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Upgradation of Judicial Infrastructure

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May 04, 2022

What is the issue?

The proposal by the CJI for a National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation (NJIC) with corresponding bodies at the State level, did not find favour with many Chief Ministers at the recent joint conference.

Why judicial infrastructure matters?

  • Judicial infrastructure includes the physical premises of courts, tribunals, lawyers’ chambers, and so on.
  • It also involves the digital and human resources infrastructure, including the availability of all the resources.
  • Efficiency- Adequate and quality judicial infrastructure is the basic pre-requisite for judicial officers to efficiently perform their responsibilities while dispensing justice.
  • Reduction in backlogs- Adequacy of judicial infrastructure is a pre-condition for reducing delay and backlogs in cases.
  • Budget- Budgetary allocation for state judiciary often lapses since there is no independent body to supervise and execute works related to improving court premises.
  • Inclusion- The basic idea behind NJIC was not to leave HC chief justices who mostly undertake infrastructure-related projects in trial courts at the mercy of state governments.

Only 27% of courtrooms in the subordinate judiciary have computers on judges’ dias while there are still 10% courts that do not have access to proper internet facilities.

What will be the model NJIC framework be like?

  • NJIC will be a special purpose vehicle for funding, executing and supervisory agency for development works.
  • While the NJIC will be the nodal agency for infrastructural developments, it will not be involved in judicial appointments in trial courts.
  • According to the CJI’s proposal, both the central and state governments will contribute their share of funds to the NJIC, which will then release the finances to the high courts.
  • The structure of the corporation is likely to be modelled on the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), a national body based in Delhi that provides free legal services.
  • At the national level, the CJI will be the patron of the NJIC which includes other members as well.
  • Each state is likely to have a local corporation which will be led by the state HC chief justice along with a senior judge and senior state government bureaucrats to ensure regular interaction between the judiciary and the executive.
  • The NJIC will not suggest any major policy change but will give complete freedom to HCs to come up with projects to strengthen ground-level courts.

26% of court complexes do not have separate ladies toilets and 16% do not have gents toilets.

What lies ahead?

  • It is likely that Chief Ministers did not favour the idea as they wanted a greater say in the matter.
  • The past experience of allocated funds for judicial infrastructure going unspent in many States is a concern.
  • The pendency of cases and chronic shortage of judges remain major challenges.
  • Some aspects of the Government also adds to the burden of the judiciary
    • Failure or unwillingness to implement court orders
    • Leaving crucial questions to be decided by the courts
    • Absence of forethought and broad-based consultation before passing legislation
  • It remains to be seen how far the proposed State-level bodies would be successful in identifying needs and speeding up implementation.

 

References

  1. https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/the-courts-burden/article65380015.ece
  2. https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/judicial-infrastructure/#:~:text=Judicial%20infrastructure%20includes%20the%20physical,ensure%20timely%20dispensation%20of%20justice.
  3. https://theprint.in/judiciary/what-is-njic-agency-to-monitor-infrastructure-development-in-trial-courts-proposed-by-cji/738593/

 

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