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Chief Justice (CJ) Syed Mahmud Hossain yesterday expressed serious concern over the increasing backlog of cases at the apex court, saying the situation has reached a critical stage. “So many cases are now pending in the Supreme Court (SC) that there isn't enough room to keep the files. The situation has become critical and it can't go on like this,” the four-member bench of the Appellate Division, headed by CJ Syed Mahmud Hossain, came up with the observation while holding hearing of a case at the apex court. - A home for your website

Attorney general Mahbubey Alam represented the one side, while former attorney general AF Hassan Ariff represented the other during the hearing.

The CJ said he felt embarrassed on Saturday after seeing an audit report presented jointly by the Supreme Court Judicial Reform Committee and the

German Development Cooperation in relation to the resolution of the case backlog and administration of justice.

The report was presented at a programme titled "Sharing Event of National Justice Audit Bangladesh"s Findings" at the SC auditorium. The CJ addressed the occasion as chief guest.

The CJ said about 515,000 cases were currently pending before the SC for disposal. The figure was only 25,000 in 1982.

He also said that the current figure would have crossed 10 lakh if the court had not disposed of anticipatory bail petitions regularly. “So, I have decided to sit with SC judges to find a way to resolve this issue. I will ask all the judges to give suggestion in this regard,” he added.

The CJ also opined that although there was a shortage of judges, the backlog of cases could not be resolved by adding more judges alone. “Proper management and structural development are ways to address this issue. Ensuring proper administration of justice is also badly needed,” he noted.

The CJ said the country"s prisons are crammed mainly with under-trial prisoners. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) could also be used to reduce the backlog of cases, he added.

About 85 to 90 per cent of cases are disposed of through ADR in the US, Canada, the UK and Australia, while only 10 to 15 per cent cases are disposed of through ADR in Bangladesh. This number should increase through the effectiveness of relevant laws and existing framework, the CJ said.

The CJ requested the government to implement the existing legal framework to allow ADR to boost litigants" trust in the legal system. Delay in justice delivery is tantamount to denial of justice and this has caused untold sufferings to justice seekers, he added.

According to SC sources, more than 30 lakh cases are pending with lower courts, while about five lakh cases are pending with the SC for disposal.