Chief Jus­tice Right on More Judges

Small is not beau­ti­ful in the ju­di­ciary’s case

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page -

In­dia ranks 178th when it comes to en­force­ment of con­tracts in the World Bank’s rank­ing of 189 coun­tries on ease of do­ing busi­ness. This is a pa­thetic state that be­fits a country en­gulfed in civil war, def­i­nitely not an emerg­ing econ­omy gi­ant. To sus­tain fast growth, In­dia needs to over­haul its le­gal in­fras­truc­ture. This is not a blind­ing new in­sight. The Law Com­mis­sion of In­dia had rec­om­mended, in 1987, a fig­ure of 50 judges per mil­lion of the pop­u­la­tion, based on the ra­tio preva­lent in the US in 1981. That meant a five­fold in­crease then. Now, the ra­tio is 13.

The mat­ter came up again, when Chief Jus­tice of In­dia T S Thakur brought it up when he called on the govern­ment to dras­ti­cally en­hance the num­ber of judges. With ex­ten­sive de­ploy­ment of in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, In­dia prob­a­bly can bring down the num­ber of judges re­quired and the time taken to dis­pose of a case be­yond fi­nal ap­peal sig­nif­i­cantly be­low ear­lier es­ti­mates. If cases are heard con­tin­u­ously, with pro­ce­dural re­forms, for ex­am­ple, videographed court pro­ceed­ings that can be sub­jected to sys­tem­atic au­dit by a ju­di­cial au­dit body drawn from for­mer mem­bers of the higher ju­di­ciary, they would be dis­posed of fast, but call for a sharp rise in the num­ber of judges. It would make sense for the Cen­tre to launch a cen­trally spon­sored scheme to ex­pand the lower ju­di­ciary in ev­ery state through an In­dian Ju­di­cial Ser­vice. The im­me­di­ate move should, of course, be for the Cen­tre to stop sit­ting on the nom­i­na­tions by judges’ col­legium to fill va­can­cies in the high courts.

Jus­tice Thakur would also do well to pon­der over why the Supreme Court spends so much of its time on com­mer­cial cases that en­tail no ab­struse prin­ci­ple of con­sti­tu­tional law or pro­tec­tion of fun­da­men­tal rights. The high courts should be the fi­nal word in most cases, ex­cept when the apex court finds prima fa­cie ev­i­dence of mis­car­riage of jus­tice. A huge in­crease in the num­ber of judges, pro­ce­dural re­form, use of IT and re­straint by the high­est court on ad­mit­ting cases are in or­der, to im­prove the speed of In­dia’s ju­di­cial process.

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