Doubling the court strength & pendency of cases

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    In Context

    • The Supreme Court recently said that increasing the number of judges will not reduce the problem of the pendency of cases.

    More about the news

    • About the Public Interest Litigation (PIL):
      • According to the PIL, “doubling” the number of judges in the High Courts and the district judiciary was a rather “simplistic” solution to arrears.
        • It stated that there were at least 10 crore cases pending in the district judiciary alone.
      • The judge-population ratio in developed countries is 50 for every million. 
    • Apex Court’s opinion:
      • The Supreme Court has said that increasing the number of judges will not demolish the perennial problem of pendency.
      • Difficulty in finding good lawyers:
        • The court also stated that it is already difficult to find good lawyers to accept the call to the Bench in High Courts.
        • Finding good lawyers even to fill the judicial vacancies in High Courts is difficult according to the CJI.
    • Issues in the system & government’s inaction:
      • According to the Chief Justice of India, the Judiciary is overburdened because of the system. 
      • The Chief Justices of several High Courts had complained about lawyers being unwilling to accept invitations to the Bench because of the uncertainty posed by the government’s inaction
        • The Justice Kaul Bench recently criticised the government for holding up Collegium recommendations for months together.

    Collegium System

    • About:
      • It is the system of appointment and transfer of judges that has evolved through judgments of the Supreme Court, and not by an Act of Parliament or by a provision of the Constitution.
    • Headed by:
      • The Supreme Court collegium is headed by the Chief Justice of India and comprises four other senior-most judges of the court.
      • A High Court collegium is led by its Chief Justice and four other senior-most judges of that court.
    • Approval of CJI:
      • Names recommended for appointment by a High Court collegium reaches the government only after approval by the CJI and the Supreme Court collegium.
      • Judges of the higher judiciary are appointed only through the collegium system, and the government has a role only after names have been decided by the collegium.

    Role of Government in Judicial Appointment

    • The government’s role is limited.
    • It can only get an inquiry conducted by the Home Ministry if a lawyer is to be elevated as a judge in a High Court or the Supreme Court.
    • It can also raise objections and seek clarifications regarding the collegium’s choices.
    • But if the collegium reiterates the same names, the government is bound, under Constitution Bench judgments, to appoint them as judges.

    Issue of Pendency of cases in India

    • About:
      • Over 4.7 crore cases are pending in courts across different levels of the judiciary. 
      • Of them, 87.4% are pending in subordinate courts, 12.4% in High Courts, while nearly 1,82,000 cases have been pending for over 30 years. 
    • Reasons behind the pendency:
      • Shortage of judges:
        • The major reason behind this situation is the overall shortage of judges in the high courts in India.
        • The situation is grim in subordinate courts where along with the shortage, lack of basic infrastructure is a big concern.
          • There are over 5,000 vacancies in subordinate courts against the total sanctioned strength of 24,490.
      • Absence of Time Limit: 
        • No time frame has been prescribed for the Courts for the disposal of cases.
      • Disruptions in Pandemic:
        • Disruptions due to the coronavirus pandemic further clogged the Indian judicial system. 
          • There was a drop in new cases as courts went digital, but with lockdown restrictions in place, a slower disposal rate resulted in more pending cases.

    Possible solution to reduce the pendency of cases

    • Centre has suggested measures like:
      • Increasing the number of working days of courts, 
      • Establishment of fast track courts and 
      • Indian Courts and Tribunal Services (ICTs) to increase the productivity of the court system. 
    • E-platforms:
      • Improving judicial infrastructure through the use of e-platforms and setting up of more courts.
      • India has launched the e-Courts National portal ecourts.gov.in of the eCourts Project.
    • Strengthening the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism:
      • It uses modes like Arbitration, Mediation and Conciliation.
      • It uses a neutral third party who helps the parties to communicate, discuss the differences and resolve the dispute.
      • It offers to resolve all types of matters related to civil disputes, as explicitly provided by the law.
    • Counseling:
      • Disputes can be settled at the pre-litigation stage through counseling.
    • Speedy appointment of judges:
      • By not appointing judges, the government is depriving common persons of justice. Justice delayed is justice denied. 
      • There is an urgent need to improve the judge-to-population ratio to reduce the workload of judges.
    • Internal restructuring:
      • The vacation period of the High Courts and the Apex Court needs to be curtailed.
      • Apart from that, increasing the number of working days for the judges is one of the solutions given by the law commission reports.
    • Scrapping of redundant laws:
      • It was found that obsolete and redundant laws not only create confusion among citizens but also increase pendency of cases.

    Way Ahead

    • Using the funds collected from the citizens to build up a strong and efficient judicial system, providing infrastructure to deal with all kinds of problems, only then can the objective in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution be achieved in its true spirit. 

    Source: IE