A Court of the Future

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    • Recently, some experts envisaged a need to revamp the judiciary system in India. 

    Introduction

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    • British colonial legacy: The Indian judicial system follows the common law system based on recorded judicial precedents as inherited from the British colonial legacy. 
    • Hierarchy: The court system of India comprises the Supreme Court of India, the High Courts and subordinate courts at district, municipal and village levels. 
    • Article 141: The law declared by the Supreme Court, its pronouncements on the constitutional validity of enacted law, including constitutional amendments, is binding on all other courts and authorities in the country (Article 141).
      • There is no area of legislative or executive activity which is beyond the highest court’s scrutiny.
    • Article 144: The Supreme Court has the power to hold any authority in contempt if they disregard or disobey the order of the court. 
    • Guidelines: There is no law in India to guide our judges; we only have guidelines. 

    Data/ Facts

    • There are 18 high courts for 28 states and eight Union Territories.
    • The British introduced the common law system in India and established the Sadar Diwani Adalat
      • They were later followed by the establishment of high courts
      • The first high court was established at Calcutta in 1862.
    • The Supreme Court was established on 28th January 1950. The Supreme Court consists of 31 Judges including the Chief Justice
    • Article 124: A Supreme Court judge can be impeached by the President, provided the resolution for impeachment is approved by two-thirds of the members present and voting.

    Functions of the Indian Judiciary

    • Upholding and interpreting the Constitution
      • The judiciary is responsible for protecting and upholding the Constitution and its ideals. 
      • The courts interpret the Constitution and strike down any law, ordinance, rule, or regulation which violates or infringes the Constitutional provisions. 
    • Resolving inter-state disputes
      • The Constitution of India lays down a federal structure of governance. 
      • Thus, disputes between the states and the Union and the States are inevitable. 
      • The judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court, plays a key role in resolving such disputes. 
    • Protection of Fundamental Rights
      • Part III of the Constitution confers certain fundamental rights on citizens as well as non-citizens and legal as well as natural persons. 
      • The judiciary ensures that these fundamental rights are not violated. 
      • If any act of the legislature or the executive bridges these rights, then the Constitutional courts have the power to issue writs.
    • Assistance in law-making
      • In several cases, the courts lay down guidelines which are later incorporated in the statutes by the legislature. 
      • The judiciary also provides an advisory opinion to the President and resolves any doubts relating to the Constitutional provisions.  

    Binding value of Judicial Precedents

    • Decisions of the Supreme Court are binding on all courts in India. The Supreme Court is not bound by decisions of High Courts, lower courts or other judicial authorities.
    • Decisions of a High Court are binding on all inferior courts (as long as they don’t conflict with Supreme Court decisions) within its jurisdiction but hold only persuasive value for courts outside its jurisdiction. In case the decisions of the High Court conflict with the decisions of a similar bench, the matter is referred to a higher bench.
    • Lower courts are bound by decisions of higher courts in their own states. Decisions by High Courts of other states hold only persuasive value.

    Hurdles in the judicial system

    • Overburdened and delay in justice:
      • The constitutional courts, that is, the Supreme Court and the high courts are overburdened with the caseload. This results in enormous delays in justice and sometimes, litigation continues for decades.
    • Costly affair:
      • Litigation is a costly affair and in several instances, the common people are forced to forgo their rights and claims as they are unable to afford the legal proceedings. 
    • Lack of infrastructure:
      • The judiciary lacks the infrastructure to properly deal with the huge caseload. The judicial complexes are overcrowded and several Courts have a shortage of digital infrastructure. 
    • Several British-era laws: 
      • They have become obsolete and need to be amended and modified or repealed. 
    • Frequent adjournments: 
      • The caseload before the subordinate courts is also huge and resultantly frequent adjournments are granted by the courts which results in delays. 
    • Under trials:
      • The undertrial prisoners languish in jails for years while their cases are pending. 
    • Ratio of judges to people is very low:
      • There are about 21 judges in India for 1 million people. 
      • The ratio of judges to people is very low and the need to improve this ratio was highlighted by the Law Commission in the 245th Report
      • The Report stated that the shortage of judges was leading to a huge backlog of cases and the issue required urgent and immediate attention.

    Judicial reforms in India

    • Virtual court system: 
      • The regular court proceedings in our Indian courts in such unprecedented times are either being adjourned or have been carried out virtually via videoconferencing. 
    • eCourts portal: 
      • It is a one-stop solution for all stakeholders like the litigants, advocates, government agencies, police, and common citizens. 
    • E-filing: 
      • E-filing, also known as electronic filing, is a facility that provides filing of cases through the internet.
    • National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG):
      • The statistics of cases pending at the national, state, district and individual court level are now made accessible to the general public, researchers, academicians and the society at large.
    • e-Sewa Kendra:
      • The e-Sewa Kendra is set up as a one-stop centre for accessing all the facilities provided under the eCourts Project.
    • Interoperable Criminal Justice System (ICJS):
      • It is an initiative of the e-Committee to transfer data and information between the different pillars of the criminal justice system, like courts, police, jails, juvenile homes and forensic science laboratories seamlessly, from one platform.

    Way Forward 

    • Independence:
      • The judiciary as an institution needs to preserve its independence, and to do this it must strive to maintain the confidence of the public in the established courts.
    • Institutions and organisations: 
      • The independence of judges is best safeguarded by the judges themselves through institutions and organisations that the law empowers them to set up, to preserve the image of an incorruptible higher judiciary that would command the respect of all right-thinking people.
    • Democracy:
      • A vibrant and independent judiciary is essential for any democracy to thrive.
    • Rule of law:
      • The judiciary in India ensures that there is a rule of law and that the rights of the citizens are not violated.
    • Checks and Balances:
      • It also keeps a check on the other two organs of the government, that is, the legislature and the executive.
    • Shortage of judges:
      • There is an urgent need to address the shortage of judges and to ensure that the cases are disposed of in a timely manner.
    • Improving infrastructure:
      • The judicial infrastructure and the working conditions of the trial court must be improved so as to attract talent to the judicial profession.

    Source: IE