Speeding justice

Speeding justice

The vision statement, unveiled by the law ministry to reform the judicial system and bring down the pile-up of cases in courts is the latest initiative to speed up the delivery of justice. Efforts to address the problem have been made in the past with no great success. India’s courts are notorious for slack delivery of justice. Cases have been pending for years and even for decades. India’s pride in its rule of law and a judicial system to enforce it has been clouded by endemic judicial delays. The statistics is tell-tale: there are about three crore cases pending in various courts. At the present pace of disposal they will take decades to be cleared, even if no new cases are registered. The fact that Indians are keen litigants adds to the problem. The financial loss, mental tension and inconvenience caused to the people can well be imagined.

The vision statement, introduced at a national consultation in New Delhi, proposes to set up a National Arrears Grid, headed by a Supreme Court judge, to reform the recruitment, training and performance assessment system of judicial officers, study the backlog of cases at all levels and make necessary changes in judicial procedures that cause delays. The immediate goal is to reduce the pendency of cases from 15 years to three years.

There is a severe shortage of judges in all courts. As many as 15,000 judges, including retired judges, are to be appointed on a contract basis. It is also necessary to curtail the vacation of judges, limit the number of adjournments, encourage written briefs instead of lengthy oral arguments, improve the infrastructure in courts and employ the best technology to increase efficiency and to save time. Alternative dispute settlement forums, which reduce the burden on regular courts, are needed. All this has to be achieved in the face of challenges like the vested interests of lawyers who benefit from judicial delays.

It is not easy to recruit judges with the right qualifications, integrity and character essential for the position. Therefore attracting good talent to the bench is the key to the success of the plan. The vision statement, if implemented effectively, can speed up the judicial process. But it must be ensured that quality is not compromised in the process and pressure cooker justice is not delivered to the people.

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