The Supreme Court orally said courts cannot wait on the whims and fancies of the Government, but need a proper mechanism for funding the development of National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation (NJIC).
About National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation (NJIC)
- The idea for such an agency was first proposed by CJI Ramana.
- According to sources in the Supreme Court, one of the primary reasons for the infrastructural lag in trial courts is the lack of funds.
- To develop judicial infrastructure, funds are extended by the central government and states under the Centrally-Sponsored Scheme for Development of Judiciary Infrastructure, which began in 1993 and was extended for another five years.
- Even in the judiciary, particularly trial courts, nobody is willing to take responsibility to execute infrastructure projects.
- Most district judges, who head trial courts, also do not vigorously pursue development projects due to short-term appointments and transferable jobs among others.
- According to the CJI’s proposal, both the central and state governments will contribute their share of funds outlined in the centrally-sponsored scheme to the NJIC, which will then release the finances to the high courts according to their requirement.
- The structure of the corporation is likely to be modelled on the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), a national body based in Delhi that provides free legal services.
- At the national level, the CJI will be the patron of the NJIC, which will include two senior SC judges, the finance secretary from the central government, two to three senior chief justices of state HCs, and a member of the Niti Aayog.
- Each state is likely to have a local corporation as well, which will be led by the state HC chief justice along with a senior judge and senior state government bureaucrats.
Significance of National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation (NJIC)
- NJIC will be an “honest” agency that will monitor the execution of work for which the funds are earmarked.
- NJIC will be a specialised body with a guiding role to perform.
- The basic idea behind NJIC was not to leave HC chief justices — who mostly undertake infrastructure-related projects in trial courts — at the mercy of state governments.
- While the NJIC will be the nodal agency for infrastructural developments, it will not be involved in judicial appointments in trial courts. Appointments will continue to be made by the state governments and the respective high courts.
- NJIC will be a funding, executing and supervisory agency for development works.
- The NJIC will not suggest any major policy change but will give complete freedom to HCs to come up with projects to strengthen ground-level courts.
- It may recommend a model structure of how a court complex, courtroom or a waiting area for litigants should be. However, it will be up to the high courts to adopt and modify the suggestions according to their requirements.
Need for National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation (NJIC)
- These are some of the findings revealed in an all-India survey conducted by the Chief Justice of India’s office:
- Only 27% of courtrooms in the subordinate judiciary have computers on judges’ dias while there are still 10 per cent courts that do not have access to proper internet facilities.
- 22% trial court complexes do not have any toilet facilities for women while 16% don’t have such a facility for men either.
- There are 620 court complexes that still operate from rented premises and only 54 per cent of the total complexes have basic medical facilities.
- There are approximately 24,280 judicial officers in trial courts but only 20,143 court halls.
- About 55% of the trial courts surveyed have a separate room for the staff attached to judges while 54% are equipped with drinking water facilities.
- Only 55% courts have centralised filing centres and 31% have meditation halls.
- Most court complexes also do not have a waiting area for litigants with only 33% buildings with this facility.
- Besides this, over 3,900 judges serving in trial courts live in rented residential accommodation.
- There are also no meeting halls for judges in at least 83 per cent courts and only 51 per cent have library facilities for judicial officers.
- Of the 6,000 courts surveyed, 67% do not have provisions to make access easier for people with disabilities.
- There is a need for the Centre and States to cooperate and create a National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation, as a one-time measure, to cater to the need for judicial infrastructure in the country. Such a corporation would bring the uniformity and standardisation required to revolutionise judicial infrastructure.
- The modernisation of judicial infrastructure did not mean building more courts or filling up vacancies or ploughing through vacancies. An efficient “judicial infrastructure” means providing equal and free access to justice. This could be realised through a “barrier-free and citizen-friendly environment”
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