Saturday, October 11, 2008


Judicial Reforms

The work load

Let us face it, the Indian Judiciary is simply unable to cope with the number of cases coming up before it.

And the biggest problem is that I do not have statistics to back up that statement.

It is not that statistics are not available; but that it will not be published. By the judiciary itself, that is.

Oh. Yes I have had access to them; on conditions though. What is the need for that secrecy?

Public have a right to know the number of cases pending before the judiciary. And for how long. And what the judiciary is doing about it.

For one, I know that the judiciary is doing something to reduce pendency, by increasing the number of courts. But the polity would not permit it. How is the public to know, unless the information is available unhindered?

Just consider this fact. The Cochin Campus of Department of Legal Studies, Kerala University, as it was then, conducted a study on the pendency of cases before the High Court of Kerala. The scholar who conducted the study went on to become a teacher of law, and retired from service. This study found around eight thousand cases being filed before the High Court of Kerala per year. That was in late 1970s.

In 1994, when I entered the profession, the number of writ petitions alone was around 13,000. In the year 2008, for the month of October, around 25,000 writ petitions have been filed. The number was close to 40,000 in the year 2006 and 2007,

In 1994, when I entered the profession, the number of criminal cases coming up before a typical Magistrate in Ernakulam was around 1800. Today it is above 4000.

4000 cases before the Magistrates? So what is the time he gets to deal with each case? IF he works 350 days a year (that is right, no holidays), he can finish a little more than 11 cases a day. So, if he works 12 hours a days (no - the Magistrate is not a human being to whom the 8 hour working day rule applies - he is a judge who has dispose off litigation as fast as possible) he gets approximately 1 hour to deal with a case,

One hour to go through the charge sheet, examine witnesses, listen to arguments, write a judgement, pronounce the judgement, and of course, arrive at the sentence.

Legislating away litigation

The typical reaction has been to ask the litigant not to file a case. OF course, we lovingly call it "alternate dispute redrssal".

The wise option would have been to increase the number of courts. And the judiciary has umpteen proposals to do that. Only that such proposals which enable to politicians some publicity are approved. Like a proposal to set up a court in the law minister's (or his crony men's) constituency.

We need to get rid of the political shackles on the number of courts and where there are to be set up. That is very important to have a proper and working judiciary.

Last modified: Sat Oct 11 16:17:51 IST 2008

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