All eyes on the Delhi High Court (Amendment) Bill, 2014

All eyes on the Delhi High Court (Amendment) Bill, 2014Recently, Dr. E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan, the Chairman of Department-related parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, having been authorised by the Committee on its behalf presented the Seventy-Second Report on the Delhi High Court (Amendment) Bill, 2014 (the Amendment Bill).

The move to amend the Delhi High Court Act comes in the wake of a recommendation made by a former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court which was accepted by the then Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit who had forwarded it to the Centre for further action. The Bill for enhancement of pecuniary jurisdiction was introduced in Rajya Sabha on February 11, 2014. The Committee headed by Rajya Sabha MP E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan tabled its report in both the Houses of Parliament on November 28, 2014.

The District court lawyers have gone on strike protesting the delay in passing the bill. On the other hand, the Members of the Delhi High Court Bar Association (DHCBA) are not happy with the proposed amendment as they apprehend that the increase of the pecuniary jurisdiction limits would reduce the work from the High Court and several matters would be transferred to the lower courts.

The Amendment Bill, 2014 which proposes that the civil suits up to INR 2 crores will be heard by the District Courts instead of the Delhi High Court will affect 12,211 cases pending in the High Court. Currently all suits above INR 20 lakh are heard by the High Court which will now be transferred to the District courts. Eight judicial officers who are presently working as Joint Registrar (Judicial) on deputation in High Court of Delhi are proposed to be repatriated to District Courts for dealing with cases transferred to those courts.

The benefits of introducing the Bill to enhance the pecuniary jurisdiction of Delhi’s District courts are as follows:

1. In view of fee of the counsel in the High Court being significantly higher than that in the District Courts, it would reduce cost of litigation.

2. It would lead to speedier disposal of cases by the concerned District courts;

3. The quality of conducting the evidence will also improve as the evidence of parties under the Original Side in High Court of Delhi is generally recorded by the Joint Registrar or the Local Commissioner and not by judges.

4. There would be lesser burden on account of court fee on the parties to dispute;

5. The workload of the High Court will subsequently reduce due to the transfer of the civil suits valued up to INR two crores to the District courts;

6. It will make the High Court exclusive forums for entertaining appeals and exercise of writ jurisdiction by reducing the existing burden on it.

The bill if approved may also impact the future of numerous IPR cases pending before the Delhi High Court though the Law Secretary has submitted that the power of giving exception to technical areas irrespective of its valuation lies with the Legislature thereby implying that IPR suits may not be transferred to District Courts in view of the technicalities involved.