No society in the world can thrive well without the proper system of justice. Justice must be ensured to everyone on this planet and for this purpose, every country has made its judicial system, though this system of justice delivery varies from country to country their basic essence is the same, that is to ensure delivery of justice.
Our forefathers, who made the constitution of this country adopted a model of the integrated judicial system instead of classified Judiciary to maintain uniformity of the law throughout the land of the country. Indian Judiciary is very structured, in this structured Judiciary there is a set hierarchy which is – munsiff courts, magisterial courts above them there are district courts, then-District courts are monitored by high courts and above all, there is a Supreme court, which is the apex court in our country and also acts as guardian of the Indian Constitution. Indian Judiciary has protected the ethos of the Indian constitution from time to time through its various judgments, and the apex court got this power from the Constitution itself. Our Constitution is enshrined with such procedures that maintain a balance between the Judiciary, executive, and legislature. Despite many safeguards, the Indian judicial system is currently facing dozens of problems and need reforms; in this regard, we will discuss these problems today.
Overburden of pending cases
Indian Judiciary is overburdened with lakhs of pending cases, this leads to lengthening of the trial period, that is the reason why the majority of prisoners are under trial. Last year in a written reply to Rajya Sabha, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told that there are 43.5 lakh cases are pending in High courts, and out of these cases, 8.35 lakh cases are older than a decade. At present 37% of the sanctioned strength of High court is vacant.
This long pendency of cases has had very bad repercussions on society, in some cases, people get acquitted after a very long period, but until then they lost all the prestige and social contacts. On the other side, the long pendency of cases also defer the economic development because cases regarding intellectual property rights, contract enforcement, tax compliance etc also do not get clearance in a fixed time frame, this disincentivize investors of foreign countries to invest in India.
Transparency and accountability
Another major bone of contention is accountability and transparency in the judicial system, critics many times raise this concern. The main reason behind this is, that when any elected government do any wrong that government is directly responsible to the house of the people but in contrast to that the accountability of judges are not fixed the there is provision of removal of judges in the constitution but the procedure is not very easy and did not take place even once in our country. The question of accountability also get raised when the judges of the court decide any matter which requires the technical or any field expertise but in lack of such expertise these judges might make mistake but they are not accountable for such decisions.
Transparency is also a big factor when we talk about the working of the Indian Judiciary. Appointment of judges is made through a collegium system, under which judges are recommended by senior sitting judges and their recommendation is binding on the government; no one clearly knows the criteria set by the collegium to appoint the judges this raise eyebrows on the appointment procedure of judges. To bring greater transparency in appointments government brought National Judicial Appointment Commission Act (NJAC) in 2015 which was given the task for the appointment of judges, but Judiciary struck down this 99th constitutional Amendment Act on the grounds that this act is against the basic structure of Indian Constitution and Judiciary continued for the collegium system.
Steps taken to improve judicial system
- To ensure the fulfillment of article 39A of the Indian constitution which provides free legal services to vulnerable sections of the society legal services authority Act was enacted in 1987, which provides free legal services to poor and vulnerable sections of Indian society.
- Lok Adalats were set up under this act, which provides an amicable solution to litigants, both parties can solve disputes outside the court for offenses which are compoundable.
- In 2008, Gram Nyayalayas was set up to ensure door to door justice delivery, this provides justice to remote parts of India as well and ensured reduction of burden on district courts.
- Fast track courts have been established for various purposes like sexual offenses, offenses done by MPs, MLAs. These fast track court gives judgments in a time-bound manner and reduces the pendency of cases.
- Former Chief justice of India Mr. Ranjan Gogoi suggested the government to increase the tenure of judges to avoid incumbency in the judiciary.
- To enhance transparency, the Supreme court recently brought the office of Chief Justice Of India under the right to information (RTI.
- Supreme court has also decided to start live streaming of various cases that hold the substance of national interest, this will boost trust in Judiciary and the common man will be able to get an insight about the working of courts.
The above-mentioned steps are very decorative but how well they are doing is worth observing, because gram nyayalayas are not being set up by many of the states despite multiple reminders by higher courts. Also, Lok Adalat is not being used effectively as litigants do not want to resort to alternative dispute resolution methods. On one hand, courts are burdened with a huge number of cases and on the other hand, it is facing a growing number of public interest litigations(PILs), many of which court finds mala fide in nature, often called them as political interest litigation or public interest litigation. In order to improve judicial system courts should outsource cases to alternative dispute resolution mechanisms where possible. There is an immediate need for an increment in a number of judges and judicial staff. The problem of accountability and transparency should also be tackled by the judiciary but on the account of transparency judicial autonomy cannot be compromised because for the development of any country the balance between judicial transparency and judicial autonomy is very much essential.
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