7 PM Editorial |Pendency In Indian Judiciary – Reasons and Solutions|28th August 2020

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Pendency In Indian Judiciary – Reasons and Solutions

Introduction:

Pendency in Indian judicial system is a huge challenge. About 3 crore cases are pending before all levels of judiciary – Supreme court, High courts and subordinate courts. This leads to a situation of “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied”.

Further it has social, political and economic costs associated with it:

  • Loss of trust of people in Rule of law
  • High litigation costs, delayed contract enforcement reduces FDI in India.
  • Assets being locked in litigation reduces productivity
  • Direct and indirect loss of rights of people
    • Undertrials lose their right to life directly due to long pendency
    • Other litigants lose their rights like right to property, right to constitutional remedies

Hence it is vital to ensure this pendency of cases is addressed

Reasons for pendency of cases:

Major causes include:

  • Unfilled vacancies of both judicial and non judicial officers. This increases the burden on existing staff and reduces their productivity.
    • 40000 vacancies of non judicial support staff in subordinate judiciary
    • Upto 40% vacancies in High court judges. Similar situation in subordinate judiciary
  • Inadequate physical infrastructure: Supreme court report on Subordinate courts highlights dilapidated buildings with less space and insufficient courtrooms. Low budgets for infrastructure development is a concern.
    • 5000 courtrooms are needed to accommodate about 20000 judicial officers which is not present currently.
  • Inadequate technological infrastructure: Old technologies used in administration increases time of litigation. Process to adopt new digital technologies is slow.
  • Time taken for case disposal is high: Reasons are
    • Repeated adjournments despite court guidelines provide not more than 3 times
    • Frivolous litigation
    • Time wasted due to inefficiencies in investigation, hearings and delivery of judgments. Ex: Reserving delivery of judgments for months despite completion of hearings
  • Exponential increase in new cases(due to better awareness of rights) and inability to deal with the rise
    • Police are under equipped in terms of new methods and technologies of investigation and evidence gathering
    • ADR(Alternative DIspute Resolution) is not effective

These have to be addressed for timely justice delivery.

Solutions:

Comprehensive solution needs steps by all judiciary, legislature and executive as well as adoption of technology.

  • Judicial measures:
    • Increasing working days in higher judiciary
    • Professional court managersto be appointed to increase efficiency of functioning. 13th Finance commission suggested this to reduce pendency
    • Ad-hoc and retired judgesto be appointed under Articles 127 and 128 to supreme court to deal with pendency and vacancies
    • Additional judges, acting judges and retired judgesin High courts under Articles 224 and 224 A to deal with high pendency and vacancies
    • Reducing disposal times of pending cases
      • Time specification for different categories of trials and cases
      • Annual target and action plan for subordinate and high courts in terms of number of cases disposed
      • Strict regulation of adjournments by limiting to 3
      • Code of conduct for officers to improve performance
    • Legislative measures:
      • AIJS(All India Judicial Service)to improve quality of judges
      • Non judicial bodies to reduce burden on judicial bodies of non judicial aspects of trial
    • Executive measures:
      • Creation of physical infrastructure – Court buildings, rooms etc. Budget allocation must be increased for the same
      • New framework for appointments of judicial officers. Number of judges must be fixed optimally at court level as suggested by 120th law commission report
    • Technological interventions: Use of IT(Information technology) helps in reducing time wastage , reliable data collection, better tracking and monitoring. Some interventions include:
      • Redesigning core operationsof case filing, sending notices, documents submission, hearings, details of court, status of case etc
        • Increased use of mobile applications to reduce the early stage of cases where most time is spent in notices
        • Virtual/ e-courtsas seen in Delhi improves litigant experience and reduce costs
      • Pace of e-Courts Mission mode projectmust be increased in adoption
    • Improving efficiency of litigation:
      • Promoting ADR:
        • Pre litigation mediation
        • Regular conduct of Lok adalats
        • Gram Nyayalayas in villages
      • Legal care and support centrespromoted by higher judiciary in villages to make litigations more effective
      • Fast track courts and special courtsfor important categories of cases like political criminality.
Conclusion:

India being a democracy with rule of law cannot continue with high pendency as seen in current times. A mission mode effort by all the organs of state is needed to make the judicial system free of long pending cases.

Source: Live Law

Mains question:
  1. Discuss the reasons for high judicial case pendency and possible steps to address them?[15 marks, 250 words]
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