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Infrastructural Issues Faced By The District Courts

A visit to any lower court of the country reveals the ground reality in our country about the judicial institution. It enlightens us about the pathetic conditions in which the courts functions for the administration of justice. One would notice lack of adequate facilities like toilets and drinking water especially for women, senior citizens and children on the court premises. The more diabolical thing is that there is an inadequate number of lawyer’s chamber. Litigants are the people whose needs should be catered primarily as the courts owe their existence to them and the absence of such basic facilities on the court premises leads to the augmentation of difficulties for the litigants. According to the National Judicial Data Grid, there are approximately 3.3 cr. cases pending in the Indian courts, in which 2.84 cr. are pending in the District Courts and the backlog is 43 lakh and 57,987 in the High Court and Supreme Court, respectively. The five states which have the highest pendency are Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Bihar and Gujarat.

At the rate the cases are handled civil cases will never be solved and criminal cases will take more than 30 years to be solved. There is one judge for 73,000 people in India which is even times worse than the United States of America. The long list of cases hung on the notice board does not ensure that the case will be presented before the Judge. Common reasons for such lagging of cases can be vacancy of judges, prolonged strikes by lawyers or the court staff, government holidays, lack of adequate infrastructure etc. This also creates problem for the people under trial, especially in cases of non- bail able offences, as it is hard for them to get bails and many even more than their sentence because of this. Over the last few years, the relevance of judicial infrastructure has started to receive more emphasis particularly by judiciary itself.[1]

While delivering a lecture on topic Technology, Training and Infrastructure: Key to Speedy Justice the Chief Justice of India said “The infrastructural gaps shall not be allowed to multiply and should be addressed at the earliest opportunity before it leaves a deep scar on the administration of justice and it becomes too late to act wisely. Fiscal constraints is no excuse. The need is to strengthen the judiciary as a consequence of which the justice delivery system becomes fast, qualitatively responsive and serves the purpose of justice.” He also said that there is a need to widen the network of courts to increase geographical reach of common man, to provide basic facilities to litigants and required facilities for the lawyers. He also said, “Judicial infrastructure includes the infrastructure for bar and litigants which are the backbone of justice delivery system.”[2]

Categorization Of Infrastructure:
The definition of infrastructure for the purpose of court premises can be comprised as: Physical Infrastructure, which may include court buildings, rooms, elevators, facility for drinking water etc. Secondly, The Personnel Infrastructure, which may include judges, court staff and lawyers. Thirdly, The Digital Infrastructure, which may include, court websites, e-courts, mobile applications etc.

The physical infrastructure of the courts is in a pathetic condition considering the state of court premises which were built earlier, they lack basic facilities like toilets, or even if the toilets are built they are not cleaned on a regular basis and may cause gut infections, lung and skin diseases, sexually transmitted diseases etc., facility of crèche for the women judicial officers or litigants because of which they’re forced to leave their infants either with some relative or hire a babysitter as a consequence of which the babies are not looked after efficiently, some of the court rooms even lack adequate lightening causing problems for the judges as well as lawyers.
The personnel infrastructure of the courts need ample number of judges, which is one the major problems faced by the subordinate courts in India, the lack of insufficient number of judges cause backlogging of cases, delay in justice, problems caused to under trials etc. With India’s population being 1.2 billion there should have 60,000 judges.

The figures from National Judicial Data Grid and Department of Justice tells that there are 16,438 judges in the subordinate courts, 621 in the High Courts and 29 in the Supreme Court of India. All the data suggests that there is insufficient number of judges in the courts which has caused the backlogging of 3.3 cr. cases. The 120th Law Commission of India report suggests rate of pendency or the rate of litigation as the means to fix the strength of judges, it does not carry out the mathematical exercise of arriving the ample number of judges. The alternative methodology suggests that the case cannot be disposed of in a mechanical way, one or more hearings needs to take place, the evidences should be produced before the court so that the judge could apply his mind and give judgment. Also a proper time frame should be decided for the disposal of cases such as 3 years. This methodology was taken into consideration by the Law Commission of India in its 245th report on Arrears and Backlog: Creating judicial man and women power is also the routinely assessed by the government and courts for the strength of judges.

