JudicialReform

JudicialReform

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JUDICIAL REFORMS The Right Way

A Comprehensive Proposal of Judicial Reforms for Timely Delivery of Justice
1.

I. Background

It is the responsibility of all organs of the state to ensure access to fair, timely and cost-effective justice for all. The Government and the judiciary have therefore been working in tandem to achieve the goal of timely delivery of justice. In October 2009 a Vision Statement and Action Plan setting out a roadmap for judicial reforms was adopted at the National Consultation for Strengthening the Judiciary towards Reducing Pendency and Delays. The participants in the National Consultation included the Chief Justice of India and other members of the judiciary, the Minister for Law and Justice, law officers, members of the Bar, representatives of the Ministry of Law & Justice and members of the public. The resolution adopted at the consultation meeting laid down a list of strategic initiatives to be achieved in areas such as adoption of the National Litigation Policy, re-engineering of procedures, judicial management and case management, human resource development and leveraging information communication technology.

Several of these initiatives are being coordinated through the National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms (National Mission) that was set up under the Department of Justice in August 2011 with the twin objectives of (a) increasing access to justice by reducing delays and arrears in the system; and (b) adopting structural changes for enhanced accountability and improving capacities. The importance of this reform agenda is also reflected in the grants made by the 13th Finance Commission. Recognizing the need to improve judicial outcomes and the financial support needed for the same, the 13th Finance Commission approved a sum of Rs. 5000 crores to be released to the States for reforms in the judicial system. These funds were to be utilized by the States for the specified objectives of (a) operation of morning/evening/shift courts; (b) establishment of ADR centres and training of mediators/ conciliators; (c) holding of Lok Adalats and Mega Lok Adalats; (d) provision of legal aid; (e) training of judicial officers and prosecutors; (f) providing support to State Judicial Academies; (g) creation of posts of judicial officers; and maintenance of heritage court buildings. The utilization of these funds by the States has however not been satisfactory.

Simultaneously, the Supreme Court formulated and notified a comprehensive National Court Management System (NCMS) in May, 2012. Specific proposals are being developed by the NCMS on setting measurable performance standards for courts, adoption of case management systems, standardization of judicial data and statistics and adoption of development and human resource plans for courts. Specific guidelines are being formulated in each of these areas for the consideration of, and implementation through, High Courts.

A series of policy and administrative measures have therefore been adopted to achieve the goal of timely delivery of justice. This note provides a brief overview of the reform initiatives that have been undertaken thus far by various stakeholders and the further steps that need to be taken for holistic reforms in this area. It also takes into account the suggestions and recommendations made by the Law Commission of India, various expert committees as well as the inputs received from lawyers, interested citizens and civil society organizations working in this field. The agencies responsible for undertaking each of the actions have also been identified.

II. Human resource development for the judiciary

a) Increasing judicial strength and filling up of vacancies

Lack of adequate number of judges to handle the large number of cases pending in courts is often cited to be one of the main reasons for delays. The problem of shortage of judges is being addressed through a two pronged strategy. Firstly, by filling up the large number of existing vacancies in the judiciary and secondly, increasing the sanctioned strength of judges. It would be pertinent to note that as per the Constitutional framework the selection and appointment of judges in subordinate courts is the responsibility of State Governments and High Courts.

The Supreme Court has delivered a series of significant decisions on the subject. These include the All India Judges’ Association[1] case where the Supreme Court directed that the number of judges should be increased, in the first instance by filling up the existing vacancies followed by an increase in the judge strength in a phased manner. In the Malik Mazhar Sultan case[2] the Supreme Court devised a process and time schedule to be followed by the High Courts and State Governments for the filling up of judicial vacancies. In April, 2012 the Supreme Court issued a direction in the Brij Mohan Lal case requiring that 10% additional posts should be created in the subordinate judiciary.[3] Issues relating to increasing judicial strength and filling up of vacancies have also been discussed extensively in the Joint Conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of High Courts held in August, 2009 and in April, 2013 and during meetings of the Advisory Council of the National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms (National Mission). Following this, several communications in this regard have been exchanged with the State Governments and High Courts.

On account of the concerted efforts made by all stakeholders there has been a gradual increase in the sanctioned strength of the subordinate judiciary over the past few years. It has increased from 17,715 at the end of 2012 to 19,726 in March, 2014. In case of the High Courts, the Chief Justice of India gave an ‘in principle’ concurrence in April, 2014 to the joint recommendation of the Chief Ministers and Chief Justices Conference to increase the sanctioned strength of High Courts by 25 per cent. Several States have already accepted this proposal, as a result of which the sanctioned strength of High Courts has been increased to 984 judges as of December, 2014. The judge-population ratio in the country, taking into account judges at all levels now stands at about 17 judges per one million of the population.

However, it is noted that despite the gradual increase in sanctioned strength, there still remain a large number of vacancies in subordinate courts. As of 31st March, 2014, there were 4,288 vacancies in the posts of judicial officers, representing about 21 per cent of the sanctioned strength. In case of the High Courts, 353 of the 984 posts, representing 35 per cent of the sanctioned strength, were vacant as of December, 2014. Some of the reasons for delays in filing up of vacancies, as indicated by the High Courts, are inability to find suitable candidates, pending court cases challenging previous recruitments and difficulties in coordination between High Courts and State Public Service Commissions. Based on these responses, the then Minister of Law and Justice had written to the Chief Justices of all High Courts with a list of actionable points that might be considered to address each of these issues. This issue was also raised at the 7th Advisory Council Meeting of the National Mission where it was discussed that there may be a need for adding some flexibility in the recruitment rules for subordinate court judges to allow multiple sources for direct recruitment of eligible candidates.

The matter relating to determination of adequate judicial strength at the subordinate court level is presently under the active consideration of the Supreme Court in the case of Imtiyaz Ahmed v. State of Uttar Pradesh. The Supreme Court has directed the Law Commission of India to examine this issue.[4] The Law Commission in its 245th report titled “Arrears and Backlog: Creating Additional Judicial (Wo)manpower” recommended that the ‘Rate of Disposal Method’ would be the most pragmatic and useful option in the present scenario to determine the required judicial strength. This method involves an assessment of the present efficiency levels of the subordinate judiciary in different courts and using that to determine the adequate number of judicial officers required to deal with the pending and expected cases.

In its subsequent orders the Supreme Court has asked all concerned States and High Courts to file their responses to the recommendations and the Court is expected to issue appropriate directions in this regard upon receiving comments from all stakeholders. With the implementation of these measures it is expected that the sanctioned strength of High Courts and subordinate courts will be adequate to deal with the current requirements. This is however dependent on immediate actions being taken to fill the current and additional judicial posts, as and when they are created.

