Topic: General Studies 2:
- Structure, organization and functioning of the Judiciary
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors
Inadequacies of Justice Delivery System.
Context: The citizens of the country expect the Judicial institution and its constituents to be ideal. As a result of the unrelenting focus on the Supreme court, the other inadequacies of the system don’t get as much public attention. A few important ones are dealt with below.
1. Spending on judiciary
- The issue of spending on judiciary is equated with a call for increasing the salaries of judges and providing better court infrastructure. Such perceptions are unfortunate.
- India has one of the most comprehensive legal aid programmes in the world, the Legal Services Authority Act of 1987. Under this law, all women, irrespective of their financial status, SCs, STs and children are entitled to free legal aid.
- This means that a significant proportion of the population falls — or is supposed to fall — under a free legal aid regime. However, in reality, this law is a dead letter.
- There has been little effort on the part of successive governments to provide a task force of carefully selected, well-trained and reasonably paid advocates to provide these services.
- In comparison, the system of legal aid in the U.K. identifies and funds several independent solicitor offices to provide such services. If support is withdrawn, many solicitor offices that provide these invaluable services would collapse and with that, the rule of law. India is yet to put in place anything similar to this.
2. Poor Judge Population Ratio
- The U.S. has about 100 judges per million population. Canada has about 75 and the U.K. has about 50.
- On the other hand, India has only 19 judges per million population. Of these, at any given point, at least one-fourth is always vacant.
- While vacancies to the Supreme Court and the High Courts is hotly debated, hardly any attention is focused on this gaping inadequacy in lower courts which is where the common man first comes into contact with the justice delivery system.
- In All India Judges Association v. Union of India (2001), the Supreme Court had directed the Government of India to increase the judge-population ratio to at least 50 per million population within five years from the date of the judgment. This has not been implemented.
3. Access to Justice
- Though ‘access to justice’ has not been specifically spelt out as a fundamental right in the Constitution, it has always been treated as such by Indian courts.
- In Anita Kushwaha v. Pushpa Sadan (2016), the Supreme Court held unambiguously that “life” implies not only life in the physical sense but a bundle of rights that also means right to access justice
- Further, the court pointed out four important components of access to justice. It pointed out the need for adjudicatory mechanisms. It said that the mechanism must be conveniently accessible in terms of distance and that the process of adjudication must be speedy and affordable to the disputants.
4. Other Issues
- A disproportionate amount of attention that is given to the functioning of the Supreme Court, important as it is, distracts from above and similar issues.
- Government is yet to draw out a national policy and road map for clearing backlogs and making judicial delivery smooth and efficient
- Increasing tribunalisation of the justice delivery process
- The extortionate court fees payable to access justice in civil suits in some States;
- The poor integration of technology into the system
Let us assume that the apex court achieves the distinction of being “ideal” in the near future, of being all things to all people. Still, a fine mind alone is of little avail if the rest of the body lies disabled, as the justice delivery system is today.