Judge strength to be computed as per NCMSC interim measures: SC
The Supreme Court today said that judge strength in each states shall be computed in accordance with interim measures suggested by National Court Management Systems Committee (NCMSC) which has observed that clearance of backlog is not the sole or central basis for determining judge strength as several other critical parameters are vital.
A bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said that until NCMSC formulates a scientific method for determining the basis for computing required judge strength of district judiciary, judge strength shall be computed for each state in accordance with the interim approach indicated in the note submitted by the NCMSC chairperson.
The apex court noted that Professor G Mohan Gopal, NCMSC Chairperson, has suggested that the rate of disposal method does not make a substantial departure from past approaches that have not yielded desired results.
Several other critical parameters for determining judge strength include rate of case clearance, the number of cases disposed of as a percentage of institution, on time disposal rate -– the percentage of cases resolved within an established time frame, pre-trial custody periods wherein an undertrial is in custody pending trial of a criminal case and trial date certainty.
Taking note of the NCMSC interim report, the bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao, said the report submitted by the NCMSC chairperson observes that in the long term, judge strength of courts in district judiciary will have to be assessed by a scientific method to determine the total number of judicial hours required for disposing of the case load of each court.
The bench passed a slew of directions and requested NCMSC to endeavour to submit of its final report on the issue by December 31, 2017.
"A copy of interim report submitted by the chairperson, NCMSC shall be forwarded by the Union Ministry of Law and Justice to the chief justices of all the high courts and chief secretaries of all states within one month so as to enable them to take follow-up action to determine the required judge strength of the district judiciary based on the NCMSC interim report, subject to what has been stated in this judgement," it said.
The apex court said that state governments shall take up with the high courts concerned the task of implementing interim report of the chairperson, NCMSC and take necessary decisions within a period of three months for enhancing the required judge strength of each state judiciary accordingly.
"The state governments shall cooperate in all respects with the high courts in terms of the resolutions passed in the Joint Conference of Chief Justices and Chief Ministers in April 2016 with a view to ensuring expeditious disbursal of funds to the state judiciaries in terms of the devolution made under the auspices of the Fourteenth Finance Commission," it said.
The apex court also said that high courts shall take up the issue of creating additional infrastructure required for meeting the existing sanctioned strength of their state judiciaries and the enhanced strength in terms of the interim recommendations of NCMSC.
It said that the final report submitted by NCMSC may be placed for consideration before the Conference of Chief Justices.
It directed that a copy of this order be made available to registrars generals of high courts and to chief secretaries of the states for appropriate action.
The court also observed that long delays in the disposal of cases, particularly criminal cases, has a serious impact both on the rule of law and on access to justice which is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
It noted that the sanctioned strength of the judiciary at all levels on December 31, 2015 was only 21,607.
The bench observed that "a lower rate of disposal may not necessarily reflect upon the efficiency with which a judge has conducted the court. Trials are held up because of a paucity of public prosecutors.
Witnesses cited by the state, particularly police personnel, remain absent on dates fixed for trial, resulting in delays. Service of summons is delayed because of the laxity of police".
It expressed concern over lack of infrastructures in the courts and said, "In several northern states, particularly, the state of Uttar Pradesh soaring summer temperatures have in the absence of basic infrastructural facilities including continuous power supply resulted in the institutionalisation of morning courts in several districts."
The apex court also said that while prescribing units for disposal, a "robust attempt" must be made by the high courts to ensure that due importance is given to the disposal of old cases. "The chief justices should initiate the process of revising unit based norms in relation to their states. Each state has its own requirements specific to it which have to be borne in mind. The unit system must be framed so as to recognise the output of judicial officers in disposing of those cases which clog the system," it said.
"In several states, the available infrastructure is inadequate and insufficient to meet even the existing judge strength. Hence, a scientific assessment of the required judge strength will form the basis of ensuring that the state governments put into place the infrastructure required for tackling judicial delays," the bench said.
The bench also noted that as per the affidavit filed by Union Ministry of Law and Justice, the Department of Justice had submitted proposals to the Fourteenth Finance Commission involving a total requirement of Rs 9,749 crore for meeting the needs of state judiciary across the country.