Courts’ Pendency Crisis: One Wheel Cannot Move A Chariot

Source: The post is based on an article “Courts’ Pendency Crisis: One Wheel Cannot Move A Chariot” published in The Times of India on 25th November 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Governance

Relevance: reforms required in Indian judiciary

News: India has the largest number of pending court cases in the world which is around 47 million and as per Niti Aayog, it would take more than 324 years to clear the backlog. Therefore, reforms are needed for proper functioning of the court.

What reforms are required?

Government agencies: The cases involving centre and state governments constitute 46% of the pending cases. So, it would be better to come up with proper mechanism which would not require government agencies to move courts for every small case.

Number of judges: As per the data, there were 21. 03 judges per million people in 2021 while the UK had 51 and the US- 107 judges per million people. Therefore, more judges are required in the courts.

Appointment of judges: Judges are appointed by judges. This should be changed and tussle between the executive and the judiciary in deciding judicial appointments must be resolved.

Work Overload: Judges in India also get involved in administrative work such as scheduling hearings, deciding admission, etc. Therefore, this should be corrected and external agencies should be hired for looking at the administrative work like other developed countries.

Disincentive for litigations: Cases such as dishonouring of cheques or landlord-tenant disputes take a lot of time of the court. Therefore, disincentives should be created for such type of litigation by which the losing party would pay a hefty fine.

Retirement: Judges of High Court retire at 62 and Supreme Court judges retire at 65 while judges in the UK and Canada continue for till the age of 75. The judges of the Supreme and subordinate courts in the US hold office for life. Therefore, the retirement of judges in India should also be increased.

Technology: Certain categories of cases should be completely made online by leveraging technology. Computer algorithms could also be used to manage the list.

Indian Bail Act: The act should be introduced because around 76% of prisoners in Indian jails are those waiting for trial and three out of four prisoners are not even convicted.

Adjournments: Adjournments should be made expensive; this would help in speedy hearing of the cases.

Reducing appeals: SC judges waste a lot of time in hearing Special Leave Petitions each day. Almost 40% of the working days of SC judges are consumed in determining admission while 90% of those SLPs are rejected. Therefore, hearing of SLPs should be reduced.

Best Management practices: Judiciary in India should be in line with best management practices such as ending vacation, reviewing the productivity of judges periodically, using simple legal languages among others.

Therefore, Kautilya’s Arthashastra quote should be kept in mind that says “Judges shall discharge their duties objectively and impartially so that they may earn the trust and the affection of the people.”

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