Issues in Judiciary

  • National judicial data grid data :
    1 judge for 73000 people in India which is 7 times worse than in the present rate of disposal civil cases would never be disposed of and criminal cases will take more than 30 years.
  • Data about HCs:
    About 50% cases listed are adjourned. For instance, if 80 cases are listed, some 40 are adjourned, 35 don’t reach and just five are heard31% of individuals accused of bailable offences claimed that they continue to be in jail as they cannot afford bail or guarantors to stand suretyLess than 3% of litigants used legal aid, despite being eligible to take the benefit of government-appointed lawyers
Supreme Court – With the State governments appointing political favourites to the public posts of government pleaders and law officers, the already beleaguered justice delivery system in the lower courts across the country has been further weakened.
Judicial Delay
“Justice delayed is justice denied” – goes the famous adage. Timely justice is therefore an integral part of the fundamental right to justice. However as many studies, including the 245th Law Commission Report, indicate that the Indian judicial system is unable to provide timely justice due to the huge backlog of cases.
Statistics show that as many as 3.20 crore cases continue to remain pending before various courts. Of these as many as 40 lakh cases are pending before the Indian HCs, while close to a crore are pending before the subordinate courts. The main reasons for the pendency of cases include the – chronic administration under capacity and under-resourced judiciary.
This backlog results in the dilution of the right to access timely justice and an erosion of the rule of law. This eventually affects peoples’ faith in the judicial system. Further, judicial system is highly costly and not pro-poor despite constitutional arrangements and functioning of bodies like NALSA.
Example: A special court sentenced gangster Abu Salem and others for the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts. It took nearly 25 years for the Indian state to convict and sentence at least some of those who had perpetrated one of the bloodiest acts of terrorism on Indian soil. Justice delayed this much is justice compromised.
Causes of judicial delay in India are:
  1. The number of judges is very low given size of our demography. This causes overload on judges and hence the delay.
  2. Redundant processes – Large amount of paperwork, rigid rules and archaic practices
  3. Malpractices by lawyers – The rich and powerful hire lawyers who stall court proceedings by taking advantage of archaic regulations and loopholes in law.
  4. Lack of Coherent Database – Currently each court is an island of information; disconnected from the rest. As a result, no scientific data available to analyse the problem meaningfully (245th law commission).
  5. Dismal ratio of admissions to disposals (1:50)
  6. No fixed time in which cases have to be disposed
  7. Increase in crime rate
  8. Increase in PILs.
  9. Increase in frivolous cases
  10. Tendency to take appeals till SC
  11. Complexity in the Indian law.
  1. Use of technology for introducing standardization in data classification and management in order to be able to understand the nature and extent of the pendency problem
  2. Institution of evening and morning courts to deal with petty matter like traffic violations/challans, check bounce etc., which account for a bulk of the cases which are pending in the lower courts;
  3. Encouraging the concept of plea bargaining;
  4. Increasing the judge strength by increasing recruitment as well as the retirement age of judges. Creating an All India judicial service can provide a solution.
  5. Setting up of special courts like property courts, commercial courts and e-courts for speedy disposal of cases;
  6. Addressing the problem of delay by reforming court procedures – It has been witnessed that there is tendency for litigants to take the cases till Supreme Court, thus making Supreme Court over-burdened
  7. Promoting ADR method, fast tracking court processes, and the use of information and technology
  8. Focussing on human resource development by filling in vacancies, strengthening judicial academies and training of court functionaries;
  9. Improving physical infrastructure of courts to improve efficiency;
  10. Promoting research and studies on judicial reforms.
  11. Further promoting the concept of Lok Adalat, Court on Wheels, Gram Nyaya Panchayat
  12. India has been touted as an over-legislated country with too many laws. We need a constant mechanism which keeps on reviewing laws in terms of their importance and recommends steps for course correction and simplification and repealing of outdated laws.
  13. Government is a biggest litigant in India. It should take steps at setting up institutional measures for arbitration and dispute resolution. It should move towards a more responsible-regime while filing cases.
