Justice Delayed is Justice Denied - Daily Current Affair Article

Why in news?

Recently, Chief Justice of India, N.V. Ramana quoted a former Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, Warren Burger, "The notion that ordinary people want black robed judges, well- dressed lawyers in fine courtrooms as settings to resolve their disputes is incorrect. People with problems, like people with pains want relief and they want it as quickly and inexpensively as possible."

Judicial pendency – current status:

  • When it comes to judiciary, it is not very shocking that the nation's judiciary is hurling towards a disaster and needs an immediate action.
  • A measure of the justice delivery system is the pendency of cases in courts. And more than 40% of cases are decided after 3 years in India, while in many other countries less than 1% of cases are decided after 3 years.
  • Till January 2020, the total pending cases in India were 375 lakh with 83 lakh increase in pendency of cases, which accounts an average 5.7 lakh cases/year in 14 years.
  • And till July 2021, 449 lakhs were pending cases with an increase of 23 lakh cases in this year which accounts for 23 lakh cases increase in a year.

Cause of Judicial Delays:

  • A large number of unfilled judicial vacancies.
  • The time taken by the judicial process to reach the end point of the results is often way too long. The witnesses involved in cases don't come forward whereas, medical reports, forensic reports take a lot of time to be presented and studied before the court. This makes the whole process very long, time taking and tiring as well.
  • Another cause is fast growing population of our country, where there is an increase in rise of cases but the number of judges, lawyers, advocates are not increasing at this pace to counter the increase in cases of people.
  • Other major cause is lack of infrastructure – as said by Chief Justice, Dipak Misra, lack of infrastructure as one of the causes for judicial delays.
  • An increasing number of state and central laws posing restrictions and delays in the judicial process.
  • Lack of good quality judges, as lawyers are not that much experienced.
  • There is also an increase in appeals in the High Courts against the orders of the quasi judicial bodies.
  • Delays also occur during pretrial and trial of cases and also due to inadequate system of monitoring of cases, their current status.

Impact of Judicial Delays:

  • According to the National Crime Records Bureau, lakhs of people lodged in jail are waiting for their pleas to be heard.
  • Thousands are in jail for petty crimes and have spent their more jail time than are required by law.
  • In total, there are overall 18,000 women prisoners in central jails, out of this 18000, the hearing of 6328 women had not even started in courts.
  • The rich, the powerful and the wrong- doers have a field day by getting their cases expediated or delayed as they wish.
  • The poor and marginalized are most severely impacted by judicial delays as they being poor, can't earn their living and when in jail serving their punishment and under trial can't even support their family.
  • As according to National Judicial Data Grid, over 2 crore 72 lakh cases are pending in Indian Courts, and 70% of prisoners in India are under trials and are mostly poor citizens.

Tackling pendency of cases- few measures:

Filling Judicial Vacancies:

  • Pendency of cases can be reduced by filling up the sanctioned vacancies. 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 posts had been filled, pendency of cases would have gone down.
  • Nation needs to add about 20% of judges in the judiciary to finish the backlog of cases pending.
  • Selection of judges is largely with the judiciary and appointments of subordinate judges lies with the state government and high courts. So, they need to wake up and start appointing judges to get away with this judicial pendency.
  • Also, filling all the vacancies requires about 5000 courtrooms. So, an easy solution would be to run 5000 courts in double shift.

Use of Technology:

1. The committee of the supreme court has made three outstanding recommendations-

  1. Computer algorithms should decide on case using, case allocation and adjournments with only 5% override given to judges. Case allocation should take into account logical criteria.
  2. Courts should focus on e-filing. The committee made detailed standards of procedure on how 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.
  3. Recommendations focused on virtual hearings. COVID-19 prompted courts to adopt virtual hearings.

2. All the courts must shift to a hybrid virtual mode immediately and start disposing cases. This will make access to justice easier for litigants, reduce costs and give a fair opportunity to young lawyers.

The above recommendations don't require any kind of change in laws. So, they must be implemented to bring the pendency of cases. Infrastructure management, case monitoring, timeline judgements must be effectively used by lawyers and judges to finish backlogs.

For e-commerce disputes, Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) has been able to resolve the conflicts. Several institutional arbitration centres across the world, like Singapore International Arbitration Centre, have released guidance documents for video-conferencing-led remote participation in hearings.

The United States launched MI-Resolve in response to COVID-19. It is an online tool to resolve small disputes.

Way Forward:

Justice delayed is justice denied. So, the need of the hour is to work effectively and reduce the pending cases to zero. Speedy justice is a prerequisite for maintaining rule of law and delivering good governance.

Judicial reforms and committee's recommendation must be taken seriously to end this problem of judicial system.

Mechanisms like Lok Adalats, ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution), Gram Nyayalayas should be effectively utilised and implemented.

General Studies Paper 2
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