Judicial Reform in India
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By Justice Sudhir Kumar Saxena
Chairman, U.P. Public Services Tribunal, Lucknow
A strong and independent judiciary makes a nation stable, progressive and well-developed. Judicial independence requires a well-trained and educated judiciary which commands respect in society and ensures public trust in the institutional strength. A strong institution of justice requires not only morally strong and legally sound judges but also requires that such judges to be well trained, well equipped and well informed in their sphere of work. An independent and impartial judiciary and a speedy and efficient system of governance are the very essence of civilization.
It is unanimously accepted that a Judge must act and perform the pious duty without fear or favour to the best of his ability and legal acumen. A judge indeed, owes a legal and moral duty to observe judicial independence in his judicial work. A good judge must, therefore, be fearless as fearlessness is the most important sign of judicial independence and impartiality.
It is well settled that judicial system must address delicate issues concerning liberty, property, and access to public services which obviously requires that judges must be well prepared. In many countries judges are personally responsible for developing their knowledge and skills. A judge plays more important role than an executive officer, a financial advisor, a manager or an academician. Society breaks down when faith in the judiciary is completely destroyed. I am delighted to say that Indian judiciary is one of the finest institutions in the world despite its problems and required reform.
Unfortunately, judicial apparatus in our country is rickety and does not render timely and effective justice. Several researchers who examined the system came with conflicting and long list of maladies from which the system suffers. In the past, while government has pumped funds to strengthen the infrastructure on the basis of demands made by States, there were no clear cut goals set. States were to utilize those funds for augmenting infrastructure. Schemes like providing 50% central funding for court building, grants for establishing Family Courts & fast Track Courts and Gram Nayayalaya worked to some extent.
However, in spite of many efforts, delayed justice is the biggest challenge before our legal system. Eliminating delays and tiring visits to courts, which discourage a person to seek redresssal of his grievance by approaching a court by identifying areas where litigant faces maximum difficulties, like services of processes. Any judicial reform process must begin in this backdrop.
To achieve these goals steps need to be taken to change the intimidatory face of court, and cut down delays by ensuring more efficient management of resources. This can be done only by taking professional help, rather than judges dabbling in management experiments at the cost of their valuable time in deciding cases. Judges chanting mantra of “case management and court management”, or talking of bringing corporate looks and culture, over the last decade has not given the required results. Recruitment of clerical and menial staff is more chaotic. First, Judges are reluctant to undertake recruitment for the fear of inviting allegation of favouritism, nepotism and even outright corruption. When compelled to undertake the process, generally, it is completed with no heart in it at the cost of the court time.
Judiciary believes in absolute equality. The corollary is that every person is presumed and expected to be capable of doing every type of work and therefore replaceable. Therefore, no attention is ever paid to individual training needs. If some training is at all arranged, it is on principal of one size fits all. There is seldom any course in public relations, soft skills, for court staff who have to routinely deal with their pay-masters, the common man, from whose taxes the employees are paid.
Injecting some transparency by digitizing records or injecting some speed by some elementary IT initiatives in not going to be enough. Some processes in court which put avoidable strain on judge time are service of processes to parties, witnesses, prisoners and advocates, getting reports from laboratories and experts and sometimes, getting the records of cases themselves. If managers are put on this job, judge time could be used fully deployed for adjudicatory work that is judging. This would have to go along with time and case-flow management. Now court have built up fairly good database which need to be strengthened for data framing which would help in more efficient time and process management.
Suggestions for Judicial Reforms
- The power relating to writ jurisdiction currently available to Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution and High Courts under Article 226 of the Constitution need to be made available to district Judges as well. It could ensure greater respect to personal liberty and other fundamental rights and will prevent violation of precious rights and timely redressal of public grievances as the judiciary at district level is the first door to dispensation of justice. the whole system exists and operates for common men, who in often found at the receiving end. The rights of the people in the 21st century of high scientific and technological advancement need speedier redressal of public grievances to meet out currently public demands. So the time has come that the protection of fundamental and constitutional rights of the people should, therefore, be made available at the district level itself through the District Judges.
- It is noticed that most of the time people are kept in jail in cases which are not so serious in nature for one reason or the other or for some times due to non-availability of adequate number of sureties. This needs to re-considered in view of the peculiar socio-economic and cultural conditions of our society, particularly the rural areas where it becomes difficult to get two sureties or sureties having higher value.
- A trend of media trial is developing in our country from quite sometimes now where certain cases are presented in a manner in which Courts become extra cautious which they were not required to be in view of the requirement of law and justice. It is an urgent need that there should be no media trial and the case should be left to the court for trial and media should focus only that much which is necessary to give a message to the society.
- Bar & bench are like two beautiful eyes of the justice dispensation mechanism and equilibrium is required to be maintained for effective functioning of this important mechanism. But unfortunately, some members of the bar are often found building pressures on judges and attempting to do it for their own vested interests which need to be checked and controlled not only by judicial system but by the learned members of the bar. Judicial reform process must focus on this critical area for smooth functioning. It is unequivocally true that any attempt to hijack the system is bound to be an attempt in futility adversely affecting the Bar & bench relations and creating a ‘trust deficit’ between the bar 7 bench which is not good for judicial system.
- The focus of judicial reforms should be on ensuring ‘law and justice’ and ‘not on law alone’ lest we will lose this precious value called ‘justice’ which is the heart of the judicial system. Tears anguish, and cry of the emphasis of reforms should shift to ensuring justice to the people and maintaining their faith in the administration of justice intact.