In India, there are currently over four crore lawsuits pending in various courts. Unbelievably, a couple of these had been pending cases for almost ten years. This shows how severely overburdened the Indian legal system is. According to records from 2022, there are currently over 4.7 billion cases outstanding in courts at all levels of the legal system. 12.4% of them are pending in the High Court, and 87.4% are in lower courts. More people and groups are going before courts as attorneys or advocates because of the expanding litigation trend. However, there hasn’t been a surge in the number of judges available to consider these cases.
WHAT MAY THE POTENTIAL CAUSES OF SUCH A CASE BACKLOG BE?
Courts are overworked because of inadequate infrastructure, which is the main cause of the massive backlog of cases. Lack of physical infrastructure is one cause. A Supreme Court study on subordinate courts mentions deteriorated structures with insufficient courtrooms and little space. Low infrastructure development expenditures are an issue because 5000 courtrooms are required to handle around 20,000 judicial personnel, which are currently lacking.
Lack of sufficient judges
The lack of sufficient judges is another major factor (only around 21,000). 10 judges per million people are the current judge-to-population ratio. At least 50 to 1 million are suggested by the Law Commission report from 1987. Since 1987, the population has grown by more than 25 crores. The problem is that the Centre says the states must lead in raising the number of judges, while the states argue the Centre should. In addition, there aren’t enough judges, and those that are nominated to the bench often take protracted vacations, particularly in the high courts.
Need for improvement in adjudication procedure
Successfully carrying out a range of administrative tasks, such as those linked to administering and maintaining the courts, is essential to running an effective, modern judiciary (such as case, facility, financial, and human resource management). To be clear, neither more judges nor improved administration is a magic bullet for judicial productivity. The adjudication procedure also needs to be improved. However, addressing some administrative issues can loosen some restrictions placed on judges’ work.
WHAT STEPS CAN BE TAKEN TO ENSURE SPEEDY JUSTICE?
First off, the increase in openings can be properly addressed by making prompt appointments. To do this, an agreement on a memorandum of procedure between the executive and judicial branches would need to be reached. The government and the courts have come to an accord. It includes a list of recommendations for higher judicial appointments. There should be four factors used to base the memorandum of the process–
- Transparency in the selection of judges
- Criteria for judicial appointments.
- An ongoing secretariat to support the collegium.
- A system for filing complaints against candidates.
Second, the Supreme Court has proposed that domain-experienced retired high court judges be reinstated as Ad hoc judges. This will expedite the resolution of cases.
Thirdly, by raising the calibre of judges, the slow disposal rate can be improved. The government may establish All India Judicial Services to handle this (AIJS). It is a suggested cadre of lower-level judicial officers (below the High Courts). They would be hired after passing an open, competitive national exam held like the Civil Service Exam.
Fourth, the judiciary needs an integrated digital system to speed up the procedure. Through a digital platform, this system would provide easy communication between numerous entities. It will standardize data across all platforms in terms of both format and content.
Fifth, as the fourth pillar of democracy, the media should regularly and constructively report on the status of cases. There will be two advantages to this which are enhancing judges’ accountability and bringing the pendency into the public domain. Judges should encourage the use of alternative dispute resolution processes like arbitration, conciliation, Lok Adalat, etc. Legal services organizations like NALSA, SALSA, DALSA, and TALSA can also raise awareness. As stated in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, the right to a fair and expeditious trial must always be preserved because it is a crucial part of living a decent life. Additionally, other reforms like prison reforms, police reforms, etc. have an impact on how long cases are pending. Additionally, those reforms must be ensured by the government.
A NEW ADMINISTRATIVE BODY FOR THE COURTS
With a focus on professionalism and experience, individuals with knowledge of the design and implementation of large-scale system management changes should run a new administrative body for the courts. Currently, the administrative departments that assist the judiciary are lacking in professional knowledge. Designing a new agency should be based on speciality and skill, utilizing cutting-edge management techniques and technologies. It ought to develop specialized knowledge in facilities, finance, human resource, and procurement management. Its main goal should be to give the judiciary the finest administrative support it can get. There should be a separation of judicial and administrative duties to free up judges’ time, which should be spent primarily on their area of expertise i.e., judicial functions, the majority of administrative duties should be performed by the agency. In addition, the judiciary should be able to oversee a board and hold the agency accountable for its performance.
MAKE IT EASIER FOR THE JUDICIARY AND THE REST OF THE GOVERNMENT TO COLLABORATE AND COORDINATE
Any judicial administration improvements will necessitate collaboration between the union and state governments, the judiciary, and the administrative agency. Governments will be expected to commit to making large financial outlays during the early stages, and they may also need to assist the administrative agency with the purchase of facilities and technological systems, the hiring of employees, and other tasks.
Everyone has a responsibility to ensure that a citizen’s tryst with justice is met with justice since everyone has a fundamental right to justice under the Indian Constitution. The State and the courts also have a responsibility to uphold this right. When discussing the status of cases, the adage “justice delayed is justice denied” is frequently used. Jurists also observe that the growing backlog of cases makes it difficult to meet some of the core goals of the Indian Constitution. A more important question is whether a litigant caught in the carbon footprint of litigation would ever receive full justice. In order to attain that there is a dire need for judicial reforms. One such reform is the institution of a new administrative body for the courts. It will be crucial for the judiciary to work with the Indian government to create and maintain the administrative agency. However, it is also critical to respect the court’s independence. Therefore, rather than meddling in the affairs of the court, the government should regard itself as an enabler in the improvement of judicial performance. This balance can be attained if the judiciary exercises primary board control over the agency.
Author(s) Name: Gauranshi Jindal (Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala)
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