Only plans, no speedy justice

It is to be seen whether a new initiative proposed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) T S Thakur to deal with the problem of judicial delays will be any more effective than previous efforts made from time to time. Every chief justice has, after assuming office, said that reducing the backlog of cases in courts is among his top priorities. Many programmes and initiatives have been launched too. Successive law ministers also offered help to the courts to solve the prob-lem. But it continues to be as bad as it was in the recent past. Justice Thakur has said that 2016 will be the year for clearing arrears. In a letter to high court chief justices, he has called upon them to make a success of the initiative called ‘’Five plus Zero”. The idea is to take up on a priority basis cases pending for more than five years and bring down their backlog to zero.

The number of cases pending in all the courts in the country, from the lowest court to the Supreme Court, is estimated to be about three crore. A former judge has remarked that at the current pace of work, the Delhi High Court, which dispenses cases quicker than many others in the country, will take 466 years to clear its backlog. The causes of delay are all well known. There is a shortage of judges at all levels and efforts to increase the numbers have not yielded results. Most courts do not have sufficient infrastructure, and many at the lower levels do not even have buildings. Judicial procedures are cumbersome and time consuming. There are deliberate attempts by litigants and lawyers to delay cases. Modernisation of procedures and use of technology have not reached all courts. Family courts, consumer courts and other alternatives forums which help to reduce the burden do not exist in many areas.

Unless all these problems are addressed, any plan to reduce judicial delays may not achieve success. The CJI has also rightly stressed the need to ensure speedy justice for the marginalised and differently abled persons in society. He has called for steps to fast-track corruption cases and cases relating to crimes against women, children and senior citizens. He wants many ideas like e-courts, e-filing, videoconferencing and setting up a cadre of technical manpower to be pursued. Even the most optimistic people would not imagine that all these requirements for speedy justice would be put in place very soon. If sincere efforts are made in that direction, that itself would be progress.

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