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Judges should not waste time in Committees, said former Supreme Court Judge, Justice Madan B Lokur as he emphasized that Judges should only look at judicial wok.
Justice Lokur said that Committees constituted for various purposes by the Courts should be manned by the Court’s administrative staff and not the Judges.
Justice Lokur was speaking on the theme ‘Judicial Reforms: Way Forward’ at an online seminar organized by the Beyond Law CLC and Punjab University, Chandigarh. His fellow speaker was Punjab & Haryana High Court Judge, Dr Justice S Muralidhar.
During his address, Justice Lokur suggested "marshalling our resources" for the purpose of judicial reforms.
What are our existing resources and how do we add or modify them?, he asked.
He suggested that there was a need to cash the vibrant Lok Adalat system.
It is not functioning as it should have. It has not been established everywhere, Justice Lokur remarked.
He called for effective legal aid and advice in order to avoid, to the extent possible, coming to courts.
Justice Lokur advocated institutionalizing arbitration laws and procedure and promoting meditation as an alternate dispute resolution mechanism.
He also raised concerns on vacancy and consequent non-functioning of certain Tribunals and Commission. By and large, doing a good job, Justice Lokur nonetheless said.
Justice Lokur further spoke at length on incorporating technology in judiciary.
Technology may be adopted for case management, paperless courts, virtual courts, audio recording case proceedings etc, Justice Lokur suggested.
He called for updating procedural laws to incorporate technology and placing more reliance on detailed written submissions from parties in place of lengthy oral arguments.
Justice Lokur took the opportunity to remind the audience that social distancing was here to stay due to COVID-19.
There is a limit to how much judges can work. Once lockdown is lifted, huge number of cases will be filed.. Pendency is going to keep piling up, he apprehended.
Justice S Muralidhar began his address by revisiting the judicial reforms that were introduced in as far as 1793.
He illustrated how reforms in Judiciary were related to economic development also as he spoke on the introduction of Insolvency, arbitration laws and establishment of commercial courts.
Relying on a 2018 report, Justice Muralidhar listed certain "court values" for better functioning of judiciary. These are equality, fairness, impartiality, independence, competence, integrity, transparency, accessibility, timeliness and certainty.
He further added that there are certain "court measures" that could evaluate the functioning of a court. These included case clearance rate, on-time case processing, court file integrity, case backlog, employee engagement, compliance with court orders, cost of a case.
Justice Muralidhar emphasized on the existence of non-formal Judicial system and lack of dialogue between non-formal and formal Judicial system.
The predominant question that we should ask when we talk about judicial reforms is how are vulnerable groups being treated, he said.
Justice Muralidhar said that it was imperative that lawyers be taken on board while implementing any judicial reforms.
He also suggested that there was a need to look at new tools that could be adopted like online courts.
Technology will be an additional tool, cannot replace courts completely, Justice Muralidhar clarified.
Justice Muralidhar also called for evaluating the performance of Judicial academies in the country.
During the question & answer session, Justice Muralidhar mooted imparting English language and legal language training to judges in subordinate judiciary in response to a query on quality of judges and judments in courts of first instance.
In response to a question of live-streaming case proceedings, Justice Lokur said,
"Should it be live streamed or should it be deferred? Who will have access? Implementation of live streaming of cases is a challenge . But if it can be done, there is nothing like it."
The Judges also answered queries on implementation of e-filing and shared their experience at the Dehi High Court.
The online Seminar ended after the Q&A Session.