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Judicial Reforms with reference to Economic Survey 2019

The importance of speedy justice is linked with the famous saying ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ but is not limited to that. In 21st century time bound judicial pronouncements support economy. India’s improvement in ease of doing business index (EODB) is recognized worldwide (63 out of 190 economics). However, India lags on contract enforcement indicator in EODB at a rank of 163 for the year 2018. Contract enforcement is one of the key factors that can help boost India’s EODB. With this view,the economic survey 2018-19 has a chapter dedicated to on how to ramp up judiciary. This article will cover the major aspects talked about in the survey.
Current situation –
The proportion of pending cases is 87.54% in Subordinate Courts, 12.30% in High Courts and 0.16% in Supreme Court. The courts in eastern states take more time in clearing cases than the national average (2.3 years) whereas courts in Delhi and Punjab perform the best with average disposal of approximately 1.8-2 years. It cannot be a mere co-incidence that the state with better disposal are prosperous than the rest. However to achieve a more efficient judiciary, the Case Clearance Rate (CCR) must be managed. Data on record shows that the average CCR for 2018 is 88.7 %. (94.7% for civil cases 87.4% for criminal cases) as against USA where CCR for civil cases is 98% and 92% for criminal cases.
Proposed increase in strength  –
The survey suggests that this logjam can be cleared with the same efficiency by adding additional judges within five years. It gives a two pronged solution viz achieving 100 % CCR followed by removal of backlog.
Subordinate Courts –
In the year 2018, 17 lac cases were added increasing the number of pending cases to 3.04 crore as against 2.87 crore in 2017. If this continues, judiciary will never get rid of the backlog. Thus, CCR of 100 % becomes important. One judge disposes 746 cases every year, this means 20,170 judges would have cleared the backlog but there were only 17,891 judges. The survey suggests addition of about 10,000 judges to clear the backlog within fives years. However, as former Chief Justice of India T.S.Thakur pointed out, the tussle between State and Central governments leads to the judge strength being constant.
High Courts –
As of June 2018 the backlog in High Courts stands at approximately 45 lacs. A mere addition of 93 additional judges would solve the problem for the high courts, and no to anyone’s surprise this addition is within the sanctioned limit as of now. The survey also suggests that 361 more judges should be appointed over the next five years to clear the backlog.
Supreme Court –
Supreme Court had a backlog of 56,320 in 2018, to achieve 100 % CCR it need just one more judge and 8 more judges to clear the backlog in five years. In September 2019, the strength of SC was increased to 34. However, in accordance with the survey it should be 36.
How case types affect pendency
Pendency of a case is the time since date of filing. In Subordinate Courts the civil cases have contribute less one-third to the total pendency, whereas criminal cases stand at whopping 71.6%. The matter of concern thus becomes the criminal cases. Warrants/Summons have a CCR of 84.58 and amount for more than half of the total pendency. This clearly suggests that to make judicial reforms effective, police reforms are must and inevitable. Whereas in civil cases, execution proceedings have the lowest CCR, this is something which needs reforms in substantive laws to better equip the judiciary. 
In civil cases, the maximum time is spent at two stages of the suit, first is collecting files from lower court (398 days) and the second is hearing. In criminal cases, the evidence stage (235days) and framing of charges (231 days) takes up most of the time. Through this data, one can arrive at the conclusion that more than judiciary the police needs reforms.
Increasing productivity
  • Increase in Number of working days – The SC works for about 190 days, HCs for 232 days and Subordinate Courts for 244 days, excluding the personal leaves. Increasing number of working days might impact SC and HCs but not lower courts as they work almost as many days as government offices. In my opinion, even SCs and HCs cannot be forced to work more, time and again supreme court judges have talked about the workload they have.
  • Establishment of Indian Courts and Tribunal Services – a model on lines of Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunals Services (UK), Administrative Office of US Courts (US) is proposed to manage the administrative work of the court. Generally, the administrative work is handled by chief judicial officer of the court. This is help pan out administrative reforms in the judiciary.
  • Deployment of Technology – This includes roll out of ecourts, National Judicial Data Grid etc. In addition to this, talks have been going around about introducing artificial intelligence in the apex court.
Drawbacks –
  • The survey has covered more or less everything with respect to disposal of cases, but has missed out on a major point viz strikes. One of the reasons why cases are not timely disposed is because of strike by the bar.
  • The survey is concerned with EODB but it does not consider cases from commissions and tribunals. It talks about contract enforcement and economy, without taking into account National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) or Competition Commission of India (CCI).
  • Reforms are required in substantive laws as well to better equip the judiciary with tools to make its way, mere increase in efficiency is not enough.
  • The manner in which contractual disputes which resolved in commercial courts outside India are important, the survey ignores this as well.
  • It does not talk about how the load on judiciary can be decreased, it addresses how the increased load can be managed. For instance, Special Leave Petition in SC is a kind of special burden.
  • For subordinate courts, transfer of judges and time bound trial is a problem. A judge who heard the trial throughout would be better equipped to give a decision thereon, whereas if a judge is transferred mid-way, it takes up a lot of time to go through the process again.
The survey provides a solution to the problem, though the complete picture can be achieved only after incorporating the above mentioned points. Merely adding more judges is not the solution, there are different prongs of the problem, adding judges is one prong. I hope, other issues will be addressed in coming future.









Prakhar Raghuvanshi is a Second Year Student at National Law University, Jodhpur

In Picture Credit: lawescort

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