Suggested actions and responsible agencies:

· State Governments and High Courts are responsible for taking actions relating to increase in judicial strength and filling up of vacancies in district and subordinate courts. The implementation of the ‘rate of disposal’ method will help create an institutionalized mechanism for determination of adequate judicial strength required in various States.

· High Courts need to put in place a streamlined mechanism for identification of current and anticipated vacancies in subordinate courts, as per the process suggested by the Supreme Court in the Malik Mazhar Sultan case. State Governments, State Public Service Commissions and High Courts will then need to take the necessary steps for the timely filling up of the identified vacancies.

· The bottlenecks faced in the timely filling of vacancies need to be addressed jointly by the High Courts and State Public Service Commissions. The possibility of adding some flexibility in the recruitment rules for subordinate court judges may also be considered.

· All newly selected judicial officers are required to undergo a training program as a result of which a commensurate number of courts cannot be operationalized despite on-going recruitment exercises. Creation of adequate number of posts for ‘training reserves’ can help in addressing this issue. High Courts may assess the appropriate number of training reserves required at different levels following which action for the creation of those posts may be taken by the State Governments.

b) Training of judicial officers and other stakeholders

Having a well-trained cadre of judicial officers presiding in courts at every level is critical to improving the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the judicial system. Specific training in areas such as criminal laws, commercial laws, intellectual property laws, etc. is needed to ensure that the judges hearing such cases are aware of the latest developments in these fields. The National Judicial Academy in Bhopal and various State Judicial Academies have been set up for this purpose of undertaking judicial education programmes. The responsibilities of the National Judicial Academy include providing a forum for judges from across the country to jointly identify the main hurdles to the efficient administration of justice and developing appropriate solutions. Funds to the tune of Rs. 300 crore were approved by the 13th Finance Commission for the setting up of infrastructure in State Judicial Academies in States where they did not exist and for providing additional facilities in the existing academies.

Recognizing the importance of imparting managerial skills on judicial officers, it was decided in the Conference of Chief Justices held in April, 2013 that the National and State Judicial Academies would take steps for imparting training to judicial officers on managerial skills. It was also agreed that High Courts may consider sending judicial officers in batches to IIMs for imparting such training.

The Department of Justice has also taken several steps to collaborate with the judicial academies to promote judicial education in the country. The National Mission circulated a brief note summarizing the recent legislative, policy and judicial initiatives targeted at reducing pendency and improving the justice delivery system in the country to all the judicial academies. Following this, the note was updated further and shared by the Minister of Law and Justice with the Chief Justices of High Courts vide a letter dated 19 December, 2014. The High Courts were requested to circulate the same to judicial officers in their jurisdiction so that they may take recourse to the available provisions and mechanisms for expediting trials in both civil and criminal cases.

The importance of imparting quality judicial training was discussed recently in the 7th Advisory Council Meeting of the National Mission. It was noted that the infrastructure of judicial academies could be utilized to also provide training to other stakeholders in the judicial system, such as advocates, prosecutors, investigators, etc. Further, it was felt that there is a need to focus on the capacity building of the judicial academies and to attract well-trained faculty members. A suggestion was made in this context to have a specialized academic program on the subjects of judicial management, judicial administration, research and training to help create a pool of trained judicial trainers and professional court managers.

Further, it has been noted by some High Courts that finding suitable candidates who satisfy the eligibility conditions and are able to clear the written examinations is one of the main difficulties faced by them in the timely filling up of vacancies. To address this, the High Court and State Public Service Commission, may coordinate with judicial academies and law universities to impart necessary skills, knowledge and continuing legal education to fresh graduates and practicing advocates interested in appearing for judicial service examinations.

Suggested actions and responsible agencies:

· The National Judicial Academy and State Judicial Academies, which are responsible for judicial training and continuing judicial education, may be requested to:

i. also provide training to other stakeholders in the judicial system, such as advocates, prosecutors, investigators, etc.

ii. undertake specialized training programs for judges on specific areas such as criminal laws, commercial laws, intellectual property laws, with active participation from well-established practitioners in these areas.

iii. consider adopting a specialized academic program on the subjects of judicial management, judicial administration, research and training to help create a pool of trained judicial trainers and professional court managers.

· In order to facilitate the selection of eligible candidates as judicial officers, High Court and State Public Service Commission, may coordinate with judicial academies and law universities to impart necessary skills, knowledge and continuing legal education to fresh graduates and practicing advocates interested in appearing for judicial service examinations.

· High Courts may consider initiating management training programs for judicial officers and other court staff in collaboration with judicial academies and reputed management institutions, in case they have not already done so.

III. Judicial infrastructure and budgetary planning

The primary responsibility of infrastructure development for the subordinate judiciary rests with the State Governments. The Central Government augments the resources of the State Governments by releasing financial assistance under a centrally sponsored scheme for the development of judicial infrastructure. The scheme has been in place since 1993-94, and was revised in 2011. It covers the construction of court buildings and residential accommodation of judicial officers. As of 31st December 2014, the Central Government has released an amount of Rs. 3,024 crore to the State Governments and UT administrations under the revised funding pattern from July, 2011. This represents a significant increase over the sum of Rs. 1,245 crore that was provided by the Central Government in the initial phase of the scheme from 1993–2011. As the present scheme is expected to continue till the end of the current plan period (March, 2017), it is hoped that substantial addition to judicial infrastructure will take place at the subordinate court level during this period.

Data relating to available court infrastructure collected from the High Courts shows that as of June, 2014 there were 15,400 court halls/ court rooms available for the functioning of district and subordinate courts. In addition to these, 1000 court rooms were available in rented premises. Comparing these figures against the working strength of about 15,400 judges reported by the High Courts it is noted that adequate number of court rooms are available for the current judicial manpower. In addition to this, there are about 2,250 additional court rooms that are under construction in States and UTs to take care of immediate increases in the working strength of judges in district and subordinate courts on account of filling up of vacancies. The data however shows that the number of residential units presently available for judges (10,143) is below the current working strength of judges. This issue is being remedied through the construction of additional residential units.

Provision of adequate judicial infrastructure is closely connected with the need for proper budgetary planning for the judiciary. In the Chief Justices’ Conference held in April, 2013 it was decided that Vision Statements and Court Development Plans should be drawn up for all High Courts and District Courts, covering matters relating to infrastructure, computerization, human resource development, setting measurable performance standards, performance parameters, enhancing user friendliness of the judicial system, etc. A communication in this regard was also sent by the Minister of Law and Justice to the Chief Justices of High Courts in July, 2013. Following this, several High Courts have formulated their Vision Statements and Court Development Plans, which were also submitted to the 14th Finance Commission.

