Our country today is one of the fastest developing economies, but alas, “justice” still reaches the common men at the slowest pace or unsurprisingly, might not reach at all.
More than the quality of justice delivered, we need to focus on the speed at which the justice is delivered in our country. Indeed, justice delayed is justice denied.
The reasons why these judicial reforms are needed can be enumerated as follows:-
Huge backlog of cases
- At the end of 2013, there were 31,367,915 open cases working their way through the system, from the lowest chambers to the Supreme Court. Out of the 61,300 pending matters as on 28/02/2015, 17,691 matters are up to one year old, and thus arrears (i.e. cases pending more than a year) are only of 43,609 matters as on 28/02/2015 in the Supreme Court.
- If the nation’s judges attacked their backlog nonstop—with no breaks for eating or sleeping—and closed 100 cases every hour, it would take more than 35 years to catch up, according to Bloomberg Businessweek calculations.
- The following are the table and chart representing the pendency of cases as of September, 2015 in Civil and Criminal cases as per the data of National Judicial Data Grid:-
- An analysis of National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG) data has revealed that as of today, there are more than 20 million cases pending in the Indian districts courts; two-thirds are criminal cases and one in 10 have been pending for more than 10 years,. Overall pendency of the cases under Subordinate judiciary as per 245th Law Commission Report of 2014 is 10,544,695.
- Such a huge backlog of cases delays the justice for common men which is not just prima facie unjust, but also discourages the public to approach judiciary for justice as they are afraid of being trapped in long and cumbersome process.
Judicial infrastructure (lack of judges, staff and district courts)
- Who can forget the historic day of 24th April, 2016 when CJI broke down on a public platform for there has been a prolonged delay in appointment of judges by the government? “In 1987, the requirement was 40,000 judges. From 1987 till now, we have added 25 crores in terms of population. We have grown into one of the fastest growing economies of the world, we are inviting foreign direct investment into the country, we want people to come and make in India, we want people to come and invest in India,” the CJI said.
- The calculations of the National Court Management System (NCMS) set up by the Supreme Court, in its report of 2nd May 2012, informs the nation that the number of judges must be increased almost six-fold, from our present sanctioned strength of 16,000 judges, with an additional 80,000. Even before the NCMS report, several Law Commission Reports have advised the creation of five times the number of courts which we currently have. Overall sanctioned strength of judges in lower courts in 2012 was 2623 while working strength was only 1782 as per Report no. 245 of Law Commission of India.
- Deficient infrastructure is another hindrance between justice and common man which urgently needs to be looked into.
Appointment in Higher Judiciary
- The concerns related to appointment of judges in High Courts have been addressed in Report no. 230 of the Law Commission in 2009. Another concern raised was in 4th judges case recently regarding the appointment of judges in which the Supreme Court rejected the National Judicial Appointments Commission and at the same time opined that there are flaws in the collegium system which need to be corrected.
- Collegium system has given rise to an opaque system of appointments to the highest courts of law symbolizing nepotism and corruption. When a judge is promoted from a district court to the High Court or an advocate is appointed as judge, the appointment is in the same State where they have been appointed or practicing till now and higher probability is that they have many acquaintances and relatives at the same place which might lead to biasness and nepotism in further appointments. This problem has been highlighted by the 230th Law Commission Report as well.
- It is an era of PILs and we have often seen that Supreme Court is busy deciding on these PILs instead of concentrating on clearing the backlog. Even these PILs have a backlog. In a response to RTI query from a Lucknow based applicant, total number of pending PIL cases as on July 20, 2015, is 1598 out of which 553 writ petitions pertaining to PILs are pending.
- Judiciary is over-burdened today, it decides if the administrative schemes of Delhi government like that of Odd-even must be upheld or not, it decides whether the diesel cars in the capital be banned as directed by NGT, needs to decide on Uttarakhand legislative Assembly matter and Speaker’s matter in Arunachal Pradesh and what not.
- It is not just that judiciary is itself jumping over the legislative and administrative matters to decide on; instead, it is the inefficiency of other branches of the State that is forcing judiciary to step forward, thus driving away its attention from the problem of backlog.
Lawyers are no more professionals, but have become Businessmen
- It is common on part of the lawyers to seek frequent adjournments and delay the cases to ask for more and more fees from their clients, be it in lower courts or even the apex court. It is no more a noble profession today and has become a money minting business. There is lack of or say, absence of professional ethics. Even the practise of compounding the compoundable cases outside the court is not efficiently followed by our advocates in the wake of making more and more money.
- The public prosecutors, who have taken upon themselves the task of representing the State, are least knowledgeable and barely put any efforts in their cases. However, this problem can be curbed by recruiting well-trained and experienced judicial staff and officers that are not lenient and efficiently deal with the scrupulous practices of cunning advocates.
Litigation is the only method to resolve disputes
- Our country is moving constantly on the path of modernization while our methods of solving disputes still remain outdated and archaic. While all the above problems have been discussed by many Reports and Courts themselves, this one still remains undermined. Today, only method of resolving disputes about which a common man is aware of is litigation which in turn means, roaming around in the courts and paying the fees of lawyers for years and years.
- Instead of just litigation, we need to seek recourse to certain alternative methods of dispute resolution. Alternate forums like Mediation, Arbitration, Conciliation, Negotiation, etc. must be practised without resort to litigation. This will not just be time efficient and cost efficient, but will also restore the faith of people in justice delivery system.
Conclusion and Suggestions
- Considering the above problems, it is urgent to bring in certain judicial reforms in our country. It is not just important for social welfare, but also economic welfare as a sound and efficient dispute resolution and justice delivery system will attract more foreign investors as well.
- It’s time that the judiciary must take some strong steps to ensure that the system as a whole is working expeditiously, for example vacations must be reduced to a week in Subordinate Courts as well as in Higher Courts. There is a need to increase the time of everyday working of the courts, at least by half an hour.
- The adjournments must be granted strictly in accordance with the provisions of ‘Order 17 of the Civil Procedure Code’ in order to avoid unnecessary delay.
- With regard to the judicial reforms, it is necessary to follow the recommendations of 230th and 245th Law Commission Report as well. Also, it is important for courts to understand that certain types of cases be tried as soon as possible like in rape cases, the victim must not wait for 10-20 years for justice, in terrorism cases where the chances of prosecuting innocents are high due to pressure on police to act promptly, the courts must try such cases as soon as possible so that the State itself doesn’t give birth to victims as mentioned above while providing justice to many other victims. When today lack of professional ethics is a big problem that even the Bar itself is facing, in legal education, one just not needs to be taught what law is but also, how it has to be practised honestly and ethically, is an urgent judicial reform needed today.
[stextbox id=”info” bgcolor=”FFD9F6″]And, most importantly, to solve the problem of delayed justice that is haunting the people of India to approach courts since independence, it is now high time to introduce alternate methods like arbitration and negotiation to solve civil disputes and other petty disputes which make up a heavy backlog of cases. These will help avoiding the long and cumbersome procedures and people will no more be fearful of approaching the Courts.[/stextbox]