Press Releases Archive


The Seventh session of the Indian Democracy at Work Conference 2021 on Rule of Law saw a distinguished panel deliberate on ways to Strengthening Constitutional Courts. Justice Madan B. Lokur, Former Judge, Supreme Court of India chaired this session. The other panelists were Shri V. Sudhish Pai, Lawyer and Jurist, Shri Alok Prasanna Kumar, Co-Founder and Lead, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, Karnataka, Ms. Cathy Catterson, Former Clerk of Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, USA and Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan, Retd. IAS and the founder of Foundation for Democratic Reforms also participated.

Justice Madan B. Lokur opened his remarks by stating that Supreme Court should be in the nature of the federal court with its limits and restraints. It should not intervene in High Courts decisions and let High Court of a state decide on matters of its state law.  The necessary interventions should be cautiously and judiciously done. The Supreme Court should also take up issues which have all India impact and not just impacting individual state issues. For this it is necessary to use filters given in constitution. He added that it is also necessary to have time bound High Court decisions and they should have the final word in interpretation of the law in the state. He added that more emphasis should be given to imparting constitutional vision to lower courts so that most of the workload coming to constitutional courts can be reduced.  He also suggested the ideas of increasing the number of benches in high courts in different areas of the state must be evaluated with caution. In addition, he gave an example of case management in USA that brought down the case load by 90% in three years such case management strategies must be applied to our courts also. Strong effort has to be made to achieve reforms working with in the system and using the resources of the system. 

Mr, Sudhish Pai stated at the outset that the primary role is to uphold the constitutional values and not mere dispute resolution. Supreme Court should work mostly with definition of fine nuances of constitutional charter and this is where the intellect and integrity of the judges comes into play. However, it looks like Supreme Court has turned into final court of appeals and it appears that the Court does not have time for serious constitutional issues. He wondered as to what is the appropriate number of Judges in the SC and increasing the number might be good.  He also added that increasing the number of judges in constitutional courts indiscriminately will dilute their role and prestige. He mentioned that the constitutional courts cannot just be a court of error correction from its lower courts.  He was confident that once we strengthen high courts, workload in SC will decrease. A quality that is most important is that statesmanship, legal balance, scholarship and integrity of judges in SC will go a long way in reforming the system.

Mr. Alok Prasanna Kumar stated at the outset that all courts are and must be essentially constitutional courts not just the High Court and Supreme Court. He stated some glaring problems in the High Courts and should be immediately addressed. Bureaucratic stubbornness in not implementing the High Court orders is very common.  He also said that High Courts are too concentrated in big cities in the state and so most of the cases are from urban areas.  He suggested that they should have more benches of high courts in different areas of the state. Criminal cases appeals are also not disposed off quickly sending wrong signals in the society and a special bench must be quickly constituted to quickly dispose the back logs. In addition, excessive number of bail petitions are taken up in the High Courts as lower courts simply deny bails, this must be urgently looked into. Another important concern is that there is a bias towards appointment of judges from bar and not from subordinate judiciary and this needs to change so that there is about fifty percent selected from lower benches.  This adds experience to the depth of the benches in the High Court.  In the short term, the High Court should prioritize and dispose of cases of 10 years or more pendency with clear deadlines. In the long term, Mr. Alok Prasanna suggested that software and artificial intelligence should be used to manage the voluminous material that needs to be reviewed in the courts. He finally added that the Supreme Court is apex civil, criminal and constitutional court and it may serve us well to be divides it into three such specialized courts.

Ms. Cathy Catterson stated that workload and case management, in addition to important reforms is critical. She pointed that Judges should be appointed for longer terms as they can provide lot of institutional knowledge. She pointed out that it is critical to have management and staff work with administrative matters and save time of judges so that they can concentrate on adjudication.  She suggested that the courts can have staff  lawyers that can look into jurisdictions and also have a preliminary review of the cases. These staff attorneys are centralized and work under the Chief Justice with supervisory guidance. Role of mediation in civil cases can also be considered to reduce the workload in the courts. To eliminate the delay, the contesting parties should be given strict deadlines to file all their information, counters, and evidence. She suggested a court management system where in simple cases can be disposed off with briefs and allot less time of judge and the complex cases more time. Ms. Catterson emphasized on the role of court staff which is professional with appropriate training and taking the services of paralegal staff.

Monday, March 1, 2021 - 12:59


The sixth session of the Indian Democracy at Work Conference 2021 on Rule of Law saw a distinguished panel deliberate on ways to get Speedy Justice in Trial Courts. 

Justice G. Raghuram, Director, National Judicial Academy was the chair for this session.  Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan, General Secretary, Foundation for Democratic Reforms, Justice R. C. Chavan, Vice Chairman, E-Committee of Supreme Court and Shri Atul Kaushik, Chief of Party, Asia Foundation. The main topics covered in this session were: 1. Establishing local courts in rural and urban areas 2. Building capacity - Increasing the judge to population ratio and strengthening use of technology and court administration 3. Clearing arrears in trial courts 4. Reinforcing the authority of the trial courts - contempt of court and perjury provisions

Dr. Jayaprakash Narayana set the agenda for discussion and said that he is concerned about need for fair, quick and affordable justice. There are 35 million cases pending in courts we have 18 judges per million population as opposed to 50 in many countries, only 14 are available. He added that people suffer injustice silently and the political discourse is only about vote-gathering and justice delivery is not given priority. He stated that local courts with summary procedures can render speedy justice at low cost, and can reduce burden on trial courts.  Dr. JP drew from examples of USA and UK about small claims courts.  Local courts can take care of 80% of the cases with some pecuniary and penal jurisdictions.   