Recently, a Committee of Experts headed by Professor (Dr.) Srikrishna Deva Rao has submitted its report on the subject of judicial impact assessment. The mandate of the committee was to examine the practicability of adopting a mechanism for judicial impact assessment in India. The Committee found that judicial impact assessment is neither feasible nor desirable as a method of proper budgetary planning and allocation for the judiciary. On the contrary, it may serve to defeat the very objective of ensuring access to timely justice through courts. They however suggested an alternative approach for budgetary planning involving the generation of periodic ‘Access to Justice Reports’ to examine the needs of the judiciary in light of their constitutional obligation to provide fair quick and speedy justice. Such reports should examine the “patterns of litigation, social identity of litigants, bottlenecks and exclusions from access to justice, as well as the patterns, causes and extent of such exclusion”. Based on the findings from such analysis appropriate responses can be developed to address the identified gaps and shortfalls. In the view of the Committee, this would provide a more holistic picture of the needs of the judicial system. It is suggested that the views of the Expert Committee in respect of the Access to Justice Report may be incorporated in the Vision Statements and Court Development Plans of High Courts so as to factor in the elements of exclusion and access to justice while conducting budgetary planning for the judicial system.

Suggested actions and responsible agencies:

· High Courts are responsible for the preparation of timely proposals for the maintenance and development of judicial infrastructure. State Governments bear the primary responsibility of infrastructure development for the subordinate judiciary and the Central Government augments the resources needed for this purpose.

· The requirement of organized and timely preparation of Vision Statements and Court Development Plans by High Courts should be formalized. This will enable proper infrastructure planning so that funds for setting up of adequate court facilities and residential premises and meeting other judicial expenses can be organised. State Governments should then dispense the required funds as per the development plans and annual budgets provided by High Courts. There is also a need for the creation of appropriate accountability mechanisms, to monitor the utilisation of the allocated funds and the progress made using the same.

· High Courts may be requested to factor in the elements of judicial exclusion and access to justice, as per the recommendations of the Srikrishna Deva Rao Committee, while preparing their Vision Statements and Court Development Plans.

· To ensure the proper development of detailed plans, appropriate training programs for the officers of the High Courts and lower courts may be organized by the Judicial Academies through prominent institutions dealing with issues relating to planning and public finance.

IV. Computerization for process automation and effective court/case management

The adoption of information and communication technology (ICT) in the administration of justice is an important tool that will lead the way for revamping court processes, adopting court and case management systems and overall process re-engineering of the judicial system. To achieve this, the eCourts Mission Mode Project has been introduced with the objective of providing designated services to citizens as well courts by ICT enablement of all district and subordinate courts. The Project is being implemented by the Department of Justice in association with the Supreme Court eCommittee and the National Informatics Centre. Phase I of this project focused on the computerization of subordinate courts, which will be followed by the setting up of centralized filing centres, digitization of documents, adoption of document management systems, creation of e-filing and e-payment gateways in Phase II of the project that was approved by the eCommittee of the Supreme Court in January 2014. Simultaneously, process re-engineering of courts is also being pursued. As per the order of the eCommittee of the Supreme Court, process re-engineering committees have been set up in High Courts. The role of these committees is to undertake judicial process re-engineering by streamlining and improvising current court processes, eliminating redundant processes and designing new processes with respect to making court processes ICT enabled.

Online information about case filings, case status and electronic copies of orders and judgments from courts that have already been computerized is available through the e-Courts portal. However, we are still some way from providing real-time access to pendency data and statistics. The lack of comprehensive and accurate data relating to cases from courts across the country poses a hurdle to efficient policymaking. This issue has been noted by the Law Commission of India in its 245th Report as well as in the Action Plan of the National Court Management System set up by the Supreme Court. There is therefore an urgent need to evolve uniform data collection and management methods for our judicial system. To address these issues, the NCMS is working on a National System of Judicial Statistics that will provide a common national platform for recording and maintaining judicial statistics from across the country.

Suggestions in this regard have also been made by other expert bodies. In its report on judicial impact assessment the Srikrishna Deva Rao Committee has recommended the creation of a ‘Judicial Studies Department’ that will create formats for uniform data collection by courts and engage in all kinds of social science research relating to provision of judicial services.

The successful completion of the ICT initiatives and adoption of uniform data collection practices will facilitate better identification and classification of cases, reduction of paperwork, efficient monitoring and time management and improved tracking of overall pendency trends. It will also relieve judges and other court staff from administrative duties and allow them to focus on judicial functions. Real-time online data would also enable High Courts to exercise proper supervision and control over subordinate courts.

Another suggestion that has often been made and has also been discussed at meetings of the Advisory Council of the National Mission is that of allowing audio-video recordings of court proceedings. Allowing such recordings can contribute to transparency of court processes by allowing a precise record of the proceedings and at the same time discouraging improper conduct in courts and wastage of court time. The efficiency of courts can also be enhanced by maintaining standard system generated formats of routine judgments and orders, particularly in civil cases, which may be used by courts for quick delivery of judgments.

Suggested actions and responsible agencies:

· Timely completion of computerization of subordinate courts followed by digitization of documents and real-time availability of judicial statistics will go a long way in enhancing transparency and accountability in our legal system. It will also encourage more insightful research and studies on various issues relating to judicial administration.

· The Department of Justice, National Informatics Center and the Supreme Court e-Committee are the nodal agencies for the eCourts Mission Mode Project. The actual implementation of the computerization and digitization initiatives is however being done by the High Courts.

· Judicial process re-engineering to be done by High Courts by streamlining and improvising current court processes, eliminating redundant processes and designing new processes with respect to making court processes ICT enabled.

· Procedural laws may be amended to incorporate the suggestions of having audio-video recording of court proceedings and maintaining standard system generated formats of routine judgments and orders.

V. Pre-trial hearing and case management systems

Adopting effective case management strategies is one of the key factors that can contribute in resolution of the problem of pendency and delay in dispensation of justice. Case management involves management and scheduling of the time and events in a suit as it progresses through the justice delivery system. It helps the court to establish managerial control over the case by setting the time schedule for the predetermined events and by supervising the progress of the suit as per the time schedule. To facilitate this, the 13th Finance Commission allotted a sum of Rs. 300 crores for the employment of professionally trained court managers, with MBA degrees to assist judges in performing administrative duties, thereby enabling judges to dedicate more time to perform their judicial functions.

The system of pre-trial hearing, which is common in several countries such as the United Kingdom, Singapore and the United States of America, is an important component of the case management process. A pre-trial hearing or conference is a scheduled meeting between the litigants and their counsels conducted prior to trial before a judge or a judicial authority. The object of pre-trial conference is to identify clearly the issues in dispute so as to facilitate expeditious disposal of case through proper case management and to promote amicable settlement of the dispute.

