Recently, speaking at the 11th Joint Conference of Chief Ministers (CMs) and Chief Justices (CJs), the Prime Minister (PM) of India pitched for the release of 5 lakh undertrial prisoners who have been languishing in jails for years.
What did the Prime Minister say?
- People’s sensitivity is tied to swift justice and this should never be ignored.
- Every district should form a committee led by the district judge to investigate each of these cases and, if possible, release undertrials on bail.
- Conducting court hearings in a language understandable to the litigants in order to make proceedings more people-friendly by using the local language.
- A committee has been set up to explore the possibility of enacting laws, the text of which could be easily understood by common citizens.
- The judiciary and government must design and equip the justice delivery system with appropriate technology in order to give timely and affordable justice to everybody.
About the CMCJ Conference –
- The 1st Chief Justices’ conference (chaired by CJI) was held in 1953 and till date 38 such conferences have been organised (last was held in the year 2016).
- Both the Chief Justices’ conference (39th) and the joint CMCJ conference (11th) are being held after a gap of six years, at the initiative of the CJI NV Ramana.
- The Joint Conference is held for effective coordination of efforts and to discuss ways to find common ground for synergising efforts towards providing speedy justice to citizens of the country.
- It is traditionally inaugurated and addressed by the Prime Minister of India and the Chief Justice of India (CJI) and the Minister of Law & Justice also addresses the Conference.
Issue of undertrials –
- In a written reply to the Lok Sabha, the Minister of Law recently informed that over 4.70 crore cases are pending in various courts in the country, including 70,154 in the Supreme Court (SC) of India.
- Factors responsible for delay in disposal of cases – These include vacancies of judges (in the High Courts, 42% of the total sanctioned posts for judges were vacant [465 out of 1,098]); frequent adjournments and lack of adequate arrangement to monitor, track and bunch cases for hearing, etc.
Steps taken to reduce pendency of cases –
- The burden to reduce pendency is not only on the judiciary but also on the central government as 40% of the litigation is of the government.
- At the government level – The Centre has introduced a mobile application – Justice App – meant exclusively for judges across the country to help them track how many cases are pending before them. The government has also upgraded the judicial infrastructure by introducing Information Communication Technology (e-Court Mission Mode Project) to more and more courts in the country.
- At the SC level – The appointment of judges to the higher courts is frequently recommended by the SC Collegium. For example, in 2021 it recommended the appointment of 129 High Court judges, soon after the appointment of 7 judges to the SC.
Way ahead –
- The 112th Law Commission of India report suggested the fixation of the judge strength formula.
- Introducing the All-India Judicial Services (AIJS), after building a consensus within the judiciary.
- The Judiciary should curb the practice of seeking adjournments as a norm rather than an exception.