Issues in Indian Judicial System – UPSC GS2

Legal Provisions for Free legal aid:
  • Article 39A of the Constitution of India provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society and ensures justice for all.
  • Articles 14 and 22(1) of the Constitution also make it obligatory for the State to ensure equality before the law and a legal system which promotes justice based on equal opportunity to all.
  • The Legal Services Authority Act of 1987 was enacted in pursuance of providing free legal aid, making it one of the largest legal aid programmes in the world.
  • The beneficiaries include women, children, members of SC/ST among others, therefore a significant portion of the population is eligible for free legal aid.
Why government not able to provide free legal aid effectively?
  • There is a need to have a cadre of well-trained personnel and they have to be paid rationally well to see the programme deliver on the ground.
  • Ex. In UK, independent solicitors are identified for this.
Skewed judge-population ratio:
  • The judge to population metric depicts the state of the legal system in a country.
  • India : 19 judges to a million population. 25% of them are vacant.
  • US : 100 judges per million population.
  • UK : 50 judges per million population.
  • The Supreme Court in All India Judges Association vs Union of India (2001) had directed the Government of India to increase the judge-population ratio to 50 per million population, but this has fallen on deaf ears.
Subordinate judiciary:

  • According to 2018 data there were a total of 22,036 posts in the district and subordinate judiciary, ranging from district judges to junior civil judges, across the States. It said 5,133 out of the 22,036 posts were vacant.
Is access to justice a fundamental right?
  • Though there hasn’t been an explicit mention of access to justice as a fundamental right under Part III of the Indian Constitution, it has been acknowledged by courts as one.
  • In Anita Kushwaha vs Pushpa Sadan (2016), the Supreme Court held that to lead a dignified life, access to justice is fundamental. Access to justice is a prerequisite to lead a quality human life.
  • The court pointed out four important components of access to justice:
    1. Need for adjudicatory mechanism.
    2. Accessibility in terms of distance.
    3. the process of adjudication must ensure Speedy justice
    4. Affordability of justice
Other issues:
  • Increasing tribalisation of the justice delivery process.
  • The extortionate court fees payable to access justice in civil suits in some States.
  • The poor integration of technology into the system.
Way forward
The executive, judiciary and the legislature — must draw out a comprehensive national policy and road map for clearing backlogs and making the concept of speedy and affordable justice a reality.