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Better efficiency in our courts

In India, the wheels of justice turn slowly. Fortunately, this problem has recently gained the attention of the national media after an impassioned appeal by the Chief Justice of India to the government last to strengthen the judiciary and clear all pending files relating to judicial appointments. On Sunday, the CJI reiterated his position. The country requires more than 70,000 judges now to clear the mounting backlog of cases, Chief Justice of India TS Thakur said. Continuing to express concern over the low judge-population ratio in the country, Justice Thakur said that access to justice was a fundamental right and governments cannot afford to deny it to the people. Millions of undertrials are suffering in jails across the country without a court date while many civil litigants endlessly wait for justice. 

The massive backlog of cases in the judicial system is a fundamental problem. In his appeal, the CJI had urged his fellow judges to consider cutting down on vacation time and use the additional time to clear long pending cases. The courts are closed for extended periods of time during the long summer months. With due deference to the CJI’s plea and common sense, this practice must stop.

Fortunately, some courts have decided to cut short their summer break voluntarily. For example, the Allahabad High Court has decided to cut short their summer vacation and conduct special hearings to clear long-pending cases. Nonetheless, such practices should be institutionalised and implemented for all courts. The CJI has also decided to reappoint retired judges on an ad-hoc basis to make up for the current shortage. “Compulsory video recording of proceedings of all courts is another step which will help ensure that judicial time is not wasted, besides having several other valuable benefits for litigants and justice dispensation and should also be implemented immediately,” according to Prashant Bhushan, a noted jurist and convenor of the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms.  

Since 1987, when the Law Commission had recommended an increase in the number of judges from then 10 judges per 10 lakh people to 50, nothing has moved. “The numbers when it comes to case pendency in India’s courts is mind-boggling,” according to a recent report in Scroll.in. “Five crore cases are filed every day – while only 2 crore cases are disposed of by the judiciary. That’s a backlog of 3 crore cases, every day.” 
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