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Transparency in judiciary

Transparency in judiciary
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There is one question which none could answer. That is the question from a seeker of justice, asking to know the approximate time in which he would get justice in that court. Can RTI force the court of law to give that information on its own?

National eCourts portal ‘ecourts.gov.in’ is a public access portal disseminating national, State, district and court-wise information about institution and disposal of cases on a monthly basis. It would also separately provide data and details of cases filed by senior citizens and women.

With this, the figures of pendency of district judiciary courts across the country, in aggregate for country and States as well as individual court/judges, are open to people to access by visiting the National eCourts portal ‘ecourts.gov.in. Modi government has rightly sought more transparency from the judiciary.

Emphasising the need for more transparency in the functioning of courts, the Modi government has requested the Supreme Court to make public key performance indicators of judges that would bring accountability in the judiciary and help reduce pendency of cases.

At last count, the pendency in subordinate courts was estimated to be more than 2.65 crore while the total pendency was around 3.10 crore, including those in the SC and the HCs

There is one question which none could answer. That is the question from a seeker of justice, asking to know the approximate time in which he would get justice in that court. Can RTI force the court of law to give that information on its own?

It’s a great event in this country in times of RTI with a decade of working experience of access law that the Supreme Court launched the public access portal of the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG) for district courts.

This page is inviting the public to keep tabs on the burgeoning case pendency rates of their local courts. It’s a wonderful step. This encourages the litigants and the general public to watch the pendency graphs and, may be in the future, suggest solutions against justice delayed.

Sometimes I wonder how the judicial system created by the British can cater to the judicial needs of the current Indian population. If 47 crore was the population on Independence Day, we are now 127 crore people after 68 years of Independence and the pendency of litigation is 3.1 crore.

It means at least 100 crore people are peace-loving or just do not bother about their rights. Knowledge, resources or time, could be a problem.

National eCourts portal ‘ecourts.gov.in’ is a public access portal disseminating national, State, district and court-wise information about institution and disposal of cases on a monthly basis. It would also separately provide data and details of cases filed by senior citizens and women.

“With this, the figures of pendency of district judiciary courts across the country, in aggregate for country and States as well as individual court/judges are left open for people to access by visiting the National eCourts portal ‘ecourts.gov.in’.”

We have been hearing about digitalisation since 1990, but this could happen after two-and-half-a- decades. This is right synchronization of Right to Information and Information Technology and Judicial Information.

As promised, pendency statistics should be updated on a daily basis by district court complexes. Hopefully, the pendency would be broken into civil and criminal cases, segregated into year-wise categories of up to two years, between two and five years, between five and 10 years and more than 10 years.

The NJDG page for public access has been planned to disseminate national and state, district and court-wise information about institution and disposal of previous month’s cases and also cases filed by senior citizens and women in the total pendency.

It has a feature of monitoring alerts viz., all cases listed for the day across the country and the cases where no date is updated etc. As the statement of Supreme Court rightly claimed, “this initiative is in furtherance of the motto of judiciary to promote transparency and access of information for all the stakeholders of the justice delivery system.”

The judiciary is inherently transparent with an open trial. But this openness is drowned in pending cases. The darkness of secrecy continues with lack of access to information about their cases. Modi government has rightly sought more transparency.

Emphasising the need for more transparency in the functioning of courts, the Modi government has requested the Supreme Court to make public key performance indicators of judges that would bring accountability in the judiciary and help reduce pendency of cases.

Among the key performance indicators would be how many adjournments each judge is allowing on an average during the life cycle of a case, number of cases in which trial proceedings have been stayed by superior courts and average time for which such trial proceedings remain stayed.

Judges performance

The court-specific data will help the NJAC set judges' performance standards and could be key in determining promotions of judges to higher judiciary, besides bringing much desired transparency in the functioning of courts.

Recently, in a high-level meeting, the law ministry submitted an 11-point list that sought detailed disclosure on the SC-monitored National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG). The information sought includes category-wise pendency of cases (civil and criminal) in the SC, high courts and district and subordinate courts.

The government has sought more specific information like the average time taken for disposal of cases in district courts and HCs, category-wise disposal of cases per judge per year in district and high courts and the number of cases where orders of district courts were challenged before the HCs every year among other things.

There should be an independent study conducted on the data available through the NJDG to find out the cause of huge pendency in courts. At last count, the pendency in subordinate courts was estimated to be more than 2.65 crore while the total pendency was around 3.10 crore, including those in the SC and HCs.

As of now, the NJDG's public access page gives consolidated figures of pendency of cases in district courts across the country. There is no specific information on adjournments in each case, life cycle of a case before its disposal and whether first come-first served basis was applied in determining trial of a case.

Presently, the judicial data grid has information on only 1.94 crore pending cases as against the pendency of around 3.10 crore cases.Appointment of judges should depend on criteria of integrity and merit. Elevation of judges to next higher position should be totally based on their established performance indicators next to their integrity quotient more than IQ and knowledge of law.

Any judge proved to be causing delay or vulnerable to pressures and manipulative tactics of some clever money making lawyers, should not be elevated or promoted. For filling the quotas, these indicators should not be ignored. If such people are not found, there should not be any recruitment of judges at all.

Anybody who is opposed to transparency should never be elevated. Transparency should be prime criteria along with the integrity. Without insisting on these qualities, if reservations and recommendations form the basis of selection of judges, better we do not have courts at all.

Transparency leads to efficient and people-oriented judicial governance. When a client is informed with certainty that his case would be disposed in a specific period, the judicial governance can deliver justice. Justice delayed will deny justice and every other right also.

By:Madabhushi Sridhar

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