Courts in effort to clear up backlog

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 October, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 October, 1998, 12:00am

Municipal courts in Beijing are working around the clock to clear a backlog of close to 10,000 cases in which verdicts have yet to be enforced.

Verdict enforcement courts - the subdivision of the law courts charged with implementing court orders and fines - are bogged down by 9,882 outstanding cases.

Their problems underline obstacles faced by court officials throughout the mainland who face a backlog running into millions of cases.

Even after a main court has handed down judgment on a case, a litigant must often be tracked down by officials from the verdict enforcement court to collect fines.

The China Economic Times reported how, out of 721 parties subpoenaed by Chaoyang District Court, only 131 presented themselves. In August, the courts set a four-month deadline for clearing the backlog, but officials admit they still have a long way to go. The unresolved cases involve unpaid fines totalling more than one billion yuan (HK$930 million).

Last year, more than two million unresolved cases remained on the files of mainland courts, a 39 per cent increase on the 1996 backlog. In the first half of this year, another one million unsettled cases were added.

Critics say it has become general practice for litigants to claim insufficient funds and fail to pay fines, later bargaining for lower fines with exasperated verdict enforcement officers.

Many parties which are fined are state-owned enterprises, essentially creating a system in which the Government is fining itself.

Verdict enforcement officials say the backlog is in large part due to serious understaffing. Officers at the busiest Beijing courts are allocated as many as 200 cases each to deal with each year.

The newspaper said more than half the unresolved cases were civil disputes, including 2,600 cases of debt and 3,200 cases of economic disputes.



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