  14. Constituting an All India Judicial Service to provide more number of highly competent judges
  15. Establishing fast track courts for cases on sensitive issues like rape, corruption and high profile cases so that justice is seen to be delivered and people maintain faith in the system.
Law Commission of India in its 230th report has also offered a long list of measures to deal with the pendency of cases. These include:
  • providing strict guidelines for the grant of adjournments,
  • curtailing vacation time in the higher judiciary,
  • reducing the time for oral arguments unless the case involves a complicated question of law, and
  • framing clear and decisive judgements to avoid further litigation.
  • the courts should also seriously consider incorporating technology into the system; digitizing courts records
Case Management System
  • Setup in courts of Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh
  • mechanism to monitor every case from filing to disposal.
  • It also began to categorize writ petitions based on their urgency.
  • In addition, it set annual targets and action plans for judicial officers to dispose of old cases, and began a quarterly performance review to ensure that cases were not disposed of with undue haste.
  • All these measures ushered in a degree of transparency and accountability in the system, the results of which are now apparent.
SC: Constitutional Court
Supreme court of India is the “guardian of the Constitution”. Under, Article 32 it acts as protector of Fundamental Rights of every Indian citizen.
Article 131 gives exclusive jurisdiction to solve disputes between states and centre or between states on all matters. Article 137 provides powers to review its own judgements. SC also has advisory jurisdiction under 143 on matter of constitution and law to President of India.
If constitution repeals “Article 132-134” (Appellate jurisdiction), then, only the above mentioned constitutional load will remain on Supreme Court. Indian constitution attempts to provide a panacea for the many political, economic and social ills the country had been plagued with. Supreme Court of India in its constitutional field has yet to register 500 cases a year.
So, if Appellate jurisdiction is repealed, India will not need 26 judges of SC to deal with just 500 cases a year. Size of SC will reduce drastically.
Though, SC is working slow, appellate jurisdiction is vital for public remedies because most cases are registered under Article 226 and not under Article 32 for constitutional remedy.
Pending cases (Backlog) remedies for Courts :
  • Establish Lok-Adalats frequently (thrice a year)
  • Establish E-Courts for specific jurisdictions (small cases)
  • Denounce “pleas for leave” which seems farce and unethical (save courts time)
  • Stop bureaucratization of criminal justice system (police reforms)
  • Stop inclusion of faulty PILs
  • Increase timing of work, and reduce vacations
Curative Petition
Most of the 50,000 and more cases pending in the Supreme court are appeals from the high courts or appellate tribunals. They might have trundled from the subordinate courts to the apex court, spending years and bundles of money. Even after the Supreme Court delivers its judgment, there are two more stages to challenge its final word. They are review petitions and ‘curative petitions’.
Court in its judgment, Rupa Hurra vs Ashok Hurra devised ‘curative petition’, It allowed the disappointed litigants to return to it even after losing the review petition. A curative petition must be accompanied by a recommendation of a “senior” advocate stating that the case requires re-examination as there was violation of the principles of natural justice in the earlier decisions. The curative petition has to be first circulated to a bench of three senior-most judges. They will decide by a majority that the case should be re-examined. Only then will the case be heard by the judges who heard the case originally. Such strict conditions were imposed to prevent a floodgate of curative petitions.
Related Questions:
  • Critically examine the causes of judicial delays and remedies to address this issue in India. (200 Words)
  • The idea of an Indian judicial service on the lines of all-India services like the IAS or IPS has been considered in the past and abandoned. Do you think is there a need to reconsider this idea? Discuss. (200 Words)
  • The Supreme Court was meant to be a constitutional court by the founding fathers. However, only 7 per cent of its judgements deal with constitutional issues. Make a case for SC to deal mainly with only constitutional issues. Suggest innovative solutions to reduce the backlogs of cases at all levels. (200 Words)
  • India’s courts are well known for huge pendency of cases. Critically discuss their magnitude, consequences of this problem and remedies to address this issue. (200 Words)

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