Sunday, July 12th, 2020

Tackling the Backlog of Cases in the Courts**

K. K. Pant**,,

Huge backlog and pendency has been a matter of concern as it delays the disposal of cases in the courts. Of the 3 crore cases pending, 74% are less than 5 years old. The Chief Justice of India has expressed the need of making the judicial system 5+ free by addressing 26% of the old cases which are of more than 5 years. The Government has been constantly endeavouring and working towards improvement in judicial system in the country jointly with the judiciary. In this direction the Government has been undertaking computerization of courts since 2007 and has been investing on improving infrastructure in the judiciary since 1993-94. Of late, establishment of National Court Management System has been notified by the Chief Justice of India. This would be addressing issues of case management, court management, setting standards for measuring performance of the courts and a national system of judicial statistics in the country.

In order to free the criminal justice system of clogging, which is taking place on account of cases under the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 and the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 serious efforts are being made to dispose them of on priority through special courts, Lok Adalats and Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms. Instructions have also been given to the States to utilize funds under the Thirteenth Finance Commission for this purpose as well as for setting up special courts and morning/ evening courts to dispose of such cases.

Reducing the delay and arrears in courts has been the constant endeavour of the Government. For this, several steps have been taken in the past both for making structural changes as well as for monitoring the performance of the courts in so far as their disposal are concerned. The disposal has been accelerated by undertaking special drives, the recent one being from 1st July, 2011 to 31st December, 2011. Of late, the Government has set up a National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms which will be addressing the issues of delays and arrears in the judicial system as well enforcing better accountability at all levels through a variety of methods which will include setting and monitoring of performance standard, enhancement of capacity through training at various levels etc.

Besides, the Government has been assisting the States in many ways:

The 13th Finance Commission has recommended a grant of Rs. 5,000 crore for the states over a period of 5 years between 2010-2015. The amount is being provided as a grant to the States for various initiatives like - Increasing the number of court working hours using the existing infrastructure by holding morning/ evening/ shift courts; Enhancing support to Lok Adalats to reduce the pressure on regular courts; Providing additional funds to State Legal Services Authorities to enable them to enhance legal aid to the marginalized and empower them to access justice; Promoting the Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism to resolve part of the disputes outside the court system; Enhancing capacity of judicial officers and public and public prosecutors through training programmes; and Creation of the post of Court Managers in every judicial district and High Courts buildings. An amount of Rs. 1,353.62 crore has already been released to the States on this account.

Under the Central Sector Scheme, 100% funds are being provided by Central Government for computerization of the District and Subordinate Courts (e-Courts project) in the country and for upgradation of the ICT infrastructure of the Supreme Court and the High Courts. Out of 14,229 courts, 9697 courts have been computerized in the country as on 31 March, 2012. The balance courts would be computerized by 31 March, 2014.

The Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008 has been enacted for establishment of Gram Nyayalayas at the grass roots level for providing access to justice to citizens at their doorstep. The Central Government is providing assistance to States towards non-recurring expenses for setting up of Gram Nyayalayas subject to a ceiling of Rs. 18.00 lakh per Gram Nyayalaya. The Central Government also provides assistance towards recurring expenses for running these Gram Nyayalayas subject to a ceiling of Rs. 3.20 lakh per Gram Nyayalaya per year for the first three years. As informed by the State Governments, 153 Gram Nyayalayas have been notified already. Out of these 151 Gram Nyayalayas have started functioning.

A Centrally Sponsored Scheme for development of infrastructure facilities for the judiciary is being implemented since 1993-94 under which central assistance for construction of court buildings and residential quarters for judicial officers is released to augment the resources of the State Governments. The expenditure on the scheme is shared by the Centre and the State Governments on 75:25 basis, except for States in North East Region, which is on 90:10 basis. An expenditure of Rs. 1841 crore has been incurred on this scheme up to 31.3.2012 since inception.

The Government is also conscious of the need to recruit talented and experienced persons including lawyers as Judges as this goes a long way in disposing of cases in courts. The Constitution was amended in 1977 to provide for an All India Judicial Service (AIJS) under Article 312 of the Constitution. There has been overwhelming support in favour of AIJS later also by the Law Commission in its Reports, the First National Judicial Pay Commission, Committee on Centre State Relations and Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee. However, consensus on having AIJS has not been possible in the consultations held with the State Governments and the State High Courts. But the Government proposes to pursue it by offering a more plausible and acceptable formulation of AIJS.

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