Affordable and Accessible justice
● The Vice President at the 11th Convocation of the Tamil Nadu Dr Ambedkar Law University said that inordinate delay, cost of legal processes and inaccessibility were impeding the effective delivery of justice to the common man.
● Nearly 4 crore cases are pending in the justice system out of which 87% are in the lower courts.
Inordinate delay, cost of legal processes and inaccessibility were impeding the effective delivery of justice to the common man. Analyse.
Reasons for the justice system being unaffordable and inaccessible:
● Vacancies in courts: The high number of vacancies in lower courts increase the workload on judges leading to delays in justice delivery.
➢ As of 2017, subordinate courts have a vacancy of 26% (5,746) against a sanctioned strength of 22,474 judges.
➢ The sanctioned judicial strength in the 25 High Courts is 1080. However, the present working strength is 661 with 419 vacancies as of 1st March 2021.
● High cost of legal processes: The various legal processes such as lawyer fees, repeated adjournments and delays increase the cost of legal processes and make it unaffordable for a common man to seek justice.
● Language of Courts: The Court proceedings and judgements are mainly conducted in English and not the local languages which makes it inaccessible for the common man who understands local languages.
● Excessive use of adjournments: Adjournments are liberally granted by courts which increase the delays and make justice a time-consuming process.
● Abuse of PILs: Public Interest Litigations have been abused to become Private Interest Litigations and filed on petty matters. These cases impose an unnecessary burden on the justice system.
Solutions to create an affordable and accessible justice system:
● Fill vacancies in courts: Expediting filling vacancies in a time-bound manner would help bring great productivity gains to the lower courts.
● Judicious use of adjournments: Developing a Standard Operating Procedure that limits the use of adjournments to just one or two can help reduce delays in courts.
● Use of alternate dispute redressal mechanisms: Platforms such as Lok Adalatneed to be leveraged to increase not only access to justice but also speedy disposal of cases.
● Use of technology: Technological solutions such as e-filing, online courts and digitization of court records under the National Judicial Data Grid can help improve access, reduce pendency and lower costs.
● Limit frivolous litigation: Steps should be taken to ensure that frivolous litigation on routine matters is curbed.
● Special and fast track courts: Special courts need to be set up to deal with cases involving public servants and elected representatives. Fast track courts need to be set up to deal with electoral malpractices and resolving electoral cases.
● Speedy disposal of cases involving weaker sections of society: Cases involving weaker sections especially women and children need to be dealt with in a speedy manner to ensure they get justice.
● Affordable justice: Streamlining free legal aid mechanisms and lawyers who offer pro bono services to poor people can help in reducing out of pocket expenditure for people making justice affordable.
● Use of local language: Conducting court proceedings and delivering justice in the local languages of the people can make justice more accessible to people.
● Strengthen consumer laws: Misleading ads and exaggerated ads are of great concern therefore there is a need to strengthen laws to protect consumers.
Judiciary is a ‘key pillar of our polity’. We need to ensure judicial processes are improved and higher levels of effectiveness and efficiency are achieved. Steps need to be taken to re-invent, revamp and redefine the way we administer justice and enforce the rule of law.