Friday 28 April 2017

Judicial performance index proposed

Judicial performance index (न्यायिक प्रदर्शन सूचकांक) proposed

The NITI Aayog has proposed the introduction of a judicial performance index to reduce delays and the outsourcing of non-core functions of the police to private agencies or other government departments, in a bid to fix justice system that is in ‘dire need of reform(सुधार की सख्त जरूरत).’ The government’s think tank has also mooted changes in criminal justice and procedural laws, a repeal of all irrelevant legislation by March 2019 and reforms in land ownership laws — which account for 67% of litigants in civil suits.

The creation of a judicial performance index that could help High Courts and their chief justices keep track of the performance and processes at district courts and subordinate levels for reducing delay, should be ‘the first step’ in judicial system reforms, the Aayog has said in its draft three-year action plan discussed with Chief Ministers on Sunday.

Bid to end delays

The performance index for courts will entail fixing of ‘non-mandatory (गैर ज़रूरी) time frames for different types of cases to benchmark when a case has been delayed.’ The index can also include certain progress on process steps already approved by High Courts and such an annual evaluation should give judges in High Courts ‘a sense of where they are failing and what they need to fix.’

“Since the subordinate judiciary is largely within the domain of the High Courts, this could also spur competitive reform of the judiciary in those States,” the Aayog reckons.

To improve the quality of policing, the think tank has asked the Home Ministry to create a task force to identify ‘non-core functions’ that can be outsourced to private agents or government departments in order to reduce the workload of the police.

“Functions such as serving court summons and antecedents and address verification for passport applications or job verifications can be outsourced…” the Aayog said in a chapter on improving the rule of law.

India’s police to population ratio should reach the United Nations norms of 222 per lakh population, over the next seven years, from the current level of 137. Red-flagging the adverse implications of crimes against women beyond ‘the obvious horror for affected individuals’, the Aayog has asked the Home Ministry to push for greater hiring of women in the police force, with a target of 30% of all new recruits.

Enforcing contracts

Citing inordinate delays in India’s judicial system and its low rank on enforcing contracts in the World Bank’s ease of doing business report for 2017, the think tank has also called for streamlining judicial appointments on the basis of online real-time statistics on the workload of pending cases.

Such data will help enable “priority appointment of judges at the lower judiciary levels keeping in mind a scientific approach to assess the number of judges needed to tackle pendency,” the Aayog said.

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