The objectives sought to be achieved by introducing pre-trial hearing are manifold.[5] Firstly pre-trial hearing may help in ensuring expeditious disposal of cases by assisting the courts in establishing managerial control over the cases and keeping a check on undue delays being caused during trial. Secondly it helps in defining and clarifying the scope of the trial and helps in keeping the focus on the real issues in dispute. Thirdly such an exercise of clarification and discoveries has potential to assist parties to better understand their case and assists the court in timely dispensation of justice by conducting a smooth and hassle free trial. Lastly pre-trial hearing may prove to be of great help in facilitating a settlement of dispute by way of an amicable compromise between the parties.

In India the system of pre-trial hearing is not clearly identified as a distinct feature of our judicial process although both the Civil Procedure Code and Criminal Procedure Code contain certain provisions that can be utilized for this purpose. The Supreme Court in the case of Ramrameshwari Devi v Nirmala Devi[6] had also recommended certain steps that trial courts should follow to improve the system of administration of justice in civil cases. This included,

carefully scrutinizing the pleadings and documents filed by parties immediately after the filing of civil suits; resorting to the discovery and production of documents and interrogatories at the earliest; and preparing a complete time schedule for all the stages of the suit and strictly adhering to the said dates as far as possible.

These issues were recently discussed at the 7th Advisory Council meeting of the National Mission and it was felt that the possibility of introducing a concept of pre-trial hearing in out procedural laws should be explored in further detail. The Law Commission of India has recently released it 253rd Report on “Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts and Commercial Courts Bill, 2015” where it has recommended certain special procedures to be followed for the conduct of commercial cases by amending the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC) so as to improve efficiency and reduce delays in disposal of commercial cases. Some of the procedural changes include stricter timelines, separate procedure for “summary judgment”, case management hearing, time-bound oral arguments and time bound delivery of judgments. Similar recommendations may be considered in respect of all civil cases. In case of criminal cases, the Law Commission will be looking into the issue of pre-trial hearings as a part of their comprehensive review of the criminal justice system that is currently underway.

Suggested actions and responsible agencies:

· The Department of Legal Affairs and the Legislative Department are vested with the responsibility of looking into issues relating to the CPC and any amendments to it. They may therefore be requested to consider the recommendations made by the Law Commission in their 253rd report and explore the possibility of extending these suggestions to all civil cases.

· The Law Commission is currently carrying out a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system. Any changes that may be required to the law based on their recommendations will be the responsibility of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Department of Legal Affairs and the Legislative Department.

VI. Criminal justice reforms

Pursuant to a request made by the Department of Legal Affairs on the recommendation of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Law Commission of India is undertaking a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system covering all aspects of criminal laws. The Law Commission is currently in the process of undertaking this review and is expected to submit its report in the coming months.

Some of the areas for reform include adding provisions for pre-trial hearing, strengthening provisions relating to compounding of offences and proper implementation of plea bargaining provisions. The proper use of these mechanisms can help courts to focus their attention on offences that are of a more serious nature. Further, it would also be useful for judges to be encouraged to actively take up the duty of scrutinizing the suggested charges at the time of framing of charges.

On the issue of timelines for the disposal of criminal cases the Supreme Court has held in the case of P. Ramachandra Rao v. State of Karnataka[7] that it is neither advisable, nor feasible, nor judicially permissible to prescribe any outer limits for the conclusion of all criminal proceedings. It was however noted by the Court that criminal courts should exercise their available powers under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC), such as those under Section 309 (postponement or adjournment of proceedings), 311 (power to summon material witnesses or examine persons present) and 258 (power to stop proceedings), to effectuate the right to speedy trial. There are however some cases where given the gravity of the offences involved expedited timeframes have been indicated in the law itself. For instance, Section 173, CrPC requires that investigation in relation to rape of a child may be completed within three months from recording of the information and Section 309 provides that inquiry or trial of offense relating to rape should as far as possible be completed within a period of two months. The CrPC also contains provisions for the summary trial of petty cases, which if used extensively can be of great use in the speedy disposal of such cases.

Besides the judicial system, prosecution and police are the two other important components of the criminal justice system. In recent years, several committees and expert bodies, including the Malimath Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System[8] and the Law Commission[9] have expressed their views on the limitations in the existing investigation and prosecution processes and the need for reforms to ensure fair and speedy criminal trials. As per these reports, the investigation process is hampered by factors such as lack of expertise by investigating officers, understaffing, lack of modern investigation tools and scarcity of forensic facilities.

Similarly, the prosecution wing also faces a number of issues such as large vacancies in the posts of public prosecutors, improper selection procedures and lack of adequate care and supervision in the conduct of trials by prosecutors. There is therefore an urgent need to restructure the prosecution system in a manner that will allow the prosecution to function in an efficient and independent manner, while at the same time allowing for necessary coordination with the police. At the same time there is also a need to create systems for the interoperability of the criminal justice system by connecting courts, forensic laboratories, police and prisons using web services. The creation of such a system would also be useful for securing the timely release of undertrial prisoners who have completed their minimum prescribed sentence, in accordance with Section 436A of the CrPC.

Suggested actions and responsible agencies:

· The Law Commission may be requested to expedite their work on criminal justice reforms so that appropriate legislative measures to bring about reforms in the criminal justice system can be adopted at the earliest.

· Any changes that may be required to the law based on the recommendations of the Law Commission will be the responsibility of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Department of Legal Affairs and the Legislative Department.

· The Ministry of Home Affairs may be requested to take up the cause of creating a system for achieving interoperability among the various components of the criminal justice system, namely courts, forensic laboratories, police and prisons.

VII. Civil justice reforms

a) Improving the enforcement of contracts

Recognizing that timely enforcement of commercial contracts is one of the main factors that influence our ranking on the ease of doing business index, the Government has accorded a high priority to improving India’s performance in this area. Some of the measures being undertaken on priority basis for ensuring the timely and effective enforcement of commercial contracts involve exploring the possibility of setting up of specialized fast track courts/ tribunals at the subordinate level and specialized commercial divisions at the High Courts level to deal with the commercial cases and encouraging arbitration to resolve contractual disputes. This is in addition to the proposals that are being pursued for the adoption of information technology solutions and court and case management systems for handling such cases. The Law Commission of India has recently submitted its 253rd Report on Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts and Commercial Courts Bill, 2015 containing their recommendations on speedy disposal of high value commercial suits. The report contains several valuable suggestions that are currently in the process of being examined by the Government.