Justice G. Raghuram gave direction to the discussion. At the outset he said there are 2 kinds of people, one that come to the court and another that are brought to the court.  The ones that come to the court seem to be more troublesome and ones brought to the court seem to be the victims, and this is not how it should be. A democracy must have robust justice delivery, failing which people lose faith. Reforms in the Judicial system starts with legal education and judicial recruitments. Justice Raghuram outlined the many failings in our judicial systems. He also suggested the need for psycho-social evaluations in recruitment of judges and other critical positions in the judicial system. He also emphasized that a complex society requires specialized knowledge and expertise in personnel working in the judicial system. An average law graduate is not competent enough to function as a lawyer, let alone be a judge. Training should be enhanced qualitatively. Faculty to judicial academies should be selected based on rigorous quality standards.  Justice delivery must be seen as a service and must be subject to quality and efficiency standards. Currently, there are no consequences to making false statements and this should be changed where in false statements and perjury should be punished. He also added that Media trials also hampers the investigation process and trials.  

Justice Chavan started with agreeing with all problems stated and some of the solutions proposed. He also added that adjudications must be evaluated for quality and be audited regularly. Political interference in charge-sheets and case filing disturbs the justice delivery of trial courts are not alert in these matters, it  leads to injustice.  There is also neglect of procedures by courts at all levels.  He added that Interminable appeals and revisions are an issue and they delay the process. Adjudications at the trial courts are not complete and thorough and this does not build confidence in the system. 

Mr. Atul Kaushik pointed out that the investment in the justice system is low with respect to the GDP of our country. He pointed out that we should ask a deeper question as to what our objectives should be for our justice system.  On that front he suggested 4 interventions for speedy justice in trial courts: 1. Application of technology; 2. Process Reengineering; 3. Alternate Dispute Resolution and mediation and 4. Having specialized Court Managers and Court Clerks. He further explained that Technology application from document management to content management with transparency, efficiency and will build trust in the system. Process reengineering has to take 2 components: efficient case management and abandonment of legacy and redundant procedures that delay trials. Mr. Kaushik stated that alternative dispute resolution and mediation for simple cases ensure speedy justice.

Monday, March 1, 2021 - 12:51


The Fifth session of the Indian Democracy at Work Conference 2021 on Rule of Law saw a distinguished panel deliberate on ways of challenges in civil procedures and reforms needed. 

Shri N. L. Rajah, Senior Advocate, Madras High Court chaired the session. Dr. Sudhir Krishnaswamy, Vice-Chancellor, NLSIU, Bengaluru, Justice (Dr.), Shalini Phansalkar Joshi, Former Judge, Bombay High Court, and  Mr. Hiram E. Chodosh, President, Claremont McKenna College, USA and Dr. Jayaprakash Narayana, (Retd. IAS) and founder of Foundation for Democratic Reforms served as panelists. The main topics covered in this session were: 1.Institutionalizing case management in civil courts 2. Mitigating challenges in the functioning of Commercial Courts and 3. Updating pecuniary jurisdictions of civil courts

Shri N.L Rajah opened the session with welcoming all the panelists and complimented all for this much needed conference. Numerous commissions were set up to address this issue, however, much needed action is not coming forth.  The main problems in the system are lower amount spent on judiciary as a ratio of GDP, low judge to population ratio, lack of prioritization of cases, and need for trained paralegals and more training of judges. He opened the discussion for panelists. Justice Shalini Joshi suggested that we should have Procedural bench and Trial benches for quicker disposal of cases. She also suggested introduction of managerial approach in the courts to quickly evaluate the complexity of cases and prioritize to process them. Classification of cases with respect to pecuniary and other jurisdictions will go a long way in helping the cases.

Dr. Sudhir Krishnaswamy complimented the organizers for selecting the critical topic and timely debate.  He suggested that the problems should be measured not just in GDP and other indicators but also with more qualitative indicators. Problems are only evaluated from supply side and from the state side, and the demand side must also be looked into. Empirical grounded discourse with legal background and demand side analysis is also especially important. He gave an example that commercial dispute resolution slowdown in New Delhi courts is a classic example of how the delays have not be decreased by the Act and its amendments have failed to do the needful. We need to rethink of how our systems fundamentally. Handling Interim Orders, Interlocutory Orders, Setting Outcome Dates have shown good track record of clearing out cases quickly in common law countries.

Mr. Hiram E. Chodosh stated that all policy interventions still have limited impact and modest outcomes persist. We should look at structures and seek structural solutions in addition to procedural and systemic solutions commonly suggested. Most reforms are too little and too late and critical errors happen in diagnosing the problem. We need to start with having a clear vision of what to achieve and work towards it. Dr. Choodosh suggested we need to closely look at incentives and values the reform promotes and that previous reforms must be closely evaluated, and that we should monitor and analyze data more closely to get effective reforms. 

Justice Shalini Joshi said that justice delivery in civil cases is simpler than in criminal cases. In criminal cases the investigative and prosecuting agencies have a vital role, and the court alone cannot render justice. But in civil cases the Judge can make a vast difference. She onlined a series of practical and effective steps to render speedy justice in civil cases. Enhancing the pecuniary jurisdiction of trial courts as in Maharashtra, minimizing appeals, applying a sunset date so that the parties do not seek postponement indefinitely, and a competent case management system are at the heart of speedy and efficient justice in civil cases.

Monday, March 1, 2021 - 12:40