Friday, 18 March 2011

Parliamentary Standing Committee on Judicial Reforms


          The Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel,
Public Grievances, Law and Justice under the Chairmanship of Dr. E.M. Sudarsana
Natchiappan, M.P. Rajya Sabha, has been referred the subject “Judicial Reforms”
for detailed examination and report.
2.       Considering that the scope and extent of the subject is very wide and
also of much public importance, the Committee has decided to confine its
consideration of the subject, initially, to the following topics:-
*   Financial autonomy and accountability of judiciary;
*   Expenditure assessment of the Judiciary;
*   Allocation of funds to the Judiciary; and
*   Evolving a mechanism for projection of its plan fund, taking into consideration the various parameters of fiscal discipline.
*        A detailed questionnaire on the subject covering the above mentioned topics is also available on the website of Rajya Sabha (
3.      Accordingly, the Committee has decided to invite memoranda containing suggestions/views/comments of individuals/institutions/ organizations interested in the above topics.
4.      Those desirous of submitting memoranda to the Committee may send two copies of their written memoranda (either in English or Hindi) on each of the above subjects to Smt. Sasilekha Nair, Under Secretary, Rajya Sabha Secretariat, Room No. 528A, Fifth Floor, Parliament House Annexe, New Delhi-110001 (Tel: 23035308, Fax: 23016784 and E-mail: within thirty days of publication of this
5.     The memoranda which are submitted to the Committee would form part of the records of the Committee and would be treated as confidential and would not be circulated to anyone, as such an act would constitute a breach of privilege of the Committee.

1.    Our Judicial System lacks financial autonomy and has no control over the funds and plays no role in preparation/estimation of budget for itself. What steps you would suggest to have financial autonomy for itself so that lack of funds do not hamper the administration of justice?

Firstly, financial autonomy is a misnomer here. The Constitution of India has provided for three organs-law-making, law-interpreting and law-enforcing- for the management of the society. All these organs are supposed to be functionally independent and there are supposed to adequate checks and balances. But which all organs have this financial autonomy? It is simply a matter of the government collecting taxes from the maximum possible sources to the maximum extent possible and distributing it for various needs on whatever priority is perceived to be acceptable at any point of time. Considering the poverty level of our citizens, one cannot say that the needs of the judiciary is not being met fairly.

Then again, it is important for the public to know how much the government is spending on the judiciary and how much is the requirement perceived/projected by the judiciary. So, it may be a good idea if the government presents a judicial budget on the lines of, say, the railway budget. Considering that the means are limited and needs limitless, it would also be important to have an analysis done on the ‘satisfaction level’ of various departments of the government vis-a-vis the judiciary.

Lastly, coming to the shortcomings in the administration of justice, I must place on record the fact that the dearth of funds would be the least of the problems. The problems are discussed elsewhere in this questionnaire.

2.    As of today, the expenditure incurred by the judiciary is allocated to it under the head “non-plan expenditure” by the Government of India. There has, so far, been no attempt on the part of the judiciary to formulate its own “plan expenditure”. It is suggested that if the judiciary is able to estimate its own requirement of funds under various heads in a planned manner, problems of overburdened courts, lack of trained manpower, infrastructural facilities etc. would be countered. What are your comments in this regard?

This question has been answered in part earlier. However, it would be prudent if the judiciary is allowed to formulate its own plan expenditure and present it in the Parliament as a judicial budget.

Regarding overburdening of courts, the issue is mostly one of mismanagement. Firstly, there is NO reason why the courts should have so many holidays. Then, it has the least working hours too. Though the judges may claim that it is meant to facilitate them to study the case before coming to the court, actually how many of them really do it? Ask any litigant and the answer would be shocking! And finally, most of the time of a court in session is taken away by a process called mustering, when the case number is called out and adjourned without even giving any reason whatsoever. Needless to say, this causes lot of hardship to the litigants which is NOT taken cognizance of at all. Ms Arundhati Roy has rightly described that in our courts the process is part of the punishment, even for the complainant/petitioner!

Regarding training of manpower, I am not aware of any such facility existing at present. However there is no denying that it is important. This would involve training the judges and training the administrative staff. The way orders are being issued by various courts it appears that the judges, even at the supreme court, have no idea of the fundamental requirement of a justice delivery system in a society. So we have people sentenced to death by trial courts and confirmed by high courts going scot free at the Supreme Court! (While the opposite, people acquitted by lower courts being sentenced to death by the apex court, may be taken with a pinch of salt, this, that is people sentenced to death by trial courts and confirmed by high courts being acquitted by the Supreme Court, is totally unacceptable in a system where death penalty is supposed to be handed over in the rarest of rare cases and which claims that even if a thousand criminals go scot free, one innocent person shall NOT be punished!)

As far as infrastructure is concerned, our Hon’ble President, Dr Kalam, is on record having suggested that our courts should consider working in shifts.

3.    For the judicial system to work independently and efficiently establishment, maintenance and proper management of courts is required. This requires future planning, target setting and proper allocation of resources by the institution itself. This includes the future planning of the expected expenditure also. Would it not be reasonable that the judiciary makes its own assessment of the existing and future expenditure so that set targets and allocation of resources within the courts is achieved. This would prove to be helpful in reducing the pendency of work in the courts. What are your comments in this regard?

This is a fallacy being perpetuated by the courts to cover up their real failures due to incompetence, indifference, corruption and arrogance. One just cannot see judges juggling with accounts as financial experts. We are in times when people have begun to discuss the need to do away with the cadre of civil services and bring in experts in various aspects of management to ensure that the delivery of government services to the citizens improves to the required level. In any case, it has to be left to the government of the day to decide how its meagre resources should be used- whether to pamper the judges or use it for infrastructure or other facilities. The judiciary should project its requirements in sufficient detail so that the decision making and fair allotment of resources is facilitated.