Suggested actions and responsible agencies:

· The Law Commission Department of Legal Affairs and the Legislative Department are vested with the responsibility of looking into issues relating to civil procedure. They may therefore be requested to consider the recommendations made by the Law Commission in their 253rd report at the earliest.

b) Settlement of disputes at pre-litigation stage

Very often parties may be able to resolve the contractual differences between them through direct negotiations, without resorting to any formal or informal dispute resolution mechanisms. The Law Commission of India made a pertinent recommendation in this regard in its 221st Report on the Need for Speedy Trial. The Commission referred to Section 80 of the CPC which requires that a litigant who proposes to initiate legal proceedings against the State or a public officer must give two months’ advance written notice to the concerned party and suggested that a similar provision should be introduced for all categories of civil cases. A provision of this nature is already seen in Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, which provides that a claim for dishonour of cheque can only arise after the claimant has issued prior written notice to the drawer of the cheque and the drawer has failed to make the payment of the relevant amount within fifteen days of the receipt of the notice.

Adopting such a provision with respect of all civil cases will help in curtailing unnecessary litigation as many parties may choose to settle the cases even prior to the initiation of formal legal proceedings. A provision of this nature would however need to be subject to an exception for urgent matters where the Court can dispense with the notice after hearing reasons for the urgency.

Suggested actions and responsible agencies:

· The Department of Legal Affairs and Legislative Department may explore the possibility of introducing legislative changes to introduce a requirement of mandatory notice to the opposite party before initiation of legal proceedings. This will help in curtailing unnecessary litigation as many parties may choose to settle the cases even prior to the initiation of formal legal proceedings.

c) Promoting use of ADR mechanisms

Promoting the widespread use of alternate dispute resolution (ARD) mechanisms such as mediation, conciliation, arbitration and lok adalats is an effective means of settling disputes without resorting to the formal litigation process. This can help ease the burden of courts, reduce pendency and ensure speedy delivery of justice. The organization of Lok Adalats for the amicable settlement of disputes in a timely and cost effective manner is the responsibility of the National Legal Services Authority and State and District Legal Services Authorities that have been established under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.

The concept of ADR has now become an integral part of the CPC with the insertion of Section 89. In this context, it would be pertinent to refer to the decisions of the Supreme Court in Salem Advocates Bar Association v. Union of India[10] and in Afcons Infrastructure Ltd. v. Cherian Varkey Construction Pvt. Ltd.[11] Through these decisions the Court held that after referring a matter to the admissions and denials, courts should direct the parties to opt for one of the modes of ADR specified in Section 89. Courts may mandatorily refer certain categories of matters for resolution through certainly modes of ADR, namely, mediation, judicial settlement and lok adalats.

In October, 2014 the Minister for Law and Justice wrote to the Chief Justices of all High Courts in October, 2014 stressing on the need for effective utilization of ADR mechanisms in civil cases. He inter alia suggested that High Courts may consider giving additional credit points to judicial officers/ judges in their performance appraisal for settling disputes through ADR mechanisms. Further, the National Mission has also written to the High Courts requesting them to share detailed information regarding the extent to which courts in their jurisdiction are utilizing Section 89 of CPC, the available infrastructural facilities for this purpose and any bottlenecks being faced in this regard.

The 13th Finance Commission allocated funds of Rs. 600 crores for the setting up of ADR centers at court complexes at the district level. It is estimated that about 300 ADR centres will be set up by March, 2015 using these funds. Further, funds have also been allocated for the training of judicial officers and advocates in each district as mediators/ conciliators. ADR centers are also being included as a part of the design of all new court complexes that are being built.

Recently, the Law Commission of India undertook a comprehensive review of the working of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (Arbitration Act) to encourage speedy disposal of civil matters especially commercial matters through arbitration with minimum cost and intervention.[12] The Commission has recommended various amendments to the Arbitration Act aimed at ensuring that the arbitration process is conducted expeditiously and effectively. Following this, the Cabinet has already approved a Bill to amend the Arbitration Act and it is proposed to be introduced in the Parliament in the next session.

Suggested actions and responsible agencies:

· High Courts need to be urged to promote the use of Section 89, CPC by district and subordinate courts in this jurisdiction so that more and more cases can be resolved without resorting to the formal adjudication system.

· Amendments to the Arbitration Act need to be brought about at the earliest possible. This is the responsibility of the Department of Legal Affairs / Legislative Department.

d) Reforms in service of summons

Delay in service of summons is a major hurdle in the speedy delivery of justice. Certain amendments have already been made to the CPC to address this issue. In addition to the legislative changes, the National Mission had requested High Courts and State Governments to consider measures such as a one-time collection of process fee, clubbing of process fee with the court fee, and the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) systems for service of process. Several High Courts have responded positively to the suggestion on collection of one time process fee by stating that they have either implemented or are in the process of considering such measures.[13] As regards the suggestion on adoption of ICT, it is noted that a majority of High Courts are yet to formalize and adopt ICT tools for the purpose of expediting process service. There are however certain exceptions, such as the High Courts of Madhya Pradesh, Bombay and Tripura that have already taken positive steps towards the use of ICT systems. Given that the efforts to make courts more ICT enabled have been ongoing for several years now, there is an urgent need for States and High Courts to act expeditiously on this issue.

Suggested actions and responsible agencies:

· High Courts may be requested to urgently adopt systems for use of ICT in the service of process and to consider other measures such as one-time payment of process fee that can help in the expeditious disposal of cases.

VIII. Proper implementation of procedural laws

A series of amendments have been made to procedural laws in the recent past to enable the expeditious disposal of criminal and civil cases. These include, amendment of Section 309, CrPC to discourage unnecessary adjournments; amendment of Section 320, CrPC to rationalise the list of compoundable offences; insertion of a new Chapter XXIA on plea bargaining; insertion of Section 436A for release of undertrial prisoners who have undergone half of the maximum imprisonment; and amendments to Sections 161(3), 164 and 275 of CrPC to allow use of audio/video technology in criminal proceedings.

In case of civil trails, relevant amendments to the CPC include provisions to impose limit on the number of adjournments that may be granted to each party to three times and imposition of costs for adjournments;[14] allowing service of summons using courier services or directly through the plaintiff;[15] providing for dismissal of suit where summons are not served in consequence of plaintiffs’ failure to pay costs; [16] and limiting the time limit for filing of written statement by the defendant.[17]

It is noted that the desired impact of these legislative changes has not yet been fully realized on account of the non-implementation of these provisions by subordinate courts. Observations of this nature have also been made by the Supreme Court in various cases. In the case of State of Gujarat vs. Kishanbai[18] the Supreme Court expressed its concerns on the glaring lapses observed in the investigation of the case as well as the inconsistencies found in the evidence produced by prosecution. In its judgment, the Supreme Court gave certain directions to streamline the procedure for criminal investigation and prosecution. In the context of civil trials, the Supreme Court has issued a very important set of directions in the Ramrameshwari Devi case[19] to prevent the abuse of the judicial system by filing of frivolous applications and to guide trial courts on the steps to be taken while dealing with civil cases.

Besides the delays caused at the trial court stage, the problem of indiscriminate use of writ jurisdiction and multiple levels of appeals also leads to delays in the final disposal of cases.

