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[Sansad TV] Perspective: Ease of Justice

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Context

  • Ease of justice is as important as ease of doing business and ease of living.
  • PM Modi emphasised this on while addressing the first All India District Legal Services Authorities.
  • He implored the judiciary to speed up the release of undertrials who remain in jail due to want of legal aid.

What do you mean by Ease of Justice?

  • By large, Ease of Justice means judicial accessibility.
  • Access to justice is a basic principle of the rule of law.
  • One of the major obstacles in accessing justice is the cost of legal advice and representation.

Why did PM say this?

  • With better access to justice:
  1. People can have their voice heard
  2. Exercise their rights
  3. Challenge discrimination or
  4. Hold decision-makers accountable

What else did the PM say?

  • Reiterating that this is the time of ‘Azadi ka Amrit Kaal’, the Prime Minister said it is a period of duty and that we have to work on the areas that have remained neglected so far.
  • PM raised the issue of sensitivity towards undertrial prisoners, who as per the last Prison Statistics comprise about 76% of the total prison inmates in the country.

What are the inherent challenges to the Indian judicial system?

  1. Lack of infrastructure of courts
  2. High vacancy of judges in the district judiciary
  3. Pendency of Cases
  4. Ineffective planning in the functioning of the courts
  5. Delay in the delivery of judgments
  6. Lack of transparency in appointments and transfers.
  7. Corruption
  8. Undertrials serving Jail
  9. Outdated laws ex. Section 124A IPC

What led to the underperformance of the Indian Judiciary?

  • The primary factors contributing to docket explosion and arrears as highlighted by Justice Malimath Committee report are as follows:
  1. Population explosion
  2. Litigation explosion
  3. Hasty and imperfect drafting of legislation
  4. Plurality and accumulation of appeals (Multiple appeals for the same issue)
  5. Inadequacy of judge strength
  6. Failure to provide adequate forums of appeal against quasi-judicial orders
  7. Lack of priority for disposal of old cases (due to the improper constitution of benches)
  8. Procedural delays and frequent adjournments

Mechanisms for ensuring Judicial Accessibility in India

(1) Constitutional Provisions

  • Article 21: Judicial Accessibility was interpreted by the Supreme Court in 1991 that an accused who cannot afford legal assistance is entitled to have free legal aid at the cost of the State.
  • Article 39A: It deals with the provisions of equal justice and free legal aid.

(2) Legal provisions

  • Section 304 of CrPC: It provides for legal aid at the expense of the state in certain cases, under the supervision of District Judge who is the ex-officio chairperson of District Legal Aid Committee.
  • NALSA: The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) was established so that even the weakest of the weak could get the right to justice.
  • DLSA: The district legal services authorities (DLSAs) are like building blocks of our legal aid system.

(3) Digital intervention

  • Virtual courts:  Under the e-courts mission, virtual courts are being started in the country.
  • Videoconferencing: Infrastructure is also being expanded in the courts for the convenience of the people.
  • AI-based justice dispensation: The Supreme Court’s AI Committee a few months back has launched its Artificial Intelligence portal SUPACE (Supreme Court Portal for Assistance in Courts Efficiency).

Path breaking initiative by the Judiciary

Ans. Proposal for the creation of National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation (NJIC)

  • The CJI has pitched to set up a National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation (NJIC) to develop judicial infrastructure in trial courts.
  • He indicated a substantial gap in infrastructure and availability of basic amenities in the lower judiciary.
  • There is a dearth of court halls, residential accommodation, and waiting room for litigants in trial courts, especially in smaller towns and rural areas.
  • Experience shows that budgetary allocation for state judiciary often lapses since there is no independent body to supervise and execute such works.
  • NJIC is expected to fill this vacuum and overcome problems related to infrastructure.

Way forward

  • Creating NJIC: It will bring a revolutionary change in the judicial functioning provided the proposed body is given financial and executive powers to operate independently of the Union and the State governments.
  • Appointment reforms: There are many experts who advocate the need to appoint more judges with unquestionable transparency in such appointments.
  • Creating All Indian Judiciary Services: It would be a landmark move to create a pan-India Service that would result in a wide pool of qualified and committed judges entering the system.
  • Technology infusion: The ethical and responsible use of AI and ML for the advancement of efficiency-enhancing can be increasingly embedded in legal and judicial processes. Ex. SUPACE.
  • Legal education: This should be in alignment with the evolving dynamics of the law must be propagated in trial and constitutional courts. This will improve the competence of the judicial system.
  • Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR): ADR mechanisms should be promoted for out-of-court settlements. Primary courts of appeal should be set up.
  • Dispensation in local languages: For making the entire judicial system more understandable to the common man, one way the use of the local languages in courts.

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