4.     In Our Judicial System it is the District/Subordinate Judiciary that suffers most due to lack of resources/funds. It is the subordinate judiciary that requires a lot of infrastructure, trained judicial officers/manpower, proper scheduling of workload and other facilities. The expenditure for the subordinate judiciary has been solely left to the States and the subordinate judiciary plays no role in formulating/estimating its own budget/expenditure. Would it not be reasonable that a mechanism is evolved so that the subordinate judiciary itself could assess its own expenditure requirements to overcome the problems arising solely on account of lack of resources/funds? You may like to offer your comments in this regard.

Whether subordinate or high, the problems, with respect to availability of resources, is no different for the judiciary than for any other organ of the Constitution. As a matter of logical deduction, given the weight they have been throwing around, one can easily see that the judiciary is the most feared and pampered of all the institutions. It would be a gross mistake to make them more independent than they are today.

5.     Judiciary also requires funds for other heads viz funds for various legal schemes/ programmes designed to give legal aid/assistance to the people. Is there any mechanism evolved by the judiciary that the funds sought for particular schemes/programmes are utilized strictly for the same and that they actually filtered to the intended beneficiary?

All these schemes are there just to pull wool over the eyes of the people. It is every citizen’s fundamental right to get justice and he should get it free of cost; and the criminal should bear the brunt, including the costs. There is no meaning in providing free legal aid to only those whose income is less than Rs 1500/- or so per month when the cost of litigation is much, much higher. It has been reported that in the Supreme Court even the fees for conference (that is for being briefed about the case) is in the region of Rs 15,000 to Rs 75,000 (‘Price of Justice’ by Manoj Mitta in Indian Express, reproduced in Common Cause, Apr-Jun 2000).

6.     The judiciary is entrusted with the task of implementing various Acts such as the National Legal Authority Act. The expenditure incurred for implementing such Acts is invariably found to be insufficient. What steps you will suggest to assess sufficient funds for implementing such Acts or alternatively, how much funds, you think, should be allocated for the same to counter insufficiency of funds?

Please see answer to Q 5 above. Further, there should be penalty for delays. Whoever is responsible for the delay, including the judge (as in cases when both the parties/required witnesses are present and the case is postponed for no other reason than lack of time or some other concocted frivolous reason) should pay the cost to the others as well as a penalty that may be deposited into a corpus.

7.     In the recent past, the judicial system has seen various private arbitration, conciliation and mediation centres. Whether it is necessary to have a regulatory authority for such type of centres. Whether it is necessary to accredit such institutions so that judicial excellence is brought up in such centres also and whether they are to be helped financially to meet the required standards?

Yes, it is a good idea. Like privately run hospitals/nursing homes there can be privately run courts too. But even for the private hospitals/nursing homes we are yet to specify the qualitative requirements and set up accreditation facilities. But a beginning should be made as soon as possible. No need for financial support for them as they can be used by people who can afford them, as in the case of private hospitals/educational institutions.

8.     Public perception about the performance of Judiciary and its agencies has been a matter of concern. Please explain methods evolved or mechanism conceived for ensuring integrity, efficiency and accountability of the judiciary.

Please see the attached copy of my letter to the Chief Justice of Kerala High Court and my online petition, addressed to the Hon'ble President and PM of India to constitute a National Judicial Commission to try and punish guilty judges as per laws applicable to ordinary citizens, at

9.       It has often been said that there has not been an effective planning and proper budgeting of the courts and due to these reasons, Indian courts are overburdened with huge accumulation of cases. Please elaborate the system of administration of Justice in India in the light of these observations.

It could be true that there is no planning and budgeting but they are NOT the reasons for accumulation of cases in our courts. It is plain incompetence, indifference, corruption and arrogance- all borne out of absence of accountability. Make them accountable- objectively and ruthlessly and there is bound to be perceivable difference.

10.     Kindly comment on the salaries and other facilities or perquisites of the judiciary. Is the present structure of salaries or perquisites sufficient or a need is felt to have an Independent Body for fixing salaries like the Top Salaries Review Board in U.K. or Australia where Judges draw higher salaries.

Having a Salary Review Board is ok. But then there should be such boards for other organizations also, for example the defence services. It has to be understood that the judiciary is only performing just another necessary role in a democracy. To attach any other halo is unwarranted, especially when the people who actually depend on their judgements are forced to treat them like gods!

11.     It is understood that American Judiciary enjoys functional as well as financial autonomy and that system is, therefore, considered to be the best in the world. Do you concur with the view that if Indian Judiciary is to maintain the same standard, it should have control over planning of courts, funds, etc. Not only this, Judiciary should also participate in deciding ways for achieving the targets and in preparation of budget for Judiciary. Kindly elaborate.

The American context is irrelevant in India. May be it is only the Indian judiciary that can refuse to reply even to a reference made by the Head of the State and get away with it! With a Parliament so fractured and full of people facing trials and an executive that still has to get over the colonial hangover, no judiciary elsewhere in the world has it as good as the judiciary in India! All power and no accountability! While an internationally famous lady author could be put behind bars for her language in her affidavit, perceived as rude by the apex court, they can go to sleep and claim that it is the failure of the government if illegal bandhs and hartals that adversely affect routine life of the citizens in Kerala cannot be controlled inspite of their orders!

The above suggestions are given without prejudice to the right of the author to circulate it amoung his friends, relations, like-minded activists and the media. It shall NOT be any infringement of the privileges of the Committee. It shall be breach of privilege of the Committee if any body in the committee or helping it administratively discloses it to third parties before being tabled in the Parliament.

Palakkad                                                                                             (P M Ravindran)
06 Jan 2007                                                                                         2/18, ‘Aathira’

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