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JUDGES, JUDGE YOURSELF

India’s democracy stood the test of time while a neighboring state slipped into the thraldom of military rule. This was because in our country the Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary have respected each other and knew where to draw the line. The Indian politicians, as a class, have generally not lived up to expectations with many being either corrupt or communal, the judiciary has on an average done a great job. However, as we hurtle into a new world of aspirations, where reputations can take a beating in 24-hours, the judiciary needs to modernize itself and be a lot more consistent.

There is an urgent need for a slew of reforms.

First up, a lawyer should not head the Ministry of Law. These men bring with them baggage from the past: times when the courts have spanked them for their demeanour. Consequently, unless mature, such lawyers carry the grudge for life and misuse their position to stall change.
Two, the judiciary has to stretch to clear the massive backlog that it has built for itself. According to one estimate, 3.2 crore cases are pending in different courts in India, and the average time for its clearance is 15 years! Worse still, there are not enough judges. While we need 50 judges per million of the population according to a former Chief Justice of India, we have only 19 now. It means that the judiciary is understaffed. In contrast, Australia has 41 judges and USA has 107 for a million of the population. Be that as it may, judges must deliver judgments within say between 60 to 120 days depending on the type of case. Lawyers must curtail repetitive arguments and should supplement it by written notes.
Three, in a nation that prides itself on providing tech services to the rest of the world, the courts in India are like museum pieces: relics of the past. Full computerization and creation of E-Courts are a must. It will dramatically improve efficiency and expedite court processes. It is also essential that the work of the High Courts is de-centralized and more benches established in all states.
Four, once a lawyer gets elevated as a judge, he should be transferred to another court. Remember, lawyers who serve for 20-25 years would have built friends and enemies in the courts, and their relationship before elevation may affect their decisions taken after becoming a judge of the same court. True, they could build a Chinese wall, but it is better for Caesar’s wife to be above suspicion.
Given the increase in productivity and increased life expectancy of many senior citizens, it is appropriate to increase the retirement age to 70 for all the judges. There must be full utilization of the court working hours. The judiciary must work two shifts a day.
The Court premises are in deplorable condition. In contrast, modern gadgets and technology adorn the office of corporate lawyers.
The chief justice of the respective courts needs to read the riot act. How can you constitute a two-bench court when you know a split decision will call for the intervention of a third judge? When that happens, why should the same song be sung to the third guy? Can he not watch a video recording of the original deliberations? Alternatively, better still, could we not have had a three-bench judge? Why have a two-bench judge at all?

Retire with grace

No judge should ever be on retirement allowed to hold any office, be that of the governor or anything else. Once he retires from the judiciary, he should retire home. Pay him more than a handsome pension if needed. At best he should be allowed to do chamber consulting. Attending weddings in the family of politicians etc. does not behoove well for the judiciary.

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