Suggested actions and responsible agencies:

· As the administrative control over subordinate courts vests with the relevant High Courts, monitoring the implementation of the provisions aimed at expeditious disposal of cases and fixing accountability for delays is the responsibility of the judiciary.

IX. Addressing areas prone to excessive litigation

The National Mission is looking into the areas of law that are prone to excessive litigation and considering suitable policy and legislative measures that may be adopted to curb such litigation. For instance, a large number of cases relating to dishonor of cheques are currently pending before courts under the NI Act. An Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) was constituted to suggest measures to deal with the large number of pending cases of this nature, which suggested measures such as, promoting the use of ADR mechanisms; adoption of summary procedure by courts dealing with these cases; and encouragement of electronic modes of payment to reduce the overall number of disputes. The Department of Financial Services has accepted the broad recommendations of the IMG and has moved the necessary proposal for amendment of NI Act, which is now pending before the Department of Legislative Affairs at the Ministry of Law and Justice. Certain issues in this regard have been raised by the Department of Legal Affairs. The next step would be for the Department of Legislative Affairs and the Department of Legal Affairs to resolve any pending issues regarding the draft bill on an urgent basis so that the same may be tabled before the Parliament for approval.

Policy and legislative changes are also being considered to tackle the large number of cases that are pending under the MV Act and to actively promote computerised systems for payment of challans. Recently, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has prepared a draft Road Transport & Safety Bill 2014 with a vision to provide a framework for safer, faster, cost effective and inclusive movement of passengers and freight in the country. The Bill provides for the use of technological solutions for monitoring and enforcement of traffic violations, which will increase transparency and at the same time reduce scope for invalid contestation of challans by traffic violators. This, coupled with the creation of systems for online collection of fines for violation of traffic rules, will result in speedier disposal of traffic challan cases.

In its 245th Report the Law Commission has noted that special courts may be established for dealing with traffic and police challan cases involving fines only. These special courts can function in morning and evening shifts and as much of their work is likely to require very little judicial involvement, they can be presided over by recent law graduates appointed on ad-hoc basis instead of regular judges. Further, the Law Commission noted that providing online facilities for the payment of fines or separate counter facilities in court premises for this purpose will also help in easing the work load of these courts.

Suggested actions and responsible agencies:

· The proposal for amending the NI Act to promote the use of ADR mechanisms to deal with such cases can go a long way in reducing the burden of courts. It would therefore be advisable to resolve any pending issues regarding the draft bill on an urgent basis so that the same may be tabled before the Parliament for approval. This matter is to be taken up by the Department of Legal Affairs and the Legislative Department.

· The Draft Road Transport and Safety Bill, 2014 proposes the use of electronic means for the enforcement of road safety and traffic regulations. Better enforcement coupled with computerised systems for payment of traffic challans will help in reducing the number of traffic violation related cases pending before courts. The introduction of this Bill needs to be pursued by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.

X. National Court Management System

A comprehensive National Court Management Systems (NCMS) was formulated and notified by the Supreme Court in May, 2012. The action plan for NCMS inter alia provides for the preparation of:

a. A National Framework of Court Excellence (NFCE), which shall set measurable standards of performance for courts addressing the issues of quality, responsiveness and timeliness.

b. A monitoring mechanism to enhance the performance parameters, as established in the NFCE.

c. A Case Management System (CMS) to ensure the user friendliness of the judicial process to the stakeholders.

d. A National System of Judicial Statistics (NSJS) to provide a common national platform for recording and maintaining judicial statistics across the country.

e. A Court Development Plan System (CDPS) to provide a framework for a Five Year Plan for future development of the judiciary.

f. A Human Resource Development Strategy (HRDS) for standards of selection and training of judges in the subordinate courts.

The administrative and technological backbone of these systems will be maintained at the Supreme Court and overseen by a NCMS Committee with the advice of an Advisory Committee headed by the senior-most Judge of the Supreme Court. As per the decision of Advisory Committee, the NCMS Committee has formed five sub-committees in the areas of NCFE, CMS, NFCE, NSJS and CDPS. Out of five sub-committees, four sub-committees, except sub-committee on NSJS have submitted their reports. These reports are presently under consideration. Treating these reports as baseline studies, policy guidelines are proposed to be formulated on each of the elements and objectives of NCMS.

Suggested actions and responsible agencies:

· NCMS may be requested to formulate their guides in the areas listed above and disseminate the same to the High Courts for the adoption of implementable solutions.

XI. National and State litigation policies

As the Government and its various agencies are the pre-dominant litigants in most court cases, prioritizing the cases to be pursued by the Government and the manner in which those cases are conducted can significantly contribute towards saving valuable court time. With this objective, the Ministry of Law and Justice drafted a National Litigation Policy in 2010 to guide the Government in acting as an efficient and responsible litigant but this draft could not be notified. The Department has now reformulated the draft National Litigation Policy 2014 with broadened objectives and scope and the same is going to be placed before the Cabinet soon for their approval. Similar Litigation Policies have also been formulated and notified by the State Governments for reducing government litigation.

The proper implementation of these policies at the National and State level can help in significantly reducing the number of pending cases in courts. In this regard, a ten-point action plan for effective implementation of State Litigation Policies was evolved during the National Consultation with State Governments and High Courts in December, 2013. States have accordingly been requested to undertake a Mission Mode Campaign for the reduction of government litigation and to share details of the success of this campaign during the period from July-December, 2014.

In addition, many States have adopted Right to Service legislations that guarantee time bound delivery of public services and help in increasing transparency and public accountability. The grievance redress mechanisms contained in these laws allow citizens to file complaints against non-delivery of service and to that extent are beneficial for reducing the burden that would otherwise be case upon civil courts. A bill titled The Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011, which seeks to create a similar mechanism at the central level is currently pending in Parliament.

Suggested actions and responsible agencies:

· Proper implementation of National and State litigation policies will also contribute towards saving valuable court time. It is therefore important that the National litigation policy be approved and implemented at the earliest. This matter is in the domain of the Department of Legal Affairs.

· States that have not yet given proper effect to their litigation policies should be motivated to do so. The impact of State Litigation Policies on reducing government litigations will also need to be assessed.

XII. Bar reforms

Our currently litigation system is largely advocate driven rather than being driven by the courts. While on the one hand this needs to be addressed through proper training and sensitization of judges, on the other, there is also a need to bring about appropriate reforms in the Bar. There is therefore an urgent need to engage with the Bar for bringing about reforms to improve the standards and practices of the Bar and to make it more service oriented and transparent.

