INITIATIVES TO PROVIDE CITIZEN-CENTRIC DELIVERY OF LEGAL SERVICES
17th December, 2022 POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
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- The Union Minister of Law and Justice informed the Lok Sabha that the Union Government has launched the “Designing Innovative Solutions for Holistic Access to Justice” (DISHA) Scheme to promote access to justice.
- The scheme is launched for a period of five years 2021-2026.
About Designing Innovative Solutions for Holistic Access to Justice” (DISHA) Scheme
- DISHA aims to design and consolidate various initiatives to provide citizen-centric delivery of legal services.
- Under DISHA, Tele-Law reaches the unreached area, Nyaya Bandhu (Pro Bono Legal Services) and Legal Literacy and Legal Awareness programmes are being implemented across India.
- The Tele-Law Service connects the citizen with the Panel lawyers through the use of video /Tele conferencing facilities available at the Common Service Centres (CSCs) and via Tele-Law Mobile App to strengthen pre-litigation legal advice and consultation.
- The Nyaya Bandhu (Pro Bono Legal Services) programme aims to provide free legal assistance and counsel to the marginalized sections.
- This service is free of cost and is currently operational in 1,000,00 Gram Panchayats across 755 Districts (including 112 Aspirational districts) in 36 States /UTs.
- To ensure its broadened reach, dedicated Information Education and Communication (IEC) including (Technology) component has been added to the DISHA.
The National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms
- The Mission was initiated in 2011 with twin objectives;
- Increasing access by reducing delays in the system.
- Enhancing accountability through structural changes and setting performance standards and capacities.
- The Mission has been following a cooperative approach for phased liquidation of pendency in judicial administration, which, involves;
- Better infrastructure for courts, including computerization.
- An increase in the strength of subordinate judiciary, policy and legislative measures in the areas prone to excessive litigation.
- Re-engineering of court procedure for quick disposal of cases.
- Emphasis on human resource development.
Important steps taken to ensure justice for citizens
- Improving the infrastructure for Judicial Officers of District and Subordinate Courts.
- It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) for the Development of Infrastructure Facilities for the Judiciary.
- Besides, the construction of court halls and residential units, it also covers the construction of lawyer’s halls, toilet complexes, and digital computer rooms.
- Leveraging Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for improved justice delivery.
- The Government has been implementing the e-Courts Mission Mode Project throughout the country for information and communication technology enablement of the district and subordinate courts.
- The number of computerized district & subordinate courts has increased and. broadband connectivity has been provided to 99.3% of court complexes.
- A new and user-friendly version of Case Information Software has been developed and deployed at all the computerized district and subordinate courts.
- All stakeholders, including judicial officers, can access information relating to judicial proceedings/decisions of computerized district & subordinate courts and high courts on the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG).
- 21 virtual courts have been set up in 17 States/UTs.
- Video conferencing emerged as the main instrument of the courts during the Covid lockdown period as physical hearings and normal court proceedings in the congregational mode were not possible.
- Filling up vacant positions in Supreme Court, High Courts and District and Subordinate Courts.
- Sanctioned and working strength of judicial officers in district and subordinate courts has increased. The filling up of vacancies in subordinate judiciary falls within the domain of the State Governments and high courts concerned.
- Reduction in Pendency through / follow-up by Arrears Committees.
- Arrears Committees have been set up in all 25 High Courts to clear cases pending for more than five years.
- Arrears Committees have been set up under District courts as well.
- Arrears Committee has been constituted in the Supreme Court to formulate steps to reduce the pendency of cases in high courts and district courts.
- Emphasis on Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR).
- Commercial Courts Act, 2015 prescribes mandatory Pre-institution Mediation and Settlement (PIMS) of commercial disputes.
- Initiatives to Fast Track Special Types of Cases.
- Established Fast Track Courts for cases of heinous crimes; cases involving senior citizens, women, children etc.
- The Central government increased the number of Judges in the Supreme Court from 31 to 34.
- The government is also emphasizing the increasing use of lok adalats and other alternate dispute settlement mechanisms.
- Special courts deal with technical matters so that judgment can be pronounced on time.
- Adoption of “National Litigation Policy 2010” to transform the government into an Efficient and Responsible litigant.
- All states formulated state litigation policies after National Litigation Policy 2010.
- Legal Information Management and Briefing System (LIMBS), was created in 2015 with the objective of tracking cases to which the government is a party.
- The Supreme Court advised the centre that criminals sentenced to imprisonment for 6 months or a year should be allocated social service duties rather than be sent to further choke the already overflowing prisons.
Steps need to be taken
- National Litigation Policy should be revised.
- Address all 3 stages of dispute:
- Post litigation stage.
- Establish Fair accountability mechanisms, Consequences for violation must be provided.
- Appointment of a Nodal Officer to regularly monitor the status of the cases in every department.
- Promotion of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to encourage mediation.
- Coordinated action between government and judiciary.
- Judicial capacity should be strengthened in the lower courts to reduce the burden on higher courts.
- Increase expenditure on the judiciary.
- Improve court case management and court automation system.
- Create subject-specific benches.
- Robust internal dispute resolution mechanisms
- Step-by-step online dispute resolution must be adopted as done by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.
- Judges should write Shorter and more Pointed judgments.
- Courts need to monitor the progress of Cases based on urgency and type of Case.
- Courts must set a time limit to dispose of certain types of Cases.
- Understand why Some Courts perform well despite a Shortage of judges and adopt Such Courts as role models.
- Use of information and communication technology to improve the efficiency of the courts.
- Increase the number of judges and fill the vacancy as soon as possible.
- Increase the number of courts in India to tackle the huge population.
- Improving the police investigation and scientific way of collecting evidence.
- Reduce the leave of judges and increase the number of days of working in courts.
- Only genuine PIL must be entertained by Courts and courts must inflict heavy costs on frivolous PIL.
- Analytics tools can be developed in a manner that helps the judges monitor Cases based on parameters Such as how long an accused has been in judicial custody, Cases that Can affect the General public, and Cases that have been long pending.
- Alternative methods should be used for dealing with non-criminal offenders and petty criminals.