Reforms in Justice Delivery System

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    Recently ,the Chief Justice of India stated that the pendency of cases is a major issue and the problem is intensifying .

    Data Analysis 

    • More than 40% of cases are decided after three years in India, while in many other countries less than 1% of cases are decided after three years. 
      • If India does not act decisively and quickly, this percentage will keep increasing. 
    • The increase in corruption and crime is a direct fallout of the sluggish justice delivery system. 
      • This severely impacts the poor and marginalised. For them, the judicial process itself becomes a punishment. 
      • Data show that about 70% of prisoners in India are undertrials and are mostly poor citizens.

    Reasons for Sluggish Justice Delivery System

    • Absence of Time Limit: No time frame has been prescribed for the Courts for the disposal of cases.
    • Rising Backlog: NITI Aayog in 2018 Strategy Paper (New India @75) had noted that at the current rate of disposal of cases, it will take more than 324 years to clear the backlog. The COVID-19 Pandemic has only made it worse.
    • Slow Digital Migration: Almost the entire three-tier justice delivery system has been computerised and equipped with modern technology. However, the opposition of a section of the lawyers’ fraternity has resulted in a slow paced migration to the digital format.

    Recent Improvements in Judicial System

    • 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. 
      • This portal is designed in a way that uses multiple languages. 
        • This portal is a consolidation of all the portals across the country.  
    • E-filing: E-filing, also known as electronic filing, is a facility that provides filing of cases through the internet. 
      • The system of e-filing has multiple advantages like:
        • It has proven to be effective in saving time, money, and travel for councils and clients.
        • Physical presence in the court is not mandatory.
        • The case files get digitised automatically. 
        • It has impacted the environment positively by reducing the paper footprint. 
    • ePayment of court fees and fines:
      • Online payment can be made by the citizens using the portal. This will reduce the usage of stamps, cheques and cash. The ePayment portal is integrated with state-specific vendors like SBI ePay, GRAS, e-GRAS, JeGRAS, Himkosh, etc. 
    • 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. 
      • Any individual can access this information by visiting the National Judicial Data Grid portal. 
    • National Service and Tracking of Electronic Process (NSTEP):
      • This is a mechanism that consists of a centralised process service tracking application and a mobile app for the bailiffs. 
      • This is used for quick delivery of summons, notices, processes and the reduction of unreasonable delays in process serving. 
    • 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. 
      • It has been set up in high courts and one in the district court of each state on a trial basis. 
      • With these centres, a litigant can acquire information on case status and get judgments and orders passed by the courts. 
    • Interoperable Criminal Justice System (ICJS):
      • The Interoperable Criminal Justice System (ICJS) 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. 

    More measures to be Taken to tackle existing issues

    • Filling vacancies: Reduce the pendency of cases by filling sanctioned judicial positions. Analysis shows that between 2006 and 2019, the average increase in pendency was less than 2% per year whereas the average vacancy in sanctioned judicial positions was about 21%. 
      • If the sanctioned positions had been filled, the pendency of cases would have gone down each year.
    • Responsible and accountable: The country needs to add about 20% of judges. This is in line with the sanctioned strength. This figure has been endorsed by Justice B.N. Srikrishna, Justice R.C. Chavan and 100 IIT alumni. 
      • The responsibility of selecting judges is largely with the judiciary itself. 
      • The responsibility of appointments in the subordinate judiciary lies with the State governments and their respective High Courts. 
      • The responsibility of ensuring near-zero vacancies should be with the Chief Justices of the High Courts and the Chief Justice of India and they should be held accountable for the same.
    • Running 2 shifts of Courts: Filling all vacancies may result in a requirement of about 5,000 courtrooms. A simple solution would be to run 5,000 courts in two shifts.
    • Use of technology: Improve working with the use of technology. The e-Committee of the Supreme Court has been in existence since 2005. 
      • It has made some outstanding recommendations which are not being followed:
        • Computer algorithms should decide on case listing, case allocation and adjournments with only a 5% override given to judges. 
        • All rational reasons and limits should be put on adjournments; 
        • Case listing should give main weightage to ‘first in, first out’; and 
        • Case allocation should take into account logical criteria. 
      • This would be a big step in reducing arbitrariness and the unfair advantage that the powerful enjoy.
    • E-filing should be implemented at all levels: The petitions and affidavits can be filed and payment of fees can be done electronically without lawyers or litigants having to travel to the courts or use paper. This should be implemented in all seriousness and would also save about three lakh trees annually.
    • Virtual hearings: COVID-19 prompted the courts to adopt virtual hearings. However, virtual hearings were held only in some cases while physical hearings were held in most. 
      • In pre-COVID-19 years, the increase in the pendency of cases in all courts used to be about 5.7 lakh cases a year. 
      • In 2020 alone, it increased to an astonishing 51 lakh. 
      • It appears that if a hybrid virtual hearing model is not adopted, the backlog of cases could cross 5 crore in 2022. 
      • The dysfunctional justice system will be perpetually overwhelmed.
      • All the courts in the country must switch to a hybrid virtual mode immediately and start disposing cases. 
      • This will make access to justice easier for litigants, reduce costs, and also give a fair opportunity to young lawyers from small towns. The required hardware is available in all courts.

    Conclusion

    • If changes are done, India’s judicial system can rank among the top countries of the world. 
    • These changes would make India the preferred nation for international investments and also fulfil the fundamental right to speedy justice of citizens.

    Source: TH