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Monday, 21 May 2018

The Hindu Editorial: Steering Reform In Clogged Courts

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Title: Steering reform in clogged courts

Title: Steering reform in clogged courts 

(Management practices and technology can help transform court processes) 

Context:- While there is general acceptance that the Indian judicial system suffers from case delay and the use of antiquated methods, the discourse on judicial reform remains focussed on areas such as appointments and vacancies. 

We focus on two areas that greatly affect court efficiency: case listing practices and court infrastructure. 

The need to scientifically determine how many cases should be listed per day cannot be stressed enough. It is not uncommon to see over 100 matters listed before a judge in a day. When a judge is pressed for time, not only does the quality of adjudication suffer but it also means that several cases will inevitably go unheard. Matters listed towards the end (usually cases near the final stage of hearing) tend to be left over at disproportionate rates and often end up getting stuck in the system. 

The consequences are manifold, affecting judges, lawyers, registry staff and, ultimately, case disposal. 

The second issue is infrastructure: from inadequate support staff for judges to the dearth of basic courtroom facilities. Without research and secretarial support, judges are unable to perform their functions in a timely manner. 
For instance, in a private interview, a judge said that even though he managed to hear close to 70 cases in a day, it took two days for the stenographers to finish typing the orders. 

A 2016 report published by the Supreme Court showed that existing infrastructure could accommodate only 15,540 judicial officers against the all-India sanctioned strength of 20,558. The lack of infrastructure also raises serious concerns about access to justice. 

Looking at modernisation 
Courts must become more open to applying management principles to optimise case movement and judicial time. In this, external support agencies competent in strategic thinking should be allowed to work with judicial officers to understand and help the institution function better. 

This is already a widely-adopted practice in executive departments across the country. Courts have partially realised this need and created dedicated posts for court managers (MBA graduates) to help improve court operations. But more often than not(usually), court managers are not utilised to their full potential, with their duties restricted to organising court events and running errands. 

Judicial policymakers will also have to expand their reliance on empirical data and courtroom technology. 

Recording and analysing appropriate court-related data is thus the first step in addressing any problem that plagues courts — from arriving at reasonable case listing limits to improving infrastructure. 

Second, court processes must be modernised, and the role of technology is critical. Courts have taken various initiatives over the years to digitise case records and filing; the case information system (CIS) 2.0 is currently being implemented across the country. But as a judge rightly pointed out, using technology in courts cannot remain limited to digitising records alone but must affect how cases actually move through the system. 

Initiatives such as CIS must be supplemented with file-tracking and knowledge management systems, to help courts achieve an optimal level of functioning. 

Final Words 
For courts in India to dispense speedy justice, there must be a change in leadership thought and the willingness to seek help where it is evidently required. 

Title: Making sense of the Wuhan reset 

(The ‘informal summit’ must be seen in the context of Beijing preparing for a pole position in the global sweepstakes) 

Point: India clearly viewed this ‘informal summit’ as a trust-building exercise, hoping to quietly sort out problems that existed between the two countries, including the vexed border issue. 

Mr. Modi used the occasion to convey his ideas on what was needed to be achieved, viz. a shared vision, a shared thought process, a shared resolve, a strong relationship and better communication, between the two countries. 

He provided his vision of the Five Principles defining the relationship: Soch (thought), Sampark (contact), Sahyog (cooperation), Sankalp (determination) and Sapne (dreams). 
Both sides also reiterated the need to cooperate on counter-terrorism, and to strengthen the dialogue mechanism to deal with contentious issues and concerns. 

On the border issue, the summit appears to have reinforced the validity of the April 2005 Document on ‘Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the Boundary Question’, which was signed in the presence of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. 

This document happens to be one of the very few that implicitly acknowledges India’s claims to certain ‘disputed’ areas in the Arunachal sector of the India-China border. Ever since signing on to the ‘Political Parameters and Guiding Principles’ in 2005, China has been trying to reinterpret the contents of the document. 

If the informal summit, as claimed by the Indian side, has endorsed adherence to the letter and spirit of the 2005 Agreement, it marks an important milestone in the settlement of the border issue. 

A pivotal moment 
China is today at a pivotal moment in its history, having embarked on preparations for a pole position in the global sweepstakes. The U.S. and the West are not ready to openly confront China, despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s rhetoric. China currently has a vital role to play in the maintenance of peace in the Korean Peninsula, and in ensuring that the forthcoming Trump-Kim Jong-un talks are not jeopardised. 

The China-Russia equation today is much stronger than previously. China may be feared in East and South Asia, but no country here has the capacity to challenge China. It has established new equations in West Asia, including with Iran. 

A pivotal moment 

One must, hence, look for reasons elsewhere as to why China is adopting a less than belligerent(aggressive) attitude towards India. It appears that China is positioning itself for bigger things and to play bigger roles. 

No concessions 

It should not, therefore, be surprising that in spite of China’s acquiescence in an informal summit, the report card from Wuhan does not add up to much in real terms. 
No manifest concessions appear to have been made by China. The Doklam issue (which was not discussed at the summit) remains unresolved, with China still in the driving seat. 
There are no indications that China has softened its attitude vis-à-vis India’s position in Arunachal Pradesh, or that it will refrain from accusing India of further transgressions here. 

China’s penetration of India’s neighbourhood is set to continue, with special emphasis on countries such as Nepal and the Maldives. China again has not conceded anything with reference to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. 

Final Words 

Meanwhile, India should be concerned about Beijing’s defence budget for 2018. This is being increased by 8.1% over that of the previous year, and is in keeping with the decision of the Chinese 19th Party Congress (October 2017) to build a world class military. 

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