The judiciary faces twin problems — the huge pendency of cases and thousands of posts of judicial officers lying vacant. In the term of the first Modi government, Minister of Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad gave an impetus to digitisation of lower courts to address the backlog of cases, with around 20,000 courts currently being covered under phase 2 of eCourts project. With Prasad continuing as the law minister, it is learnt that the government has mooted a plan to address the large number of vacancies in the lower judiciary, and the proposal to set up an All-India Judicial Services is likely to get a push.
At various forums including Parliament, Prasad has emphasised the need for setting up the All India Judicial Services to fill more than 5,000 vacant positions of judicial officers at district courts. The law ministry, sources said, is likely beginning a “consultative process” to involve stakeholders to discuss the proposal.
The idea of setting up the All India Judicial Services is not confined to filling up vacancies in the lower judiciary. The examination, which is proposed to be conducted on the lines of the UPSC examinations, is aimed at attracting the best talent from the country. But as Prasad earlier put it, it also aims to “facilitate inclusion in judiciary of competent persons belonging to unprivileged and marginalised communities”, thereby increasing the representation of SC/ST community in the judiciary.
Prasad has earlier said that with India attracting investment, it is “essential to provide a reliable platform” to handle commercial disputes. And in the second term, the second major push will be in the area of arbitration.
In March, the Union cabinet approved the promulgation of an ordinance for establishing the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre to make India a hub of institutionalised arbitration. The government is expected to introduce the Bill in the new Lok Sabha and get it passed by Parliament.
The government also proposes, sources said, to set up an Arbitration Council of India that aims to grade institutions in alternative dispute resolution on commercial issues. The council was proposed in the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2018, after it was recommended by a high-level committee chaired by Justice B N Srikrishna.
Flagship schemes under the Law Ministry are also expected to get a further push in the second term. For instance, in April 2017, the government launched the “Nyaya Mitra Scheme” to reduce cases pending in courts for over 10 years. Retired judicial officers are engaged and designated as ‘Nyaya Mitra’ to facilitate expeditious disposal of these cases. In the first Phase, 15 Nyaya Mitra were engaged in 15 districts of Rajasthan, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Tripura. The scheme is expected to be rolled out in more states now.