Judicial reforms should take the centre stage in this fast transforming world and there was need to enhance the quality of justice that was at the core of human existence and welfare of any society; it was simply the fundamental goal of all societies, President Pranab Mukherjee said at an international seminar on “recent trends in judicial reforms: a global perspective” here on Saturday.

Mr. Mukherjee said justice was time-consuming and expensive in the country. The large pendency of cases was a cause for concern. The total number of pending cases in the subordinate courts and high courts at the end of 2011 was over 3.1 crore. In the Supreme Court, at the end of 2012, it was over 66,000. Delay further added to the costs. Therefore, in many ways it was tantamount to denying justice and this was against the principle of equality that was the bedrock of a democracy.

While calling for changes, the President said the 18th Law Commission had made certain suggestions. Steps such as utilising the full working hours of the court, applying technology in such a way that cases with similar points were clubbed for a combined decision, specifying the time limits for oral arguments and taking decisions, and curtailing vacancies in the higher judiciary were worth considering. “I have full faith in the genius of our judiciary to find the way forward to effect reforms in the judicial system so as to sustain the faith of the common man in the justice delivery process.”

Judicial reform was a continuous process and through constant consultation among the stakeholders consensus could be reached to engender changes. The ultimate goal of securing justice was the primary function of any judicial system. To accomplish it, the existence of the rule of law was a priority, with highest standards of transparency and deliverance of speedy justice at affordable costs being the two legs that gave life and soul to the precept. These were the components that the judiciary should focus on to implement the “justice oriented approach.” Justice delivered with these goals could only live up to the highest standards of the ideal. It would, therefore, be necessary to effect organisational and procedural changes in the judiciary from time-to-time to address the exigencies of time.

The President said: “The assumption of a wider role by courts has been at times courted opposition for its deviation from the principles of the separation of powers. Yet, some of the positive contributions that such activism has spawned are unquestionable. But I would need to add a cautionary note here – the fine balance existing in every democracy with each of the three organs of the state, the legislature, executive and the judiciary, playing their designated roles, should not be disrupted. The three organs should not step into or play the role that the constitution has not assigned them.”

“In the light of far-reaching changes gripping the world, there may be need to broaden the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice at The Hague beyond those involving trade, business and commerce.”

Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said the government proposed to bring in the amended Judicial Accountability Bill for discussion in Parliament in the Budget Session. It was also working on Judicial Appointments Commission Bill to deal with appointments in higher judiciary. These ongoing structural and procedural reforms required monitoring and feedback with respect to their efficacy and impact. “A National Judicial Data Grid was being set up to enable real-time monitoring of the progress of cases, so that remedial action can be taken to ensure speedy dispensation of justice.”