There are alarmingly high number of cases, crores to be exact, pending in India’s court. And this calls for immediate reforms to bring about relief to the common man and the judiciary system as a whole.
The Policy Times research shows a number of reasons behind the high number of pending cases, with the main factor being capacity constraints. The pendency of cases is also due to inadequate infrastructure and lack of facilities for judicial functionaries. The Financial Times said India has just 18 judges for every one million people. “India’s judge shortage is exacerbated by many unfilled vacancies, lack of modern technology in courthouses, lawyers’ deliberate delaying tactics to stall cases and an abundance of relatively frivolous litigation,” it said. Due to the lack of nearly everything, most investors in India look for international arbitration for faster process and resolution. Another major reason investors turn to international arbitration is India’s poor quality of judicial process.
According to a report by the Supreme Court, ‘Subordinate Judiciary-Access to Justice 2016’, the mounting pendency of cases in subordinate courts is because the subordinate judiciary works under a severage shortage of courtrooms, secretarial and support staff and residential accomodation for judges. The report states that subordinate judiciary has been working under a deficiency of 5,018 courtrooms because existing 15,540 court halls are insufficient to cater the strength of 20,558 judicial officers as on 2015-end. It also brought to the fore that as per geopgraphical average, one judge is available for an area of 157 sq. Kilometers of the Indian territoral land.
Moreover, the number of hearings and the time period taken to dispose off cases across the system suggest that there is a serious problem of cases management in procedure law in India. One explanation can be that adjournments are granted too easily and freely. The absence of a fixed period to bring the cases to an end leads to further delays. The Policy Times research points out that delays in hearing appeals and writ petitions in the High Court’s, cases which have fewer procedural requirements, are a matter of concern since there is little scope for changes in the procedures to improve the speed of disposal.
Former IAS officer, Tara Dutt wrote in Livemint that judges are often found focusing on procedural rituals rather than substantive issues. Dutt explained that without self-discipline and enforceable timelines, non-judicial staff are also found taking advantage of the prevailing opaqueness. “Disposal delays largely occur when lawyers seek unnecessary processes and repeated adjournments. Granting such adjournments also suits many magistrates and judges since it diffuses accountability, even if it means natural justice takes an unnatural form,” he said.
India’s slow judiciary process needs to be tackled with reforms. It can be initiated by installing the much needed infrastructure and technologies; appointing magistrates and judges; and most importantly keep a tab on the cases and lawyers that are constantly seeking adjournments to delay the cases. It should also be noted that the problem faced by the Indian judiciary system is not only the high pendency rate, but also the ageing pattern of pending cases. It is known that many old cases are stuck in the system. Moreover, every case is not the same. There are criminal and civil cases which are examined accordingly. The lawyers also need to play an active role to lift the judiciary system from a snail’s speed to quicken the process.