The Indian legal system is slow. The Indian judiciary takes decades to solve a case. In one case, judgement came after 108 years. At the end of the day, approaching the court for a problem becomes the toy that costs more than the child, the child being justice. Here is a full report on why and how it happens.
Poor state of cases in Apex Court
According to Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Judge of the Supreme Court of India and Executive Chairperson of NALSA, the judiciary needs 500 to 700 years to resolve pending cases on bail and remission. His analysis suggests that 33 percent of cases before the Supreme Court are bail matters.
Ideally, this should not be the norm. The Supreme Court, being the final authority, should be busy with matters of constitutional importance and interpretations of other statutes. The number only reflects the poor state of the lower and higher courts.
The question is, who is responsible for this? Legislative? Yes. Judiciary? Also, yes.
Budget allocation is not enough
On the legislative front, the problem is mainly related to budgeting. It sounds unbelievable, but the Judiciary, the backbone of the Indian Constitution, is allocated only 0.1 percent of the Union budget. Now, it is unfair to fully blame the Center for it. After the 42nd Amendment, the Constitution, organization, and administration of justice became part of the concurrent list.
In other words, both the state and the centre are responsible for any shortcoming in the administration of justice in the majority of courts. More than 90 per cent of net expenditure on Judiciary is born by states. So, what are states doing?
In short, not much. Except for Delhi, no other state generally allocates even 1 percent of its budget expenditures to the judiciary. For context, they spend 3-5 percent on police budgets. Less than 10 states allocate more than 1,000 crore for the judiciary. In terms of average national GDP, India’s spending on the judiciary stays well within 0.1 percent of GDP.
Also read: Reasons behind Grant of Remission in India
Underutilisation is rampant
Clearly, it is not enough. Even that meagre sum is not used judiciously. According to the Center for Budget and Governance Accountability and DAKSH, 90 percent of this amount is used for only operational costs. Despite that, the Vidhi Center for Legal Research found that in 2019, 80 district courts did not even have washrooms. Out of the 585 existing ones, only 266 were fully functional. This is an absolute waste of 90 percent of the budget. The remaining 10 percent is left for infrastructure development and systemic reforms. Even that is not in good shape.
The 13th Finance Commission had provided Rs 5,000 crore for this purpose. 80 percent remained unspent. Funds for Gram Nyayalaya also met a similar fate. Against the sanctioned strength of 2,500, only 276 were operational less than a year ago. In FY20 and FY21, their funds were not utilised.
Also read: NJAC and Collegium: The hidden truth
People are losing hope of system
The lackadaisical attitude of both branches is causing intense damage to India. Currently, 80 percent of the Indian population is eligible for free legal aid. For this, the government has to subsidise it. The latest numbers are available for FY 2020. In that year, per capita spent on legal aid by the Central government was only Rs 1.05. States did not fully utilise even that meagre sum. That is a huge loss, and millions of Indians are deprived of their fundamental rights due to the high cost of legal remedy.
The cost should not have been high considering that India’s per capita lawyer ratio is better than most countries. The reason behind the high cost is that India’s per-capita judge ratio is far below average. In 2022, we only had 14.4 judges per 10 lakh population.
The number is 33 percent less than the sanctioned strength. If every vacant seat is filled, there will be 21.03 Judges per 10 lakh population. That is only 42 percent of the required strength for solving the pendency of cases. For comparison, Europe has 210 judges per million while the USA has 150. No wonder; pendency in India has gone above the roof.
In the movie Jolly LLB2, Akshay Kumar said that despite the pendency of millions of cases, people are still scared of the judiciary. I think most of us missed the point. People do not trust the judiciary for justice. Unfortunately, they trust the judiciary to derail the delivery of justice.
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