The Judiciary has been constrained and hampered by the staggering number of pending cases which has worsened and complicated matters. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assurance to the Chief Justice of India J S Kehar that the Executive will share its burden has been widely seen as a positive gesture. It has the portends of bringing about a radically changed environment between the Executive and the Judiciary.
PM Modi drew attention to the use of technology and digitalisation in the judicial system which will facilitate reducing the backlog. He was speaking last Sunday on the second of April at a function marking the 150th anniversary of the Allahabad High Court.
There is one serious glitch if the lawyers refuse to cooperate even as it becomes incumbent on them to help tackle this humongous problem of ever increasing backlog of cases.
Lawyers must rise to the occasion rather than resorting to flimsy grounds and putting a spanner in the works. Genuine efforts must be made not only to tackle this issue hanging fire for an interminably long period but to provide justice to those suffering for decades for no fault of theirs.
Justice delayed is justice denied. Sadly a legion of people have died waiting for the courts to decide their cases and render justice. The unjustifiable methods adopted including the obnoxious tendency of lawyers seeking repeated adjournments on flimsy grounds has been highly frustrating for the litigant.
At one point of time the previous CJI Justice T S Thakur had highlighted the delay in appointment of judges at public functions as well as during judicial hearings. At one point he wondered if the government wanted to bring the judiciary to a grinding halt by its reluctance to fill up vacancies.
The Prime Minister’s latest remark of the Executive joining hands with the Judiciary should go a long way in providing a healing touch. The gravity of the problem of backlog of cases cannot be wished away. Use of technology can help in both liquidating the arrears along with expediting filing of documents and serving notices.
There are indications that the government and Supreme Court Collegium might be close to reaching an understanding about a new Memorandum of Procedure for judicial appointments. If an understanding is reached on the MOP then the serious crunch of filling up the direly needed judicial vacancies at various levels can be speeded up.
Appointment of judges coupled with filling up of vacancies and perking up the infrastructural facilities remains crucial to the speedy disposal of the backlog of cases. There were 437 vacancies in the High Courts alone on March first, 2017. Then there are the subordinate courts. There is no doubt great urgency and speed will have to be shown in making these judicial appointments.
There are nearly 2.2 crore cases pending in the courts all over the country. Showing the way, 15 of the 28 Supreme Court judges have agreed to skip the summer vacations. Earlier, Jthe CJI had himself set an example. He did not break for summer heading a Constitution Bench hearing the National Judicial Appointments Committee case. Whether the High Court judges follow suit remains to be seen.
It is suggested that the Centre and the States can prepare their own lists of obsolete laws and wield the axe. Frivolous cases needs to be deterred. Then there is the issue of Lawyers going on strike as evidenced on March 31 amid efforts to discipline them. They would harm their own interests if they fail to self regulate.
At some stage outside intervention cannot to avoided. The days are not far away when institutions and parties might become the target if they fail to deliver.
On its part the apex court is shedding its opposition to transparency by consenting to the proceedings being recorded. The process of reforms undertaken by CJI Kehar must be supported by the Modi government and those outside it.
(T R Ramachandran is a senior journalist and commentator. The views are personal.)