A robust regulatory mechanism to monitor the conduct of members of the legal profession will help in the proper implementation of the legal provisions aimed at expeditious disposal of cases. In this regard, the Department of Legal Affairs had drafted the Law Practitioners (Regulation and Maintenance of Standards in Profession, Protecting the Interests of Clients and Promoting Rule of Law) Bill, 2010 to regulate the activities of legal practitioners. The draft Bill provides for the creation of a Legal Services Board with the power to issue guidelines to ensure that the activities of practitioners are conducted in a manner that is transparent, accountable, proportionate and consistent. It also proposes the creation of an ombudsman to deal with consumer complaints pertaining to legal services.

Suggested actions and responsible agencies:

· The Department of Legal Affairs may be requested to engage with the Bar to identify the required Bar reforms, including developing a comprehensive code of conduct for legal practitioners.

XIII. Rationalization of court fees

As per the specific entry on Court fees mentioned in Entry 3 of List II (State List) of Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India, the subject of court fees payable in all courts (except the Supreme Court) is a State subject and only State Legislatures are competent to enact or amend any law on Court fees payable in High Courts and Subordinate Courts.

The Law Commission of India has undertaken several studies in the recent past on the subject of ‘Court Fees’. The Law commission of India in its 189th report on ‘Revision of Court Fees Structure’ observed that the Court Fees Act, 1870 is an antiquated legislation and the rate of court fees payable has not been revised since a long period of time even though the value of rupee has considerably declined. The Commission was of the view that ad valorem court fees need not be revised in as much as the court fee will be paid in proportion to the value of the claim which in any event would reflect the enhanced value of the claim after inflation.

The Law Commission in its 220th Report on ‘Need to Fix Maximum Chargeable Court Fees in Subordinate Civil Courts’ recommended that there should be some measure of uniformity in the scales of court-fees. There is no justification for any differential treatment of different suitors. The Commission recommended that the Government should seriously consider the feasibility of a fixed maximum chargeable court-fee.

Suggested actions and responsible agencies:

· State Governments are responsible for decisions relating to the subject of court fees payable in all courts other than the Supreme Court.

XIV. Pendency reduction campaigns

A pendency reduction campaign was initiated for the first time in July, 2011. High Courts were requested to prioritize the disposal of cases that had been pending for a long duration, particularly those relating to senior citizens and marginalized sections of society. In 2012 the focus of the campaign was to make the judicial system free of cases that were over five years old. Pendency reduction campaign in 2013 focused on weeding out ineffective and infructuous cases from the judicial system.

Vide a letter dated 20th June, 2014 sent by the Minister, Law and Justice, the attention of High Courts was drawn to the need for speedy disposal of court cases, including by organising pendency reduction campaigns and Mega Lok Adalats in district and subordinate courts. Several High Courts responded in a positive way and shared their inputs on the various measures adopted by them. In general, the information provided by them shows that they have undertaken the task of identifying areas of high litigation and formulating various mechanisms for speedy disposal of cases. Special pendency reduction campaigns have been resorted to by several High Courts for dealing with specific categories of cases, such as those under NI Act, MV Act and cases that have pending for more than five years. In addition, consistent organization of lok adalats and mega lok adalats is noted by some as an effective mode of pendency reduction.

As a result of concerted efforts made by various stakeholders for reduction of pendency and delays in the disposal of cases, the overall pendency in subordinate courts has declined marginally from 2.77 crore in 2010 to 2.68 crore in 2013. Further, there has been a significant reduction in the number of cases which are more than five years old and their overall percentage in the total pendency has declined from 26 per cent in 2010 to 22 per cent in 2013.

Suggested actions and responsible agencies:

· High Courts may be requested to continue their pendency reduction drives and other initiatives for addressing areas of high litigation and disposal of long-pending cases.

XV. Summary of recommendations

Increasing judicial strength and filling up of vacancies

· State Governments and High Courts are responsible for taking actions relating to increase in judicial strength and filling up of vacancies in district and subordinate courts. The implementation of the ‘rate of disposal’ method will help create an institutionalized mechanism for determination of adequate judicial strength required in various States.

· High Courts need to put in place a streamlined mechanism for identification of current and anticipated vacancies in subordinate courts, as per the process suggested by the Supreme Court in the Malik Mazhar Sultan case. State Governments, State Public Service Commissions and High Courts will then need to take the necessary steps for the timely filling up of the identified vacancies.

· The bottlenecks faced in the timely filling of vacancies need to be addressed jointly by the High Courts and State Public Service Commissions. The possibility of adding some flexibility in the recruitment rules for subordinate court judges may also be considered.

· All newly selected judicial officers are required to undergo a training program as a result of which a commensurate number of courts cannot be operationalized despite on-going recruitment exercises. Creation of adequate number of posts for ‘training reserves’ can help in addressing this issue. High Courts may assess the appropriate number of training reserves required at different levels following which action for the creation of those posts may be taken by the State Governments.

Training of judicial officers and other stakeholders

· The National Judicial Academy and State Judicial Academies, which are responsible for judicial training and continuing judicial education, may be requested to:

i. also provide training to other stakeholders in the judicial system, such as advocates, prosecutors, investigators, etc.

ii. undertake specialized training programs for judges on specific areas such as criminal laws, commercial laws, intellectual property laws, with active participation from well-established practitioners in these areas.

iii. consider adopting a specialized academic program on the subjects of judicial management, judicial administration, research and training to help create a pool of trained judicial trainers and professional court managers.

· In order to facilitate the selection of eligible candidates as judicial officers, High Court and State Public Service Commission, may coordinate with judicial academies and law universities to impart necessary skills, knowledge and continuing legal education to fresh graduates and practicing advocates interested in appearing for judicial service examinations.

· High Courts may consider initiating management training programs for judicial officers and other court staff in collaboration with judicial academies and reputed management institutions, in case they have not already done so.

Judicial infrastructure and budgetary planning

· High Courts are responsible for the preparation of timely proposals for the maintenance and development of judicial infrastructure. State Governments bear the primary responsibility of infrastructure development for the subordinate judiciary and the Central Government augments the resources needed for this purpose.

· The requirement of organized and timely preparation of Vision Statements and Court Development Plans by High Courts should be formalized. This will enable proper infrastructure planning so that funds for setting up of adequate court facilities and residential premises and meeting other judicial expenses can be organised. State Governments should then dispense the required funds as per the development plans and annual budgets provided by High Courts. There is also a need for the creation of appropriate accountability mechanisms, to monitor the utilisation of the allocated funds and the progress made using the same.

· High Courts may be requested to factor in the elements of judicial exclusion and access to justice, as per the recommendations of the Srikrishna Deva Rao Committee, while preparing their Vision Statements and Court Development Plans.

· To ensure the proper development of detailed plans, appropriate training programs for the officers of the High Courts and lower courts may be organized by the Judicial Academies through prominent institutions dealing with issues relating to planning and public finance.

