“Legal and judicial reforms are urgently needed to address the massive pendency and capacity issues in Indian courts, which impede access to Justice.”
Niti Ayog, in its report titled “Strategy For New India @ 75”, has given important suggestions for judicial and legal reforms. The apex planning body has mooted an All-India judicial services examination on a ranking basis to maintain high standards in the judiciary.
The report stated: “The selection process may be entrusted to the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) for a cadre of lower judiciary judges (first induction level), Indian Legal Service (both centre and states), prosecutors, legal advisors, and legal draftsmen. This will attract young and bright law graduates and help build a new cadre that can enhance accountability in the governance system.”
Another significant suggestion is to consider a mechanism whereby litigants in a commercial dispute must first be made to exhaust the remedy of pre-institution mediation and settlement. “However, it should be ensured that such cases do not create one more stratum in litigation,” it cautioned.
It said that a study carried out by the Ministry of Finance found that it takes, on an average, almost 20 years for a property-related dispute to be resolved, and that it would take 324 years just to clear the present backlog at the current rate of disposal.
The following ‘capacity building and sustainable solutions’ were suggested by the Niti Ayog to resolve the backlog problem:
- Shift certain sections of the workload out of the regular court system to commercial courts, the commercial division and the commercial appellate division of High Courts for commercial disputes and the Criminal Judicial Magistrate for criminal cases at least in metropolitan areas to decongest courts.
- A mechanism may be considered whereby litigants in a commercial dispute must first be made to exhaust the remedy of pre-institution mediation and settlement. However, it should be ensured that such cases do not create one more stratum in litigation.
- The Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, should be amended to make India a robust centre for institutional arbitration, both domestic and international. A new autonomous body, viz., the Arbitration Council of India, should be set up to grade arbitral institutions and accredit arbitrators to make the arbitration process cost-effective and speedy, and to pre-empt the need for court intervention.
- Merge and rationalize tribunals to enhance efficiency. Appointments to tribunals must be streamlined either through a specialized agency or under the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT).
It also gave some other suggestions for judicial reforms:
- Judicial decisions need to take account of their economic and social impact, especially in cases pertaining to contract, labour, tax, corporate and constitutional issues as observed by the Supreme Court in a recent judicial decision.
- An all-India judicial services examination on a ranking basis can be considered to maintain high standards in the judiciary. The selection process may be entrusted to the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) for a cadre of lower judiciary judges (first induction level), Indian Legal Service (both centre and 181 states), prosecutors, legal advisors, and legal draftsmen. This will attract young and bright law graduates and help build a new cadre that can enhance accountability in the governance system.
- Continuing training may be introduced to ensure the development of skills, ethics, knowledge and awareness of international best practices.
- Multi-faceted training faculty for judicial academies, including reputed lawyers, successful NGOs and others, for holistic exposure may be considered.
- Training modules should be live streamed on an e-platform to make information easily accessible, and widely disseminated.
- Consider a performance index for judges and a separate state wise index for ease of getting justice.
- Introduce an administrative cadre in the judicial system to streamline processes. To maintain judicial independence, the cadre should report to the Chief Justice in each High Court.
- Prioritize court process automation and ICT enablement for electronic court and case management, including electronic management of court schedules and migration of all courts to the unified national court application software.
- Facilitate the availability and usage of video-conferencing facilities to assist in speedy access to justice and to minimize logistical issues. At present, even the available video conferencing facilities are not utilized optimally.
On legal reforms, the suggestions are as follows:
- Create a repository of all existing central and state laws, rules and regulations.
- Repeal redundant laws and introduce a new initiative to remove restrictive clauses in existing laws.
- Bring in changes in criminal justice and procedural laws by changing from the present litigant-driven outlook to one led by an effective judiciary in line with global practice.
- Create a law-abiding society by inculcating respect for the rule of law among citizen.
- A time line for implementation of necessary amendments should be stipulated.
- Continuing legal education in selected areas should be made mandatory for lawyers and judges and rules of professional conduct and ethics need to be drawn up and implemented.
- Greater sensitivity on the part of government officials to citizens’ needs can help reduce the number of litigations/disputes.
- New laws should be drafted in simple, plain language.