The considerable backlog of cases in Delhi courts is not the only issue delaying the administration of justice in the capital. From a delay in paying prosecutors’ salaries to lack of research material and a paucity of courtrooms, the Delhi government’s law department has some major hurdles to cross before it can ensure a justice system that works without inordinate delays and logistical hiccups.
Delay in paying remuneration to public prosecutors: Changes in rules for clearing bills and an alleged delay in the process has left the additional public prosecutors (APP) of the Delhi High Court without salaries for the past six months. Of the 34-member panel of prosecutors, 29 have not received their due remuneration, said sources.
APPs are paid in accordance with the number of cases that they handle each month. They have to submit bills with details of each court appearance, which is then verified by the standing counsel (criminal) and finally cleared by the law department.
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In December, the rule was modified and the APPs were asked to submit copies of the order sheets issued by the courts to verify their appearance in the courtroom. But this rule was not enforced till the AAP government took over, an APP, said.
Since February, when the new government came to power, the law department has strictly enforced the rule requiring prosecutors to submit the order sheets and “self verify” the documents. While sources in the law department say that several prosecutors did not submit the required documents, prosecutors claim their bills have not been cleared despite submitting the requisite documents.
They allege that repeated requests and even personal meetings with senior officials of the law department officials have not yielded any results.
Principal Secretary, Law, R Kiran Nath, refused to comment on the issue. “This is an internal matter. If a particular person has a problem, they can come and meet me directly,” Nath said.
Delhi government’s Standing Counsel Rahul Mehra has claimed that his office has cleared all the bills submitted by the prosecutors who had filed copies of the court orders. “It is for the government to answer why the bills have not been cleared. The bills are from January so my predecessor can answer why they have not been cleared,” said Mehra, who was appointed in June.
But the issue of prosecutors’ remunerations being delayed is not new. Since 2009, the Delhi HC has been monitoring the issue of facilities and remunerations being given to the APPs appointed to the district courts in the city, who had approached the court after their bills were not cleared.
Limited access to case research: For several months, public prosecutors in trial courts did not have access to the e-library, which increased the time and effort required for legal research in each case.
In May, an irate bench of the court had issued summons to the principal secretary (finance) to explain why subscription to the e-library had not been renewed for several months. In an affidavit submitted to the court earlier this week, the government has said the home department and finance department had approved e-library subscriptions to 221 APPs under the Directorate of Prosecution in Delhi.
Meanwhile, the proposal for a subscription to Manupatra, the most extensive and widely used online research tool for lawyers, has finally been cleared by the Delhi government’s finance department.
Not enough space for more courtrooms: In 2014, a PIL was filed before the Delhi High Court by advocate R K Kapoor, seeking directions to appoint more judges to lower courts to deal with the backlog of cases. The bench hearing the matter was informed that the judges could not be appointed till more courtrooms and ancilliary office spaces could be created.
The High Court bench then asked the chief secretary of the Delhi government to hold meetings with the law department, the High Court administration, DDA, PWD, finance department and other concerned agencies on the issue.
In an affidavit submitted to the court of Justice GS Sistani and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal on Friday, the government gave its analysis of the available space in six district court complexes and other nearby areas that could be used to create more courtrooms.
A report by the PWD states that more courts can be built in the existing court complexes themselves, if the spaces currently being used for parking and to accommodate lawyers’ chambers were cleared and courtrooms were constructed there instead.
As many as 218 courtrooms can be built in the Tis Hazari court complex if the space allotted for lawyers’ chambers is cleared, says the report.