‘Goal of affordable, speedy justice for common man still a distant dream’
The United Progressive Alliance government is committed to securing the foundations of the rule of law and judicial independence as the non-negotiable components of the basic structure of the Constitution, Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said on Sunday.
Speaking at a conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices here, he said “the tragic [gang-rape] incident in December last in Delhi has generated an intense public discourse on the credibility of our criminal justice system. The government has since responded swiftly by enacting the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013 to strengthen the justice delivery system.”
Three-crore pending cases
Mr. Kumar said the judicial system was under strain with over three-crore cases pending in various courts. The goal of affordable and expeditious justice for the common man was still a distant dream. If law as an instrument of justice failed to secure the dignity and security of the disadvantaged, then the very idea of the rule of law as the defining distinction of the republican democracy would collapse. “It is clear that we need to make substantial investments in the physical and human resource infrastructure to strengthen the edifice of the justice delivery system. We need to begin by at least doubling the strength of judges and judicial officers at various levels.”
The Chief Justice of India had written to Chief Justices of High Courts to take up the matter with State governments to increase the outlay for judiciary in budgets and to persuade them to agree to double the existing number of subordinate courts. The Union government was fully supportive of the cause, and consultations were on with the Planning Commission, Finance Commission and the Finance Ministry to find additional resources for the purpose. The National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms had resolved that the overall number of judges in the subordinate courts might be doubled and the expenditure shared by the Central and State governments.
Calling for encouraging alternative dispute redress mechanisms such as mediation, conciliation, arbitration and lok adalats, the Minister said the ADR mechanisms were supported by the government through various schemes. The fact that about 11-lakh lok adalats were held throughout the country where more than 3.76 crore cases were settled testified the popularity of this mechanism.
The 13th Finance Commission had allocated Rs.100 crore for lok adalats, Rs. 600 crore for setting up ADR centres and another Rs.150 crore for training mediators and conciliators. States were encouraged to access these funds to increase the use of lok adalats.
Mr. Kumar said he had written to the Chief Justices of High Courts to invite the attention of district judges to the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure to limit adjournments and expedite disposal of cases.