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[Sansad TV] Perspective: Judicial Reforms

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Context

  • Chief Ministers of States and Chief Justices of High Courts (CMCJs) participated in a joint conference in the national capital to discuss various aspects of the justice delivery system.
  • Participating in the inaugural session PM Modi said that judicial reform is not merely a policy matter and Human sensitivities should be kept in the centre of all the deliberations on this issue.

Key takeaways from the CMCJ summit

  • PM stressed on the importance of Mediation as an important tool for the settlement of pending cases in the courts, especially at the local level.
  • CJI N V Ramanna in his remarks said a National Judicial Infrastructure Authority should be created for the standardization and improvement of judicial infrastructure which currently needs urgent attention.
  • Both CJI and Prime Minister also highlighted the need to promote local languages in the courts so that people of the country feel connected with the judicial process.

The main subjects that were discussed, are as under:

  • Infrastructure of Subordinate Courts
  • Performance of Morning/Evening and Holiday Courts
  • Conditions of Jails with particular reference to under trial prisoners
  • Implementation of Information and Communication Technology
  • Strengthening the Legal-Aid Programmes
  • Strengthening of Juvenile Justice System
  • Utilization of grants
  • Review of Quality Legal Education Programmes in the States
  • Post-Retirement benefits to Judges
  • Model Courts and the Establishment of Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division High Courts
  • Filling up vacancies in the High Courts

Indian Judiciary: A Backgrounder

  • Our Judicial system has been the nation’s moral conscience keeper.
  • It speaks truth to political power, upholds the rights of citizens, mediates between Centre-state conflicts, provides justice to the rich and poor alike, and on several momentous occasions, saved democracy itself.
  • Despite its achievements, a gap between the ideal and reality has been becoming clear over the years.
  • The justice delivery is slow, the appointment of judges is mired in controversy, disciplinary mechanisms scarcely work, hierarchy rather than merit is preferred, women are severely under-represented, and constitutional matters often languish in the Supreme Court for years.
  • As Justice Chelameswar said in his dissent in the NJAC judgment, the courts must reform, so that they can preserve.

Challenges to the judicial system

  • Lack of infrastructure of courts
  • High vacancy of judges in the district judiciary
  • Pendency of Cases
  • Ineffective planning in the functioning of the courts
  • Delay in the delivery of judgements
  • Lack of transparency in appointment and transfers.
  • Corruption
  • Undertrials serving Jail
  • Outdated laws ex. Section 124A IPC

What led to under-performance of Indian Judiciary?

The primary factors contributing to docket explosion and arrears as highlighted by Justice Malimath Committee report are as follows:

  • Population explosion
  • Litigation explosion
  • Hasty and imperfect drafting of legislation
  • Plurality and accumulation of appeals (Multiple appeals for the same issue)
  • Inadequacy of judge strength
  • Failure to provide adequate forums of appeal against quasi-judicial orders
  • Lack of priority for disposal of old cases (due to the improper constitution of benches)

Recent developments:

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.
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