Overcoming the backlog of cases: Judicial reform
A British citizen, Will Pike was paralysed during the 2008 Taj Hotel blasts in 2008. Suing the hotel group for compensation, he wanted the trial to take place in London rather than in India. Accepting his contention, the London court allowed the matter, specifically stating that the trial in India could take some ‘twenty years’. This is a befitting example of the pendency in Indian judicial system and how it needs to be urgently addressed.
THE MAGNITUDE OF THE PROBLEM
The graphic below states the number of cases pending before the Courts in India. Currently, about 3.25 crore cases are pending in the Indian courts and Judges fear that this number might escalate to about 4 crore cases by the end of 2016. This problem gets escalated due to the crunch of Judges at all levels of Judiciary as seen in the graphic below.
Timely justice is an integral part of access of justice and this huge backlog of cases amounts to denial and derailment of justice. This article will look into the proposed reforms for addressing this systemic problem.
10 REFORMS FOR ADDRESSING JUDICIAL PENDENCY
The 245th Law Commission Report on “Arrears and Backlogs: Creating Additional Judicial (W)omanpower has recommended the following measures
1. Calculating Adequate Judge Strength through a more scientific analysis of data – In this context, the Commission has negated a simplistic method like Judge-Population ratio (Number of judges required per million people) in favour of a Rate of Disposal Method.
In the Rate of Disposal Method, one looks at the current rate at which judges dispose of cases. Then, given that the institutions and disposal rate remain the same, the Courts would need how many more additional judges to keep pace with the new filings in Court so that the newly instituted cases do not add to the existing backlog.
2. Judges to be appointed on a Priority basis: India currently has 1/5th of the number of judges it needs and thus, the Judges need to be appointed on a priority basis.
3. Increasing the age of retirement for Subordinate Court Judges to 62 years.
4. Creation of Special Courts for traffic/police challan cases: They constitute about 37.4% of the existing pendency before the subordinate courts.
5. Provision for staff and infrastructure
6. Periodic Needs Assessment by High Courts: Monitoring the rate of institution and disposal of cases and revising the adequate strength of Judges since a High Court is equipped with all the information relating to the subordinate courts in the State. The Malimath Committee had recommended setting up of Vigilance Cells in each district by the High Court to monitor the performance of subordinate judicial officers.
7. Uniform data collection and data management methods : to bring in greater transparency.
8. Need for a system-wide reform: The Commission has recommended the following:
● Greater encouragement to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and Lok Adalats <Can you tell us the difference among various types of ADRs, mediation, arbitration and conciliation? Answer in comments>
● Setting up non-mandatory time frames and performance benchmarks for resolution of different types of cases based on rational criteria.
9. Use of Technology : Has been recommended by the 230th Law Commission Report and the Malimath Committee Report to
(a) Club cases filed on similar points of law, which can be decided on the basis of a single judgment.
(b) Track old cases, which have become infructuous and dispose them off quickly
(c) Setting up E-Courts and ushering in E-filing. Has received a major boost under the e-Courts Integrated Mission Mode Project.
10. Creation of All-India Judicial Service: Provided for under Article 312 of the Indian Constitution. The idea has been mooted by various bodies including the First Judicial Pay Commission and accepted by the Supreme Court. Art 2012 proposal regarding creation of this service has not received responses from all States and this proposal continues to be hanging in the air <can you tell us the procedure of creation of new all India service? Answer in comments>.
Many steps are currently being taken by the Government and the Courts to address this problem.
- Monthly National Lok Adalats are carried out for expeditious disposal of claims.
- In March 2016, the Monthly Lok Adalat disposed of about 1.5 lakh cases and settled claims worth Rs. 100 crores <Where can one appeal against the decision of Lok Adalats. Also tell us about the jurisdiction of Lok Adalats. Answer in comments>
- In criminal cases, the setting-up of fast-track Courts and “plea bargaining” have further expedited matters <Can you tell us what’s plea bargaining? Answer in comments>
- The e-courts project, aimed at providing better Court management and a database of all pending cases with easier filing of important documents is underway.
- Moreover, the National Litigation Policy 2015 is awaiting ministerial approval and seeks to reverse the trend of Government being the biggest litigant <did you know one of the argument for rejecting NJAC was that govt was the biggest litigant, therefore can have no role in appointment of judges>.
However, in view of the burgeoning backlog and urgency of reducing backlog, the efforts need to be severely expedited.
P.S. This article is published with inputs from a CD user Joyousjojo (name changed on request).
P.P.S. If you want to write explainers for CD, mail us your explainer at firstname.lastname@example.org