts.

As per June 2006 figures, the state had a total backlog of 874,938 cases pending at trial court level. In some states, the figure is reaching the five million mark, according to ministry officials.

Uttar Pradesh has a backlog of 4.74 million cases. Maharashtra has a backlog of 3.32 million cases in its lower courts, West Bengal has 1.9 million, Bihar 1.2 million, Karnataka 1.08 million and Rajasthan 1.05 million.

Law ministry officials said they hoped that more states would emulate Gujarat's evening court experiment to curb the rising backlog of cases at the trial court level.

The concept of evening courts was first mooted at the conference of chief ministers and chief justices of high courts in New Delhi last April.