What is Judicial infrastructure? What is the Status of Judicial Infrastructure in India? Why does Judicial Infrastructure in India matters? What is the need for improvement of Judicial Infrastructure in India? How would National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation resolve the crisis? Read here to know more.
In the judiciary, there is a large infrastructure gap and a lack of accessibility to essential facilities.
Because no organization is in place to oversee the use of money designated to bolster the judicial infrastructure, there are gaps or weaknesses.
In this connection, the purpose of the brief is to assess the proposed National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation’s concept and how it may assist in resolving the ongoing problems.
What is Judicial Infrastructure?
In order to provide an adequate “judicial infrastructure,” access to justice must be both equal and free. A “barrier-free and citizen-friendly environment” could make this possible.
The physical locations of courts, tribunals, attorneys’ offices, and other judicial facilities are considered judicial infrastructure. It also involves the infrastructure for human and digital resources, including the accessibility of all the tools necessary to enable prompt justice distribution.
Status of Judicial Infrastructure in India
An all-India survey was conducted by the Chief Justice of India’s office to know the status of the Judicial Infrastructure in Trial Courts.
According to the survey, only 27% of courtrooms in the subordinate judiciary have computers on judges’ dais while there are still 10% of courts that do not have access to proper internet facilities.
22% of trial court complexes do not have toilet facilities for women, while 16% don’t have such a facility for men.
There are 620 court complexes that still operate from rented premises and only 54% of the total complexes have basic medical facilities.
- there are approximately 24,280 judicial officers in trial courts but only 20,143 court halls.
- About 55 percent of the trial courts surveyed have a separate room for the staff attached to judges while 54 percent are equipped with drinking water facilities.
- Only 55 percent of courts have centralized filing centers and 31 percent have meditation halls.
- Most court complexes also do not have a waiting area for litigants with only 33 percent of buildings with this facility.
Also read: History of Indian Judiciary
Why does Judicial Infrastructure in India matter?
- Better productivity: There is strong empirical support for the relationship between a functional judicial system and productivity in the administration of justice.
- Efficient performance: The link between a functioning legal system and efficiency in the administration of justice has substantial empirical backing.
- Reduced delay and backlogs: The adequacy of judicial infrastructure is a pre-condition for reducing delays and backlogs in cases. There is a direct connection between physical infrastructure, personnel infrastructure, digital infrastructure, and pendency.
- Essential during difficult times: The criticality of adequate judicial infrastructure, particularly the digital, was very much felt during the course of the pandemic when courts were forced to opt for virtual mode.
What are the reasons behind infrastructural lag?
- Lack of funds: One of the primary reasons for the infrastructural lag in trial courts is the lack of funds.
- To develop judicial infrastructure, funds are extended by the central government and states under the Centrally-Sponsored Scheme for Development of Judiciary Infrastructure, which began in 1993 and was extended for another five years in July 2021.
- However, states do not come forward with their share of funds and consequently, money allocated under the scheme is often left unspent with them and lapses.
- Underutilization of funds: Not only lack of funds, but underutilization of funds meant for specific judicial infrastructure projects does not help either.
- In some cases, they claimed, states have also transferred part of the fund for non-judicial purposes.
- Even in the judiciary, particularly trial courts, nobody is willing to take responsibility for executing infrastructure projects.
- Poor budgetary allocations: Even after more than seven decades of independence, the budgetary allocations, including states, are still below 1 percent of the GDP.
Also read: Women in Judiciary
What is the solution, then?
- The National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation has been proposed by CJI. It will serve as the focal point for advancements in infrastructure.
- The centrally supported program calls for both the federal and state governments to donate their respective portions of the monies to the NJIC, which will subsequently release the funds to the high courts in accordance with their specifications.
Genesis and Need of Judicial Infrastructure in India
Even before he assumed office, CJI Ramana initially put up the concept for such an organization in March of this year. A survey of 6,000 trial courts in different states was conducted as part of the CJI’s work on the National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation (NJIC) shortly after he was sworn in.
The main goal of NJIC is to keep state governments from having undue influence over HC chief justices, who frequently work on infrastructure-related projects in trial courts. The NJIC will be an “honest” organization that will keep an eye on how the job being paid for with cash is being carried out.
- To Manage the Funds:
- Of a total of Rs. 981.98 crores sanctioned in 2019-20 under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) to the States and Union Territories for the development of infrastructure in the courts, only Rs. 84.9 crores was utilized by a combined five States, rendering the remaining 91.36% funds unused.
- The issue has plagued the Indian judiciary for nearly three decades since the CSS was introduced in 1993-94.
- Manage a Rising Number of Litigations:
- The Indian judiciary’s infrastructure has not kept pace with the sheer number of litigations instituted every year.
- A point cemented by the fact that the total sanctioned strength of judicial officers in the country is 24,280, but the number of court halls available is just 20,143, including 620 rented halls.
- Greater Autonomy:
- The improvement and maintenance of judicial infrastructure are still being carried out in an ad-hoc and unplanned manner.
- The need for “financial autonomy of the judiciary” and the creation of the NJIAI will work as a central agency with a degree of autonomy.
How would National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation resolve the crisis?
- Speedy implementation: The National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation (NJIC)would act as a coordinating agency to speed up the works.
- End bureaucratic hurdles: It would include the CJI, judges of the Supreme Court, and high courts, finance secretaries of the Centre, and states concerned. It can quickly end bureaucratic hurdles and challenges of coordination amongst multiple bodies.
- Ensuring a smooth funding process: The proposed body is intended to monitor and address the issues of delay in land allotment, funds diversion for non-judicial purposes, and evasion of responsibilities by the high courts and trial courts, amongst others.
In India, the judicial infrastructure really needs a big push. In this regard, the NJIC can make critical interventions in key issues which are responsible for poor infrastructure and can open the doors for speedy resolution.
- The courts in India had repeatedly upheld the rights and freedoms of individuals and stood up whenever individuals or society were at the receiving end of executive excesses.
- If we want a different outcome from the judicial system, we cannot continue to work in these circumstances.
- Institutionalizing the mechanism for augmenting and creating state-of-the-art judicial infrastructure is the best gift we can give to our people and our country in this 75th year of our Independence.
- The CSS Scheme will increase the availability of well-equipped Court Halls and Residential Accommodations for Judges/Judicial Officers of District and Subordinate Courts all over the country.
- Setting up digital computer rooms will also improve digital capabilities and give impetus to the digitization initiation being pursued as a part of India’s Digital India vision.
Article written by Aseem Muhammed