Our Courts are Infra Vires

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Synopsis: To ensure that justice is never delayed, there is a need to urgently upgrade the judicial infrastructure to meet the load of the cases.


This article highlights the state of judicial infrastructure in our country. In this regard, the statement of the Chief Justice of India that he will be championing the creation of a National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation (NJIC) is a welcome move.

What is the status of Indian Judicial infrastructure?

Infrastructure: At least 1/6th of district courts have no running water in women’s washrooms in court premises. For wheelchair-bound, only 27% of district courts have a ramp for barrier-free access. For the blind, only 2% of district courts provide access to tactile pavements

Building: Our courtrooms are not built to deal with large volumes of cases, nor were they built keeping in mind the convenience of the native Indian population. Even newer courts do not have sufficient space and basic amenities for citizens

What the courtrooms should be like?

Physical Infrastructure: It should be citizen-centric. Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology and the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy has presented their report. It has demonstrated how the citizen should be the central focus of a redesigned court layout. This includes well-planned seating space for litigants, minimal distance between them and the judges and the use of simple sound absorbent material on the walls to facilitate hearing.

Digital Infrastructure: The coronavirus pandemic allowed the judiciary to take big steps towards digital courts with mandatory virtual hearings. This now needs to be integrated with existing systems by creating a National Digital Courts Platform Infrastructure.

Such infrastructure should include secure connectivity and data storage at the base level. It should also have interoperable digital registries of cases, lawyers and litigants at the system level. Finally, a range of digital services such as e-filing, e-payments of courts fees and digital summons are required at the application level.

What about the Finances allotted for judicial infrastructure?

Research shows that the existing centrally sponsored scheme on judicial infrastructure has so far led to disbursals of Rs 7,460 crore from the Union government to the judiciary. At the same time, the 15th Finance Commission has sanctioned an additional Rs 10,425 crore to build special courts over five years. Besides, the e-courts Mission Mode Project has been allocated Rs 1,670 crore for technological enablement.

What should be the way forward?

As India’s experience with GST shows, that once enabled, India’s power of IT can transform any government sector. The big challenge there is to ensure that the needed amount of funds are available. There has to be a mechanism to use these funds efficiently, backed by strong political will.

Source: This post is based on the article “Our Courts are Infra Vires” published in the Times of India on 20th September 2021.

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