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ADVOCACY

LEGAL REFORMS

I.    Structural

1.1  One of the main reasons for the judiciary’s failure to deliver quick justice is the lack of manpower to clear the huge backlog of cases. There is a need for increasing the number of judges. Regular induction of judges should take place on the basis of examinations.

1.2  There exists a need for creation of Indian Judicial Service (IJS) on the pattern of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and at the same level and structure. The recruitment norms and procedure for the IJS should be modelled on the lines of the Civil Services examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission. Recently, President APJ Abdul Kalam, while delivering the convocation address at Jodhpur Law University, voiced similar sentiments. Induction of young judges, who are expected to be more active and enterprising, would help expedite pending cases.

1.3  Further, the media reported an interview with a judge who had retired recently, who has lamented the poor pay scales of judges. It is hoped that the government would address this issue.

1.4  The jurisdiction of a judge is presently quite large. Their jurisdiction should be broken up into smaller units and a judge for every unit should be appointed to reduce the burden on a single judge.

1.5  At the same time, an exercise to review procedural law should be initiated with a view to come out with such amendments that would reduce delays. For example, the provisions for adjournment and appeal clearly need to be tightened. The petitioner should have substantial grounds for seeking adjournment/appeal, which should be allowed only under compelling circumstances and not on flimsy grounds.

II. Recess and Holidays

2.1  The judiciary has fewer working days and has huge vacations. There is a need to curtail the length of recess. The judiciary is the only body that enjoys both summer and winter breaks. No other government department, PSU, or even judicial commission enjoys this luxury. In June every year, Civil Courts, High Courts and Supreme Court come to a grinding halt for over a month, and then again for a week during winter in December. It is estimated that in a year, the actual working days are only 200 – a luxury that the country can ill afford in the face of the huge number of pending cases. Not only should the recess period be done away with, the courts should function on Saturdays as well.

III.   Sinecures

3.1  Another immediate need is to address the issue of sinecures to retired judges (and bureaucrats) being appointed to plum posts. Regulatory bodies and other important posts should not become roosting places for retirees. For such appointments to be effective, professionals from the market at market salaries should be recruited through an open and transparent selection process.

IV.    Legal education and Training

4.1  Legal education and training programmes should be on going to enhance and update the skills of legal professionals. Programmes for the legislature, judiciaries, executive branches, prosecutors, public defenders, media, legal professionals, and the public can instill the values of impartiality, professionalism, competency, efficiency, and value of public service to support legal and judicial reform.

4.2  Training on issues such as legislative planning, codification and consolidation of legislation are crucial. Authorities responsible for drafting legislation need to develop and master best drafting techniques. Laws drafted by experts should take into account the best-practice principles, international standards, and consultation with interested stakeholders.

V.  Computerisation

5.1  Records of the courts have to be computerised. Facilities for e filing and hearing through videoconferencing need to be introduced. This will eliminate deficiencies in the working of the courts and the system would be fast, neat and accessible. It would also add to the efficiency of the judges. The Supreme Court should be interlinked with the High Courts and the High Courts with the subordinate courts.