Much is written about and spoken of the burden on our courts. The sheer backlog of cases that have piled up over years; the number of cases a judge has to handle because there aren’t enough judges; the volumes of documents he has to take home to read even on weekends, etc.
But what do we make of the last day in office of Cyriac Joseph, the chief justice of the Karnataka High Court, who has been elevated as a judge in the Supreme Court of India?
In an open court that lasted 70 minutes from 12.30 pm to 1.40 pm on 2 July, chief justice Joseph sat with nine different benches and pronounced judgments on 56 cases. This translates into one judgment every 1.25 minutes or 85 seconds, assuming no time was lost between any two judgments and any two benches.
Only one pronouncement had to be held back to give the respondents time.
Admittedly, many if not all of the judgments had been reserved—the order on the Kannada policy of the State Government in unaided schools, for instance, had been pending for over a year-and-a-half—and it is quite possible that some of the judgments were not so weighty as to detain the court and the learned judge any longer.
And by clearing his lot, the outgoing chief justice has ensured that the courts and the litigants do not have to go through the 56 cases all over once again.
Still, while Justice Joseph was carving himself a place in the legal history books for the most judgements pronounced in a day, is the ordinary litigant wrong in wondering whether the courts would be so overburdened if judges didn’t have to wait till the last day before the last word was said on their cases?