Supreme Court intervenes to expedite disposal of IPR Cases

In an interesting development arising out of a Special Leave Petition (C) No. 18892 of 2017, challenging the interim order of the High Court of Delhi dated March 10, 2017 passed in AZ Tech (India) & Anr. v. Intex Technologies (India) Ltd. & Anr. (FAO (OS) No. 1/2017), the SC expressed its surprise over the need for writing such an exhaustive judgment at the interim stage. Noting this trend, it enquired if this was because of the fact that interim orders in IPR matters would govern the parties for a long duration of time and disposal of the main suit is a far cry.

The Supreme Court thus vide its order dated July 31, 2017 directed the Registrar General of the Delhi High Court (RGDHC) to report about the total number of pending IPR suits at the Delhi High Court, divided into different categories, stage of each suit; and also the period for which injunction/interim orders held/ holding the field in each of the such suits. The RGDHC was also asked to indicate a reasonable way of ensuring the speedy disposal of the suits involving IPR, which are presently pending.

Pursuant to the aforesaid order, an interim report was submitted by the RGDHC. On August 16, 2017, the SC directed registration of a suo motu civil writ petition titled as “Re-Case Management of Original Suits” and requested the RGDHC to submit periodical reports of the work done in this regard. The first of such report was asked to be filed within 60 days from the said date.

At a recent hearing held on October 24, 2017, the Supreme Court took note of the report submitted by RGDHC dated October 13, 2017. The report stated that in order to expedite disposal of cases, amendment to the Delhi High Court Original Side Rules (the cases in which High Court acts as court of first instance) and Practice Directions are being considered and provided the details of the same. Further, that the High Court is currently in the process of preparing the first draft of the amendments to be carried out, which would require a period of at least 12 more weeks. While taking the report on record, the SC has finally directed the High Court to finalize the proposed amendments within a period of 8 weeks. The case is now re-notified for December 14, 2017.

Our comments

The approved strength of the judges at country’s 24 High Courts stands at 1,079, of which 464 posts or 43% are vacant. The Delhi High Court is currently short of 22 judges against its approved strength of 60. It is estimated that approx 4 million cases are pending at High Court with Delhi High Court accounting for 900,000 cases. As per a press release issued by Ministry of law and justice, the factors responsible for pendency of cases in courts are not just vacancies of judges but increasing number of state and central legislations, accumulation of first appeals, continuation of ordinary civil jurisdiction, indiscriminate use of writ jurisdiction, lack of adequate arrangement to monitor, track and bunch cases for hearing. Thus it seems better case management and use of technology can actually help to expedite disposal of cases.

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