Computerization for process automation and effective court/case management

· Timely completion of computerization of subordinate courts followed by digitization of documents and real-time availability of judicial statistics will go a long way in enhancing transparency and accountability in our legal system. It will also encourage more insightful research and studies on various issues relating to judicial administration.

· The Department of Justice, National Informatics Center and the Supreme Court e-Committee are the nodal agencies for the eCourts Mission Mode Project. The actual implementation of the computerization and digitization initiatives is however being done by the High Courts.

· Judicial process re-engineering to be undertaken by High Courts by streamlining and improvising current court processes, eliminating redundant processes and designing new processes with respect to making court processes ICT enabled.

· Procedural laws may be amended to incorporate the suggestions of having audio-video recording of court proceedings and maintaining standard system generated formats of routine judgments and orders.

Pre-trial hearing and case management systems

· The Department of Legal Affairs and the Legislative Department are vested with the responsibility of looking into issues relating to the CPC and any amendments to it. They may therefore be requested to consider the recommendations made by the Law Commission in their 253rd report and explore the possibility of extending these suggestions to all civil cases.

· The Law Commission is currently carrying out a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system. Any changes that may be required to the law based on their recommendations will be the responsibility of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Department of Legal Affairs and the Legislative Department.

Criminal justice reforms

· The Law Commission may be requested to expedite their work on criminal justice reforms so that appropriate legislative measures to bring about reforms in the criminal justice system can be adopted at the earliest. Any changes that may be required to the law based on the recommendations of the Law Commission will be the responsibility of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Department of Legal Affairs and the Legislative Department.

· The Ministry of Home Affairs may be requested to take up the cause of creating a system for achieving interoperability among the various components of the criminal justice system, namely courts, forensic laboratories, police and prisons.

Civil justice reforms

· The Law Commission Department of Legal Affairs and the Legislative Department are vested with the responsibility of looking into issues relating to civil procedure. They may therefore be requested to consider the recommendations made by the Law Commission in their 253rd report at the earliest.

· The Department of Legal Affairs and Legislative Department may explore the possibility of introducing legislative changes to introduce a requirement of mandatory notice to the opposite party before initiation of legal proceedings. This will help in curtailing unnecessary litigation as many parties may choose to settle the cases even prior to the initiation of formal legal proceedings.

· High Courts need to be urged to promote the use of Section 89, CPC by district and subordinate courts in this jurisdiction so that more and more cases can be resolved without resorting to the formal adjudication system.

· Amendments to the Arbitration Act need to be brought about at the earliest possible. This is the responsibility of the Department of Legal Affairs / Legislative Department.

· High Courts may be requested to urgently adopt systems for use of ICT in the service of process and to consider other measures such as one-time payment of process fee that can help in the expeditious disposal of cases.

· A series of amendments have been made to procedural laws in the recent past to enable the expeditious disposal of cases. As the administrative control over subordinate courts vests with the relevant High Courts, monitoring the implementation of the provisions aimed at expeditious disposal of cases and fixing accountability for delays is the responsibility of the judiciary.

Addressing areas prone to excessive litigation

· The proposal for amending the NI Act to promote the use of ADR mechanisms to deal with dishonor of cheque cases can go a long way in reducing the burden of courts. It would therefore be advisable to resolve any pending issues regarding the draft bill on an urgent basis so that the same may be tabled before the Parliament for approval. This matter is to be taken up by the Department of Legal Affairs and the Legislative Department.

· The Draft Road Transport and Safety Bill, 2014 proposes the use of electronic means for the enforcement of road safety and traffic regulations. Better enforcement coupled with computerised systems for payment of traffic challans will help in reducing the number of traffic violation related cases pending before courts. The introduction of this Bill needs to be pursued by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.

National Court Management System

· NCMS may be requested to formulate their guides in the areas listed above and disseminate the same to the High Courts for the adoption of implementable solutions.

National and State litigation policies

· Proper implementation of National and State litigation policies will also contribute towards saving valuable court time. It is therefore important that the National litigation policy be approved and implemented at the earliest. This matter is in the domain of the Department of Legal Affairs.

· States that have not yet given proper effect to their litigation policies should be motivated to do so. The impact of State Litigation Policies on reducing government litigations will also need to be assessed.

Bar reforms

· The Department of Legal Affairs may be requested to engage with the Bar to identify the required Bar reforms, including developing a comprehensive code of conduct for legal practitioners.

Rationalization of court fees

· State Governments are responsible for decisions relating to the subject of court fees payable in all courts other than the Supreme Court.

Pendency reduction campaigns

· High Courts may be requested to continue their pendency reduction drives and other initiatives for addressing areas of high litigation and disposal of long-pending cases.

The above recommendations consist of a holistic set of proposals for various legislative, administrative and policy initiatives that are deemed necessary for achieving the goal of reducing pendency and ensuring the expeditious disposal of civil and criminal cases. The adoption of timelines for the disposal of different categories of cases without the creation of a conducive judicial environment to meet those timelines would not be feasible. It is therefore important for all the identified stakeholders, such as courts at all levels, various Ministries and Departments in the Central Government, State Governments and members of the Bar, to cooperate with one another for carrying out the reforms aimed at the timely delivery of justice.

[1] All India Judges’ Association v. Union of India, AIR 2002 SC 1752.

[2] Order dated 4.1.2007 in Malik Mazhar Sultan v. U.P. Public Service Commission, available at http://judis.nic.in/temp/186720065412007p.txt.

[3]Brij Mohan Lal v. Union of India, (2012) 6 SCC 502.

[4] Imtiyaz Ahmad v. State of U.P. and Ors, AIR 2012 SC 642.

[5] Legal60, Difference Between Hearing And Trial, available at:

<https://legal60.com/difference-between-hearing-and-trial/>, accessed on 30/01/2022.

[6] (2011) 8 SCC 249.

[7] AIR2002SC1856.

[8] Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System headed by Dr. Justice V.S. Malimath, March 2003.

[9] Law Commission of India, 239th Report on “Expeditious Investigation and Trial of Criminal Cases against Influential Public Personalities”.

[10] AIR 2003 SC 189.

[11] (2010) 8 SCC 24.

[12] 246th Report, Law Commission of India, “Amendment to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996”.

[13] Bombay High Court has already amended its process fee rules to charge a one-time process fee. The proposal is also under active consideration by the High Courts of Rajasthan, Allahabad, Delhi, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Patna and Allahabad.

[14] Order XVII Rules 1 and 2, CPC.

[15] Order V Rule 9 and 9A, CPC.

[16] Order IX Rule 2, CPC.

[17] Order VIII, Rule 1, CPC.

[18] Criminal Appeal No. 1485 of 2008.

[19] Ramrameshwari Devi v. Nirmala Devi, (2011) 8 SCC 249.

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