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National Judicial Infrastructure Authority of India

  • 06 Dec 2021
  • 6 min read

Why in News

Recently, the Chief Justice of India proposed creation of a National Judicial Infrastructure Authority of India (NJIAI).

Key Points

  • NJIAI:
    • About:
      • The proposed NJIAI could work as a central agency with each State having its own State Judicial Infrastructure Authority, much like the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) model.
        • NALSA was constituted to establish a nationwide uniform network for providing free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society.
      • NJIAI will take control of the budgeting and infrastructure development of subordinate courts in the country.
      • The proposed NJIAI should be placed under the Supreme Court of India unlike NALSA which is serviced by the Ministry of Law and Justice.
      • It will not suggest any major policy change but will give complete freedom to HCs to come up with projects to strengthen ground-level courts.
    • Members:
      • In the NJIAI there could be a few High Court judges as members, and some central government officials because the centre must also know where the funds are being utilised.
      • Similarly, in the State Judicial Infrastructure Authority, in addition to the Chief Justice of the respective High Court and a nominated judge, four to five district court judges and state government officials could be members.
  • Need of NJIAI:
    • To Manage the Funds:
      • Of a total of Rs. 981.98 crore sanctioned in 2019-20 under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) to the States and Union Territories for development of infrastructure in the courts, only Rs. 84.9 crore was utilised by a combined five States, rendering the remaining 91.36% funds unused.
        • The issue has been plaguing the Indian judiciary for nearly three decades when the CSS was introduced in 1993-94.
    • Manage Rising Number of Litigations:
      • The Indian judiciary’s infrastructure has not kept pace with the sheer number of litigations instituted every year.
        • A point cemented by the fact that the total sanctioned strength of judicial officers in the country is 24,280, but the number of court halls available is just 20,143, including 620 rented halls.
    • Greater Autonomy:
      • The improvement and maintenance of judicial infrastructure is still being carried out in an ad-hoc and unplanned manner.
        • The need for “financial autonomy of the judiciary” and creation of the NJIAI that will work as a central agency with a degree of autonomy.
  • Reasons Behind Infrastructural Lag:
    • Lack of Funds:
      • To develop judicial infrastructure, funds are extended by the central government and states under the Centrally-Sponsored Scheme for Development of Judiciary Infrastructure, which began in 1993 and was extended for another five years in July 2021.
      • However, states do not come forward with their share of funds and consequently, money allocated under the scheme is often left unspent with them and lapses.
    • Use of Funds for Non-Judicial Purposes:
      • In some cases, they claimed, states have also transferred part of the fund for non-judicial purposes.
        • Even in the judiciary, particularly trial courts, nobody is willing to take responsibility to execute infrastructure projects.

Issues of Judiciary in India

  • The judge-population ratio in the country is not very appreciable.
    • While for the other countries, the ratio is about 50-70 judges per million people, in India it is 20 judges per million heads.
  • It is only since the pandemic that the court proceedings have started to take place virtually too, earlier the role of technology in the judiciary was not much larger.
  • The posts in the judiciary are not filled up as expeditiously as required.
    • The process of judicial appointment is delayed due to delay in recommendations by the collegium for the higher judiciary.
    • Delay in recruitment made by the state commission/high courts for lower judiciary is also a cause of the poor judicial system.
  • Frequent adjournments are granted by the courts to the advocates which leads to unnecessary delays in justice.

Way Forward

  • The courts in India had repeatedly upheld the rights and freedoms of individuals and stood up whenever individuals or society were at the receiving end of executive excesses.
  • If we want a different outcome from the judicial system, we cannot continue to work in these circumstances.
  • Institutionalising the mechanism for augmenting and creating state-of-the-art judicial infrastructure is the best gift that we can think of giving to our people and our country in this 75th year of our Independence.
  • The CSS Scheme will increase the availability of well-equipped Court Halls and Residential Accommodations for Judges/Judicial Officers of District and Subordinate Courts all over the country.
  • Setting up of digital computer rooms will also improve digital capabilities and give impetus to the digitization initiation being pursued as a part of India’s Digital India vision.

Source: TH

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