Press Releases Archive


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

IDAW Session on Rule of Law and Economic Growth

The Friday session of the Indian Democracy at Work Conference 2021 on Rule of Law saw an eminent panel deliberate on Rule of Law on Economic Growth. Shri R.N. Bhaskar, Senior Business Journalist was the chair for the session. Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Former Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission of India, Dr. Arvind Virmani, Chairman, Foundation for Economic Growth and Welfare, Shri Pradeep S. Mehta, Founder Secretary General, Consumer Unity & Trust Society and Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan, Retd. IAS and founder of Foundation for Democratic Reforms.

Shri R.N. Bhaskar started the explaining the importance and urgency of Rule of Law. He started with showing statistics how at all levels from Judges to police personnel are always short in numbers.  This repeated shortage is not an accident but by design. This needs urgent attention.

Evidence cannot live beyond a fortnight is a good attitude for the justice system to have to quickly provide justice. In ancient Rome lawyers were remunerated on swift conduct of trial and speed justice. Lack of adequate judicial system leads to organized crime filling the void and eventually leading to anarchy. Small protection pockets are created when a section of people come together and being legal becomes unimportant. When people have to vote for their protectors and no other criteria is used to vote a corrupt and criminal system develops.  The weakness in the system not to punish the corrupt is very detrimental. There are also lot of issues of MSME, India’s backbone, that need immediate attention.

Dr. Montek Singh said no worthwhile economic growth can take place without rule of law.  Our legal system is dysfunctional, laws are not well drafted and remedies lie in several different areas. We currently, do not have enough judges and policemen and state cannot have be expected to provide justice to its citizens with such shortages. He added that we also need high quality of lawyers and judges.  It sometimes feels that we are expecting reforms in the country from judiciary and judgements. On another front, government negating of licenses after granting them, leads destroying confidence in the investors and leads to larger uncertainty.  In addition, uncertainty of land titles leads investors to expect the government to acquire land for them.  This creates an uneasy relationship between the government and the business. On the long run no matter what decision you make it seems it can be controversial, but still we must deliberate and decide what is right.  He further added that raising the level of deliberations by including all segments of economy with transparency and hearing out to comments go a long way. 

Dr. Arving Virmani stated that economics and law are essential concepts to understand for all of us. Markets and role of governments are critical subjects and evidence of history is pointing to the answers.  Since ancient times, there have been rules and laws and there were always some kind of support system to conduct trade.  He added that regulations are in a grey area and that there are positive and negative externalities in modern economy. Three sectors namely Financial Sector, Education Sector, and Health Sector are full of information asymmetry. Similarly the modern economic activities seem to have lot of asymmetric information issues and moral hazards and so need modern and professional regulators to tackle the issues with vigour. 

Shri. Pradeep S Mehta said that seeking adjournments in courts and lack of appropriate court management system is dampening the economic activity. He also added that colonial system of holidays in court is inappropriate. This also increases the time for judges to pronounce judgements. We need to improve on the quality of Judges and increase the number of judges. Shri Mehta insisted that lok adalats and gram nyayalayas for quick justice at the village and local level will instill confidence in the society and economy.  Contract enforcement is one of the worst in our and on this front government cannot do much, but judiciary has to step up. For modern economy, we require reorientation of judiciary with cognizance on economic impacts. We should focus on constitutionality and institutions and that a few PILs cannot reform the whole system. Building institutions is necessary, rather than few individual pockets dispensing justice like police personnel acting as arbitrators and adjudications or local strongmen settling disputes.

Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan: Supreme Court is meant for determining constitutionality of laws, not for assessing merits or demerits of a policy or making better policy. He added that public opinion has not yet completely accepted clear separation of powers.  FDR and Loksatta constituted a committee of eminent jurist-Justices Venkatachaliah, JS Verma and Krishna Iyer -  to recommend a model for judicial appointments, and persuaded the main parties to create NJAC. But the Supreme Court quashed the 99th Amendment. As people are not ready to insist on separation of powers, it will take long to correct the distortion of judges appointing their successors. Finally FDR pursued the local courts law and Gram Nyayalayas Act has been enacted in 2009. But so far only over 200 courts are functioning whereas about 6000 courts should have been in place. Most simple cases can be decided by local courts swiftly through summary procedures, and reduce the burden on judiciary. Courts playing their rightful role, improving procedures, strengthing capacity and expertise, and injecting talent through IJS and other measures are needed immediately. 

Sunday, February 28, 2021 - 09:12