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 13-August-2012

IMPROVING ACCESS TO JUSTICE - NATIONAL MISSION FOR JUSTICE DELIVERY AND LEGAL REFORMS

      FEATURE

 Law & Justice

 

The National Mission for Justice Delivery and legal Reforms was set up in June, 2011 to achieve the twin goals of increasing access by reducing delays and arrears; and enhancing accountability through structural changes and by setting performance standards and capacities. The Mission has become fully functional from 2012-13 and is pursuing strategic initiatives: outlining policy and legislative changes; re-engineering of procedures and court processes; focussing on Human Resource Development; and leveraging Information and Communication Technology & tools for better justice delivery. The Mission will adopt a coordinated approach for phased liquidation of arrears and pendency in judicial administration which would, inter alia, involve better infrastructure for courts including computerisation, increase in strength of subordinate judiciary, policy and legislative measures in the areas prone to excessive litigation, re-engineering of court procedure for quick disposal of cases.

Policy and Legislative Changes

            In short span of its existence, the Mission has taken several steps in each of the strategic areas towards fulfillment of its objectives. Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill has been prepared.  The Bill has already been passed by the Lok Sabha and is now before the Rajya Sabha for consideration.  Constitution amendment bill for raising the retirement age of High Court Judges is also before the Parliament.

A comprehensive proposal has been formulated for constitution of All India Judicial Service and the proposal is before Committee of Secretaries. 25 States have formulated their Litigation Policies with a view to reduce the Governmental litigation.  Litigation Policy at the national level is also on the anvil.   

An Inter-Ministerial Group has been constituted to suggest necessary amendments to the Negotiable Instruments Act along with other policy and administrative measures to check increasing litigation relating to cheque bounce cases. First meeting of IMG was held on 30th, May 2012 and decisions taken in the meeting are being pursued for follow up action with Department of Financial Services, Reserve Bank of India and Indian Banks Association for reducing the burden of cheque bouncing cases on our criminal justice system.

Re-Engineering Court Procedures and Court Processes

            An important aspect of the judicial reforms relates to re-engineering court procedures and court processes for early disposal of cases.  A National Court Management System has been recently notified by the Supreme Court for addressing the issues of case management, court management, setting measurable standards for performance of the courts and the National System of Judicial Statistics in the country. The National Mission would coordinate with NCMS and would render necessary assistance in achieving the goal of reducing pendency in courts.

            A Sub Group on improving the court procedure and court processes for better criminal justice system has been constituted under Chairman, Law Commission to suggest necessary changes in this regard. The Commission has already prepared a Report on inordinate delays in investigation and prosecution of criminal cases against influential persons and measures needed to reform the criminal justice system.

Infrastructure Development

Infrastructure development for the subordinate judiciary is a major thrust area of the National Mission.  With a view to enhancing the resources of the State Governments, the Government has increased the central share by revising the funding pattern from 50:50 to 75:25 (for States other than North Eastern States) under modified Centrally Sponsored Scheme for development of infrastructure facilities for the judiciary from the year 2011-12 onwards.  The funding pattern for North-Eastern States has been kept as 90:10 from 2010-11.  Central assistance amounting to over ` two thousand crore has been released to States and Union Territories since inception of the scheme out of which an amount of over ` two hundred crore has been released so far during current financial year.

Gram Nyayalayas

The Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008 has been enacted for establishment of Gram Nyayalayas at the grass roots level for providing access to justice to citizens at their doorstep.The Central Government provides assistance to States for non-recurring expenses for setting up of Gram Nyayalayas and for meeting the cost of recurring expenses for running these Gram Nyayalayas for the first three years.

            At the time of enactment of Gram Nyayalayas Act it was envisaged that 5067 Gram Nyayalayas would be set up throughout the country for which Central Government would provide recurring and non-recurring assistance to States as per prescribed norms. The progress of the Gram Nyayalayas Scheme has not been up to expectations so far.

            To further incentivize the State Governments for early operationalisation of Gram Nyayalayas, a comprehensive proposal for merger of Gram Nyayalayas scheme with the Centrally sponsored Scheme for development of infrastructure facilities for the subordinate judiciary has been prepared.  The norms for providing central assistance towards recurring expenditure are also proposed to be revised upwards. The proposal is presently awaiting approval of Planning Commission and Ministry of Finance.

Pendency Reduction Drive

            The Government had launched a pendency reduction drive from July 2011 to December, 2011.  Chief Justices of the High Courts were requested by the Minister of Law and Justice to initiate a campaign mode approach towards clearing long pending cases and cases relating to marginalized sections of the society.  As per feedback received from various High Courts, total pendency was reduced by over 6 lakh cases out of which about 1.36 lakh cases belonged to targeted groups such as senior citizens, disabled, minors and marginalized sections of society.

One of the important components of pendency reduction drive related to release of under-trial prisoners from jail. In terms of the extant provisions of Criminal Procedure Code, the under-trials who have completed half of the maximum specified punishment for various offences in jail need to be released on personal bond.  As per the information received from various High Courts, around 3.16 lakh under-trial prisoners were released from the prisons during the campaign period.

A similar drive has been launched by the Minister of Law and Justice this year as well from July, 2012 to December, 2012. The main focus of pendency reduction drive this year is to make our judicial system ‘five plus’ free. Simultaneously emphasis is being laid on increasing the number of judges in subordinate judiciary by filling the existing vacancies and creating additional posts so that disposal of cases is expedited by setting up of additional courts.

 (PIB Features)

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 *Inputs from the Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice.

 

PIB Aizawl

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