The digital infrastructure includes the facilities like websites of courts inclusive of the information regarding the status of cases, mobile applications which may inform the people about their rights and other information regarding the functioning of the courts and other essential information. The digitization has become an important aspect of every industry in the world which focuses on the improvement of customer satisfaction and leveraging data for better decision making. The legal services may gain immensely by the digitalization.

The digitalization of legal services is essential to attract and retain talent, increase the profits and benchmark for the counterparts. With the advent of young professionals the need for more efficient and modern way of working increases and the answer is to implement the best global practice of automating processes, which would enhance case management and improve efficiency, thereby enabling better governance and secure sharing of the information. Despite the advantages including the transparency and increased efficiency, the fact is that adoption rate of in country stands at just 0.1% for practice management. The need today is acceleration of implementation and create ecosystem that can embrace digital solutions for better output.

Infrastructure Development And Strengthen of The Subordinate Courts In Country:
The Department Related to Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel Public Grievances, Law and Justice, headed by Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, decided to take up the subject Infrastructure Development and Strengthening of the Subordinate Courts in the Country, for a detailed examination and presented its report on February 6, 2014. The committee noted certain points-

1. Land and Funding availability:
The committee that the government of a state is responsible for identifying and furnishing suitable land for the establishment of court buildings etc. Also, they must undertake construction in light of shortage of land and the Central government must attempt to increase its contribution for the infrastructure and ensure the timely release of funds to the state government.

2. Implementation of Centrally Sponsored Scheme:
The committee recommended that the Department of Justice must audit the Centrally Sponsored Schemes to ascertain uneven utilisation of funds and the development that has taken place in the states and if it has helped to speed up the trail in the courts.

3. Computerisation of the courts:
The committee stressed upon the fact that the central and state governments must stick to the timeline set out of the computerisation of each and every court, as it is an essential step towards the setting up of e-courts. It also demanded for periodic report from the Department of Justice.

4. Fast Track Courts:
After the incident of Delhi Rape Case and scams related to fraudulent investment schemes, the need for establishment of fast track courts was realised and the committee recommended that the fast track courts must be established at the earliest.

5. All India Judicial Services:
The committee stressed that the Ministry must consider the establishment of All India Judicial Services, as soon as possible, as it would benefit the subordinate courts to increase the number of judges and help to reduce the number of pending cases.

6. Court Procedure and Litigation Cost:
The committee noted that the procedure of courts is full of unnecessary complexities and consume unjustifiable amount of time and recommended that the central and state government must resolve the court proceedings at the earliest.

Conclusion:
There is a persistent lack of infrastructural development in the judiciary, especially the subordinate courts. This problem can be more efficiently be understood if one studies it in regards of the persons with physical disabilities, illiterates, women, senior citizen and trans-genders. Some of the court premises are well equipped and well designed, whereas, most of them lack the basic facilities such as the provisions of signage, directions, maps etc. for blind or general people, moreover to it, the entry and exit points are not well-managed, leading to crowds. As one moves towards the rural area from the urban areas the infrastructure of the court worsens. Basic necessities such as clean washrooms, access to water, seating arrangement, adequate lightening were badly neglected. At the end, it is important to note that being modern-day courts such infrastructural standard should be maintained as they play a vital role in enhancing the functioning of a court. Therefore, the outcome is that the judicial infrastructure such be given priority and proper budget should be granted for the same.

End-Notes
[1] National Courts Management Committee, NCMS Policy and Action Plan (2012)
[2] Dipak Misra, Technology, Training and Infrastructure: Key to Speedy Justice (Sep.1, 2018, 03:50), https://economicstimes.indiatimes.com
 

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