Government to infuse funds for improved infrastructure

They are described as temples of justice, but unlike the religious structure, they belong to the people.

Karnataka, today, has nearly 800 courts apart from scores of tribunals and commissions which have quasi-judicial powers. Though the judicial system in Karnataka has been rated among the best in the country and several path-breaking judgments have been delivered by the courts, majority of them, including many in the city, have little or no infrastructure.

It is not only visitors and litigants who find the facilities inadequate. Advocates, court staff and even judicial officers have to make do with outdated or inadequate infrastructure. It's no wonder people dread going to courts considering it more a punishment. This situation worsens when a person is called to give evidence or depose as a witness. Since the individual is unaware when the case will come up for hearing, he has to spend hours or days in court. Law Minister S. Suresh Kumar and Advocate-General Ashok Haranahalli agree that it is high time the situation changed for the better.

Changes imminent

Mr. Suresh Kumar told The Hindu on Saturday that the State Government had already obtained from the High Court, a list of subordinate courts which lacked infrastructure. He said the State was committed to provide facilities and has set aside Rs. 100 crore for constructing new and better court buildings.

Apart from that, the State has decided to take up a programme to provide drinking water and toilet facilities in all the courts. Mofussil courts, he said, would be the first beneficiary of this scheme, which is likely to cost Rs. 447 lakh in the initial phase. The State has also decided to release Rs. 200.03 lakh for providing drinking water in these courts. Both these programmes would be taken up and completed during 2010-2011, he said.

The list

Sources in the High Court said they had received a letter from the State Law and Justice ministry on May 20, 2010, seeking details of courts which needed better infrastructure facilities. The High Court on June 25, 2010, had written back to the ministry giving the list.

Mr. Suresh Kumar said his ministry was also working on giving better facilities to the bar associations in all courts. He said the associations would get e-library facilities within two months so that advocates could be up to date on the decisions of the Supreme Court and the High Court. He said the State was coordinating with the High Court for providing rest rooms and other facilities for witnesses and litigants.

Mr. Haranahalli said the State should provide accommodation and other facilities to the prosecution when new courts are constructed. Moreover, there was a need for modern writing equipment for judicial officers apart from providing them stenographers. In several courts, judicial officers write orders by hand, he said, and felt this practice should be abolished.

President of the Advocates Association of Bangalore K.N. Putte Gowda said the association had already given representation to the Government and the High Court for better facilities to the advocates, visitors and litigants. He says despite several measures, facilities are still woefully inadequate in Bangalore courts.

‘Posts filled up'

On courts not having presiding officers, Mr. Suresh Kumar and Mr. Haranahalli said almost all the posts of judicial officers in all subordinate courts and State tribunals have been filled up. Family courts, fast track courts and special courts have once again become functional due to the 2009 initiative taken up by the High Court to fill up all judicial vacancies.

Senior judge of the Supreme Court R. Raveendran said it is the judiciary itself that has to take the blame for lack of facilities. If the judiciary demanded its due, the Government would have given it. However, the lower courts had been shy in making demands and reluctant to pursue them. Thus, courts continue to languish in dingy and unhygienic places, he said.