New Delhi,19 Apr:The Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh said that there is a need to increase the number of judicial officers and upgrade judicial infrastructure to bring down the number of pendency of cases in various courts of the country. Dr Singh was speaking at the Conference of Chief Ministers & Chief Justices of High Courts in New Delhi today. Following is the text of Prime Minister’s Speech:
“It gives me great pleasure to be here in your midst once again, at this important Conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of High Courts. I am grateful to the Chief Justice of India and my colleague Shri Bharadwaj-ji for taking the initiative to organize this important conference.
Our roles in the processes of governance have been defined by our magnificent Constitution. But, how we translate theory into practice is influenced both by our own conduct and by the extant social and political environment that prevails in our country. Hence, it is necessary for us to talk to each other, from time to time, to ensure that we are indeed fulfilling our respective role assigned to us by the Constitution and, at the same time, meet the hopes and aspirations of our people.
In all the previous Conferences, the issue of pendency of cases in the Courts has figured very prominently. Let me, therefore, re-iterate at the very outset that this continues to remain a key challenge before us. Various Committees of Parliament have time and again emphasized the need to urgently redress this situation. The press and electronic media have also been highlighting the large number of cases pending for too long periods of time. We must work together to bring an end to this era of delayed justice. For, justice delayed can often mean justice denied.
I am aware that leaders of judiciary as well as the Union Ministry of Law and Justice are alive to this issue and sensitive to the problems that arise as a consequence. They have been taking a variety of measures to see to it that pendency comes down. But I am informed by the Ministry, that despite this a larger number of cases are being registered than the number of cases being disposed off. Pendency will, therefore, continue to increase unless special measures are taken to liquidate the pending cases at a much faster pace.
One of the solutions that have been suggested is to increase the number of judicial officers and judges in the High Courts and the Supreme Court. There is clearly merit in this and the Central Government has taken steps to increase the number of judges of High Courts. Recently 152 new posts of High Court judges have been created and an increase in the number of judges in the Supreme Court is also being undertaken.
The Central Government has also drawn the attention of the State Governments to the need to urgently increase the strength of judicial officers at district and subordinate levels. Some of the State Governments do recognize this and have taken measures in this direction. Others would and should also need to do so.
Apart from increasing the number of judicial functionaries, we must also upgrade the existing infrastructure. Many court buildings and complexes have not seen any expansion since the time they were originally built. This has contributed to a severe congestion in courts and our court premises in many places have a sorry look about them. The Central Government is willing to help State Governments in constructing new court buildings and residential accommodation for judges. I also urge those responsible for maintenance of court premises to take steps that restore to the judiciary the majesty we would like our people to associate with it.
I believe there have been some delays in the utilization of funds provided by the Central Government to the States. I urge Hon’ble Chief Ministers to personally address this problem and ensure speedy implementation of modernization of judicial infrastructure.
The other obvious way of dealing with the problem of pendency lies in improving the efficiency of the system on a continuing basis. This can be done by developing more effectively the human resource potential and use of technology. I am informed that the National Judicial Academy at Bhopal has been engaged in upgrading the quality of judicial training. I hope the best possible training is being provided. State Governments and High Courts may wish to consider integrating the facilities available at the National Judicial Academy with those available at the State Judicial Academics.
Training can be a very effective tool for upgradation of skills and capabilities of judicial officers and others in the legal profession. Many of the National Law Schools that have been set up have earned a reputation for good quality training. But we must continuously focus on quality upgradation and keep in step with evolving world standards in this area. India has undoubtedly the potential to provide world class professionals in the legal profession and we must aspire to do so. We therefore need a broad, viable national strategy for legal and judicial training that will place India firmly on the global map in the field of legal services.
Our Government took the initiative to introduce the Gram Nyayalayas Bill, 2007, to strengthen rural capacity. The Bill envisages setting up of more trial courts at the intermediate Panchayat level. These courts would provide justice in relatively simple civil and criminal cases in rural areas. The procedure has also been made simple so that justice is available within 90 days. It is also envisaged that the courts would function in a manner that justice can be delivered at the door step of the justice seeker. Over 5000 such courts are expected to be established.
I assure this august gathering that the Central Government will provide the required funds for Gram Nyayalayas. I sincerely hope that they do contribute to reduction of arrears and pending of cases in higher courts. The key to their success will be the ability of those manning these courts to inspire confidence in the people. If justice can indeed be delivered at the doorstep, who would then want to travel long distances in the search of justice?
Pendency in courts can also be reduced through alternative measures for settlement of disputes. Many disputes can be settled through mediation and conciliation. The Chief Justice of India has taken an important initiative in constituting a Mediation and Conciliation Project Committee. I hope the process can move ahead speedily. The intention is to train advocates and judicial officers in the techniques of alternative dispute resolution. I assure you that the Central Government is prepared to support this initiative. I urge High Courts and Bar Councils to come forward and support this initiative of the Chief Justice with enthusiasm.
Apart from pendency and delayed justice, corruption is another challenge we face both in Government and the judiciary. The Chief Justice of India has written to me suggesting that we create special courts to deal with corruption cases. I agree that there is urgent need to do so. This will instill greater confidence in our justice delivery system, at home and abroad.
The Hon’ble Chief Justice of India has also written to me about the need for creation of more family courts. The Family Courts Act was enacted in 1984 for settlement of family disputes in a congenial atmosphere. It was aimed at adoption of a conciliatory approach in such cases, giving preference to mutual settlement over adjudication by court. It is the bounden duty of the Presiding Judge to make sincere efforts for mutual settlement of disputes before he decides to commence trial of a case.
The Family Courts Act 1984 mandates State Governments to establish Family Courts in urban areas with a population of over one million. Many State Governments have so far failed to discharge their legal obligation in this regard. As a result, many litigants, hailing mostly from socially and economically weaker sections of the society, have to travel long distance to seek redressal of their grievances. It is, therefore, necessary to set up at least one Family Court in each of these 465 districts. I urge State Governments to take prompt action in this regard.
The Hon’ble Chief Justice of India has expressed the view that the Central Government may consider stepping in to establish an adequate number of Family Courts. Since the Family Courts Act is a social welfare measure initiated by the Central Government, and, Article 247 of the Constitution enables Union Government to establish additional courts for better administration of laws made by Parliament or of any existing law with respect to a matter enumerated in the Union List, I believe we can accept the advise of the Hon’ble Chief Justice. The Central Government will therefore examine this issue carefully.
Rising public awareness and the growing importance of public opinion in our democratic polity make it imperative that we take cognizance of what people want and expect from our judicial delivery system. While the executive and judiciary have their independent roles and jurisdictions, we must work together in ensuring greater efficiency and speed of functioning of this system.
The Central Government is prepared to work with State Governments and the Courts to modernize the relevant infrastructure, to computerize processes and systems, and to provide alternative justice delivery systems that can help reduce the burden on the High Courts and the Supreme Court. Finding a solution to the problem at hand is not an issue. Implementing these solutions and inspiring confidence in our people is the real challenge we collectively face. I sincerely hope we can work together towards these ends. I wish your conference all success.