Saturday, July 28, 2007

Supreme Court CJ proposes increase in judges

India has the distinction of probably having the largest backlog of cases in the judicial system. This backlog contributes to a common perception that using the legal system is a waste of time, people avoid the legal system and curse their luck if they get stuck in a case. Common perception is that there are innumerable delays with easy adjournments, that it could take a decade to clear a case. This is also the reason why people would do anything to avoid getting stuck in a case, including all means of corruption, of using muscle power, and so on.
The judiciary as well as prominent legal experts have been highlighting for some time that there are essentially 2-3 reasons for this huge number of cases;
- The Government is a ligitator in a large number of cases and does not try to do anything to clear this backlog or withdraw the frivolous cases
- India does not have the system of plea bargaining and the concept of out of court settlements that help reduce the number of cases in the system
- India suffers from a problem of a large number of judicial posts lying vacant at all levels, and somehow the overall impression is that the Government is not serious in trying to overcome this backlog
So, in a function to lay the foundation stone of a new court building, the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court laments the same issue about the vacancies judicial system, and the need to actually increase the number of judges in the system:

Laying the foundation stone for a combined court building in Chennai, the Chief Justice said he had received recommendations from various courts for increasing the number of judges and he has a proposal to increase the strength commensurating with the number of pending cases in each High Court.
The number of cases pending in the High Courts were 48 lakh and in the Supreme Court it was 31,000. The backlog of cases was the major problem faced by the courts in India. The reason for the pendency of cases was allocation of insufficient funds to the judiciary, he said. While the Delhi government allocated one per cent of the total budget to the judiciary, the average allotment in other states was zero point 78 per cent, the Chief Justice said.

This is a serious issue, but one that has remained open for a large number of years. Various law ministers have proposed solutions over a period of time, but no one has actually taken concrete steps to do something. The mess in the Indian judicial system is one that should be a high priority for the country, but nowhere do you read this being mentioned as problem of high priority. Occasionally it comes up, but there is just not the desired focus in a way that would prod the Government to actually do something.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 9:54 AM