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Indian Judiciary is one of the three major pillars which upholds the democratic values of the state. All the citizens of our country put their faith in the justice of the system and believe in the efficiency of the judiciary. But still, a grim shadow follows a major drawback that leads to often criticism of the Indian Judicial system, which is, the pendency of a significant amount of cases in the courts. As they say, “Justice delayed is justice denied” and this delay often leads to outrage among the general public, which recently became clear with the delay in the judicial process of the Nirbhaya case. Recently, Justice DY Chandrchud shared National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG) statistics, a total of 32.45 Million cases are pending in India as of May 2020, out of which 9.045 million are civil cases and 23.39 million are criminal cases, and approx. 10% of the cases are 10 years old, making the scenario much worse.
Reasons for Pendency
Low strength of judges- It is obvious that a lack in the number of judges compared to the numbers of cases in the courts will gradually create a situation where the cases will keep on stacking. According to a “The Wire” report, There are approx. 19 judges per million of population and even after the continuous increase in the sanctioned strength of judges in high courts and lower courts, the actual work strength mostly remains less than sanctioned strength, sometimes even by half.
Daily listing of cases-“The Week” in a recent article proposed that on average a district court judge has around 60 cases before him per day (Most of which even turn out to be invalid or irrelevant), which is next to impossible to deal daily, adjournments become inevitable and new cases keep piling up.
Misuse of Process of Law- The process of law was established to put an end to any form of injustice and not violate any Human Rights, but sadly, it has become something which can be easily misused just for the sake of stretching the cases as far as they can be, The proper procedure of any case including continuous adjournments, and presenting of pieces of evidence and witnesses itself takes a long time but even after a verdict, The cases generally end up in higher courts, which already have their hands full with other cases, and the whole process and review starts again.
Poor Infrastructure- The dire condition of the court buildings cannot accommodate more judges and they even lack basic facilities like washrooms, libraries, parking, etc. Failure in providing a healthy and efficient working environment for the judges, lawyers, and other staff members makes the situation worse.
There are various barriers, which are generally ignored while talking about the pendency of cases in the courts, but these roadblocks play a major role in this problem.
Extra holidays and vacations have become a factor for the pendency of cases as even the Apex Court on average works for fewer days than specified by the rules.
Vacancies for judges are low from the very bottom level, and the process of appointing judges is much complicated and time-consuming.
The Government barely spends money on the betterment of infrastructures and institutions.
The profession of law is becoming more money based. It leads lawyers to keep delaying the cases, hence making more money. The ideology of serving the people and doing justice seems to fade.
Appointment of more judges- The process to appoint judges should be made swift and, competent and sanctioned number of judges should be appointed to disperse the weightage of cases per judge and for the speedy justice.
Investment in Infrastructures- Proper investment in the infrastructure of courts and tribunals should be done, to make the working process more efficient.
Strict Regulations and Targets- Fines should be imposed for seeking adjournments and delays on flimsy grounds and particular annual targets must be set for effective disposal of the piling cases.
Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR)- Through mediation processes, all the parties involved in a case can negotiate and come to terms on which everyone agrees, It saves the court from the trouble of listening to a case which can be settled out of the court and all the parties can extract something beneficial for them.
Lok Adalats- “People’s court”, present in every district with a sitting or retired judicial officer as a chairman. It aims to provide free legal aid to weaker sections of society and provide justice to everyone equally.
Digitalization- Establishment of E-Court and digitalizing the system of the judiciary will make the process of case filing and court procedures much easier and efficient.
Suggestions of Various Committees
The Parliamentary standing committee has recommended states to provide land for the buildings of courts and defined timelines for the computerization of all courts, as a step towards E-courts.
The 120th Law Commission of India has suggested the appointment of efficient judges as Ad-hoc judges for speedy justice.
The 11th Finance Commission suggested the establishment of fast track courts for the disposal of pending cases in 2005, they were made for 5 years after which it was up to the state whether they want to continue it or not, few states continued them. Till 2011, 32 Lakh cases were disposed of by these fast track courts.
The 13th Finance Commission has suggested the appointment of professional court managers as for the efficient and quick justice, professional staff is required.
The eCommittee of the Supreme Court launched a mobile application called National Service and Tracking of Electronic Processes (NSTEP) for sending notice and summons.
Looking at the factors involved, it seems that the judicial system has not yet adapted to modern times and less concern is being shown towards it by the government. Poor Infrastructure, fewer Judges and Misuse of law has become a major factor to drag the Indian judiciary behind, but with the constant judicial reforms, and suggestions of various committees the system seems to do better than it has been doing in past. The suggestions often come with various drawbacks but the removal of the factors like infrastructure and appointment of judges seems plausible in all criteria and can lead to increased efficiency, as with the rise of education and digitalization, more and more cases will be filed and hence the courts must be ready for any challenges.
In recent times, the people have become more educated towards their rights and also highly dependent on the judiciary for justice, they put their utmost trust in it and so it must uphold their trust and hopes. It cannot afford to keep delaying and stacking cases up, cases stretching as long as 10+ years is no less than injustice. Hence, it is time to make necessary reforms and strengthen the courts to dispense justice quickly and properly.
Author: Satrajit Somavanshi from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala, Punjab.