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An Analysis of Issues Affecting Indian Judiciary

Context:

The recent incident of a Bombay High court Judge sitting past midnight to clear backlog of cases highlights the issues plaguing the Indian judiciary.

Fast Facts: Indian Judiciary

Judge-population ratio:

  • 12 judge per million as against 110 per million in U.S.A., 60 per million in Australia, and 170 per million in China.
  • Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh record a ratio even less than the average.

Sanctioned Positions and Vacancies (As of 2017)

Pending cases:

As of December 2017,

  • 65 lakh cases pending in every high court on an average
  • 6 Crore cases pending in subordinate court (figure does not include cases pending in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Puducherry and Lakshadweep)
  • Uttar Pradesh has highest number of pending cases (61.58 lakh) followed by Maharashtra, West Bengal, Bihar and Gujarat

Issues:

  1. Judicial delays (pendency and backlogs)

Major causes for judicial delays:

  • Paucity of judges and court staff
  • Inefficiency of case management system- Improper case listing -as a result of which quality of adjudication is compromised, cases delayed due to adjournments, and cases listed out at last are not heard.
  • Inadequate infrastructure
  1. Appointment:

Major concerns:

  • Long appointment cycles
  • Vacancies remained unfilled
  • Collegium system of judicial appointment: Criticised for being non-transparent
  • Lack of agreement between Centre and Collegium over Memorandum of Procedure (MOP) for appointing judges of high courts and the Supreme Court
  1. Infrastructure:
  • Lack of courtrooms- 16,513 courtrooms across the country —a shortfall of 3,989 — inadequate to accommodate sanctioned strength of judges
  • Inadequate number of court staff
  • Lack of basic infrastructural facilities: drinking water, usable washrooms, canteen facilities
  • The major reason for inadequate infrastructural facilities is funding deficit- poor budgetary allocation
  1. Judicial corruption:
  • Delay in the disposal of cases is a major reason for prevalence of judicial corruption. Bribes are sometimes sought to advance the judgement or bend it
  • The prevalence of corruption in lower courts is closely connected to corruption in higher courts. As higher court judges are selected from the ranks of lower court judges and lawyers, there is always a possibility of corrupt judges making it to higher courts.
  • Once judges have been appointed to higher courts, they can use the “contempt of court” powers to suppress allegations of corruption.
  •  Immunity of judges is reinforced by complex impeachment process and the fact that the procedure is susceptible to political influence

Recent Example:

  1. Move to impeach Chief Justice of India on the grounds misbehaviour and incompetency
  2. Justice Reddy of Andhra Pradesh/Telangana High Court, 2016-2017:
  • Allegations against the judge include interfering in the judicial process in several cases; disproportionate income, Non-disclosure of assets and liabilities and caste slurs.

Government Initiatives:

  1. National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms 

The mission has been set up to ensure better access to justice by:

  • Reducing delays and arrears
  • enhancing accountability through structural change
  1. E-Courts Project:
  • Computerization of district and subordinate courts
  • ICT infrastructure of the Supreme Court and the High Court
  • At present, Case Information System (CIS) 2.0 is being implemented across the country
  1. Gram Nyalays:
  • The Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008 was enacted to provide for the establishment of Gram Nyayalayas
  • These are mobile village courts; aimed at providing inexpensive justice to people in rural areas
  1. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Mechanism:
  • Arbitration, Mediation, Conciliation and negotiation and
  • Lok Adalats: Community based dispute resolution mechanism
  1. National Court Management System:
  • To address issues of case management, court management, setting standards for measuring performance of the courts and a national system of judicial statistics
  1. National Litigation Policy
  • Government regarded to be the biggest contributor (46%) to litigation in India
  • NLP introduced to reduce government litigations
  • Government also launched Legal Information Management and Briefing System as a database of all the ongoing cases with the government as a party
  1. 7. Fast Track Courts: for quick disposal of cases pending in the lower courts
  2. Nyaya Mitra Scheme: Aims at reducing pendency of cases with special focus on those pending for more than 10 years.
  3. Scrapping off redundant laws

 

Best Practice: U.K.

·         The United Kingdom uses information to design its “forward programme for judicial recruitment”.

·         The recruitment cycles (selection exercises), for all tiers of the judiciary, including tribunals, are mapped out for the next five years

 Way Forward:

  1. Appointment:
  • More transparency in the appointment of judges
  • All India Judicial services (AIJS) for uniformity and efficiency in appointment process.
  1. Strengthening alternative dispute resolution mechanisms
  2. Adequate funding to expand physical infrastructure.
  3. Modernization of court process; use of technology o be expanded. Initiatives like CIS should be supplemented by file tracking and knowledge management system.
  4. Analyzing appropriate court-related data for better understanding of problems. This would also help in proper case listing
  5. Application of management principles; full utilization of court managers; include external support agencies to work with judicial officers to cater to the needs of institution better.
  6. Creation of a transparent mechanism to discipline judges
  • Judicial Standards and accountability Bill, 2012: The Bill seeks to put in a place a system to probe complaints against High Court and Supreme Court Judges.
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