Insights into Editorial: A crippling shortage: on vacancies in courts
Indian Judiciary has come a long way from being a colonial institution to one that serves as the guardian of the Constitution of a sovereign India.
The journey hasn’t been easy and it’s only imperative for us to judge one of the pillars of our democracy at a time when the distrust between executive and judiciary is paramount.
Indian Judiciary has no doubt done a commendable job but it faces certain inherent problems, which show the weaknesses and defects of the system, and which require immediate reforms and accountability.
According to the latest National Judicial Data Grid statistics, over 3 crore cases are pending across courts in India.
Crumbling infrastructure crippling India’s courts:
A recent report by the Supreme Court claims there are just 16 judges to address the needs of every million Indians. It further states, that unless the judges’ strength is at least doubled in the next 10 years, the judiciary will be unable to handle the increasing number of cases being filed in lower courts and “deliver justice in its truest possible sense”.
The court has put the actual figure at 5,133 out 22,036 sanctioned posts. There are more than 5,000 vacancies in the subordinate courts.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has pulled up State governments and the administration of various High Courts for the delay in filling these vacancies.
Answers provided in the Rajya Sabha reveal that as on March 31, 2018, nearly a quarter of the total number of posts in the subordinate courts remained vacant.
The State-wise figures are quite alarming, with Uttar Pradesh having a vacancy of 42.18% and Bihar 37.23%. Among the smaller States, Meghalaya has a vacancy level of 59.79%.
Law Commission in 1987, had recommended that India should raise the number of judges to 50 for every million population
Importance of Sub-ordinate Courts to Common Citizens:
Subordinate courts perform the most critical judicial functions that affect the life of the common man: conducting trials, settling civil disputes, and implementing the bare bones of the law.
Any failure to allocate the required human and financial resources may lead to the crippling of judicial work in the subordinate courts.
It will also amount to letting down poor litigants and under-trials, who stand to suffer the most due to judicial delay.
Huge workload: Judges in high courts hear between 20 and 150 cases every day, or an average of 70 hearings daily. The average time that the judges have for each hearing could be as little as 2 minutes.
Judicial Backlog: A mindboggling 3 crores cases are pending at different courts in India. Over 21 lakh cases being at least 10 years old.
This doesn’t inspire confidence in a judiciary which is the hope to many in a country marred by corruption, inequalities and what not.
Judicial Backlog impact on Society:
Socio-economic fallout: A weak judiciary (defined by the speed and predictability of the trial outcome) can lead to lower per capita income; higher poverty rates; lower private economic activity; poorer public infrastructure; and higher crime rates and more industrial riots.
Increasing cost of doing Business: Due to poor enforcement, cost structure of the entire economy to go up as the interest rates on credit are higher, due to the inclusion of a risk premium by the lender.
Violation of Fundamental Right: Supreme Court has said that Article 21 of the Constitution entitles prisoners to a fair and speedy trial as part of their fundamental right to life and liberty.
Quality of judgement suffers: It is not uncommon to see over 100 matters listed before a judge in a day leading to very less time on analysing every facts of the case.
What is the Process of appointments of Judges in District Courts:
According to the Constitution, district judges are appointed by the Governor in consultation with the High Court.
Other subordinate judicial officers are appointed as per rules framed by the Governor in consultation with the High Court and the State Public Service Commission. The High Courts have a significant role to play.
Economic Survey 2017-18 called for coordinated action between government and judiciary to reduce pendency of commercial litigation for improving ease of doing business (EODB) and boost economic activities.
Gram Nyayalaya – mobile village courts in India established under Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008 for speedy and easy access to justice system in the rural areas of India.
In terms of Section 3(1) of the the Act, it is for the State Governments to establish Gram Nyayalayas in consultation with the respective High Courts.
A smooth and time-bound process of making appointments would, therefore, require close coordination between the High Courts and the State Public Service Commissions.
Indian Judicial Services: The proposal for an All India exam along the lines of Civil Services has been mooted many a time, the first instance being 1960. Setting standards of judicial recruitment examinations to improve the quality of district judges.
With immediate benefits, AIJS would go on to cater to the vacancies in a big way, without compromising on either independence or merit. Vacations in the higher judiciary must be curtailed by at least 10 to 15 days and the court working hours should be extended by at least half-an hour.
In 230th Law Commission in its report “reform in Judiciary” in 2009 recommended that there must be full utilization of the court working hours and Grant of adjournment must be guided strictly by the provisions of Order 17 of the Civil Procedure Code.