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India’s oldest pending case concludes after 72 years

After a long wait of more than 7 decades, the Calcutta High Court finally settled the Berhampur Bank Limited case which was based on the dispute surrounding the dissolution of the former bank. The case was India’s oldest pending case and took 72 years to reach conclusion. Ironically, the case was settled in Calcutta High Court whose current Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava was born 10 years after the case was filed.

Even though the Calcutta High Court resolved this particular case in question, it still has two of the five oldest pending cases up its sleeves, all of which were filed way back in 1952. Out of the remaining three cases, one is being heard in Madras High Court and the other two are civil suits being heard in civil courts in West Bengal’s Malda.

The history of Berhampur Bank Ltd dates back to November 19, 1948, when the Calcutta High Court issued an order to wind up the then-bankrupt and defaulting Berhampur Bank. On January 1, 1951, a petition challenging the decision to shut down the bank was submitted, and the case was registered as “Case No. 71/1951.” Various lawsuits were filed against debtors by the Bank to recover lost funds and in response, many debtors filed court documents refuting the bank’s claims.

According to court records, the petition challenging the bank’s liquidation was scheduled for two hearings in the High Court last September, but no one came for the hearing. On investigation, it was notified by the assistant liquidator that the matter had been resolved in August 2006 but since this was not updated in the records the case was still listed as pending.

The ‘long pending’ problem in Indian Judiciary has also been pending for a very long time now. As per a notification from August 2022, the 25 high courts of the country had a record 2.52 lakh cases pending for more than 20 years. The same report also mentioned that the working strength of all High Court judges still has 35 percent of the spots vacant.

It must be noted here that the modern justice delivery systems which include e-filing of cases, e-payment of court fees, e-summons, and judgments being delivered electronically are being used in commercial courts and have proved to reduce the period of disposal of cases by over 50 percent. However, the higher judiciary and advocates are still unwilling to embrace these methods and are inclined towards the old system.

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