Saturday, March 22, 2008

Modi Series Part1 : Sea-change in judicial System

In 2004, Modi attended a conference of Supreme Courts and High Court judges conference. The highlight of the conference was the over burden of pending cases and how to solve them. They were worried. A day earlier, Modi fully aware of the conference had come with a 3 step proposal. He said the same in the conference:

1) Set up evening courts
2) Reduce number of vacation hours
3) Increase daily working hours

Everyone welcomed it. It came from a person whose own government's case (allegation of involvement of Godhra massacre) is still pending in Supreme Court and everyone was shocked. This can be done only by a person who has guts to change something.

Result: To show that he was serious about this, he set up the first Evening court in Gujarat and asked the Chief Justice of India Y.K. Sabarwal to inaugurate and it was on Nehru's birthday on Nov 14th.

Purpose of evening court: To solve 8 types of cases including cases under the Motor Vehicles Act, criminal cases punishable with imprisonment of up to three years, cases under the Industrial Disputes Act and the Bombay Industrial Relations Act, and civil cases where the claim is less than Rs 1 lakh.

Process of doing this: Modi convened the meeting of all High Court judges and other lawyers and came up with a framework which Modi accepted and gave a green signal. The framework is this -Judges, each staff meber (including typist, toilet cleaner, etc), lawyers everyone will get 25% hike per month. If they reduce the vacation hours, they will be paid even more. The working hours were fixed - 6:15 pm to 8:15 pm.

Target: small farmers, workers and family members who cannot take leave from work during the day hours to attend court proceedings

Groundwork: With a sound and efficient machinery at his hand, Modi set up 44 evening courts in over 12 districts of Gujarat including Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Rajkot.

Impact: disposed 39,000 cases within 1 year. TamilNadu is the second state already having evening courts and Delhi is the third. TamilNadu has 4 courts in Chennai, one in Madurai,Salem, Tiruchirapalli each. Because this is a state subject, I hope every other state esp- Uttar Pradesh which has a backlog of 4.74 million cases. Maharashtra which has a backlog of 3.32 million cases in its lower courts, West Bengal which has 1.9 million, Bihar 1.2 million, Karnataka 1.08 million and Rajasthan 1.05 million take this step.

Logic: Use existing staff and not create new staff.


My take on this:

To make some of the changes in our system an initiative from the Government is a must and this is unfortunate. The process of decentralization and privatization first was introduced by Manhmohan Singh and then rapidly carried out by Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha. As far as judicial process is concerned, an eminent lawyer like Arun Jaitley introduced the concept of "Fast Track" courts by which many pending cases can be speedily delivered. The system is working fine. But, one question which I often ask - Can the system help the mentality many people have in bribing and turning cases in their favour or against them? This cannot be changed. To completely blame Government machinery for that is also not correct. However, a move in which at least more time is alloted to handle several cases only ensures that number of such pending cases can come down.

The analogy is this: When a computer is scheduled to do work, the scheduler has to pick a job amongst many. There is one algorithm which picks the shortest job first and then goes to longer. This algorithm does not ensure that the shortest job when done is completely finished. If it is not finished, it can be introduced again. But giving it the same priority as that of another job which requires more time is inefficient. The fast track courts also function with the same purpose. However, what is the guarantee that justice is delivered? What is the guarantee that the honest people win the case? This has more to do with how lawyers handle the case. This is a problem across all courts even in the US. Those who are in power or rich can win the case.

But I appreciate the fact that for the first time an idea is brought into reality. Whether Arun Jaitley introduced or Narendra Modi introduced is not an issue...The fact that they are in reality and helping a large people needs to be applauded.


Hetal said...

do you have a copy of a reportage on good governance initiatives of Modi's government? That gives an excellent account of about 72 such initiatives. Do write to me if you want one , on

Hetal said...

its named "Beyond the obvious"prepared by Ernst and Young for government of gujarat