We knew the problem from the start. Now we can actually work on solutions for tangible and lasting results.
Par Desh Gaurav Sekhri et Satwik Mishra
The pressure to access justice in India may not have been greater historically than it is today, during this pandemic. With deadlines and delays, the challenges of quickly and effectively resolving disputes have been exacerbated by the pandemic, requiring major reforms, whether driven by technology or in traditional processes.
This is evidenced by the draft vision document for the third phase of the Electronic Courts Project by the Electronic Courts Committee. The project demonstrated how Covid-19 brought with it an “unprecedented opportunity for change” in the justice system. He recognized the power of technology to accelerate and transform access to justice with an ecosystem-holistic approach. This approach will use data-based analytics to drive operations; Simplification of procedures for litigants, lawyers, and bailiffs through user-centered design principles; Increase digital infrastructure through seamless communication between prisons, courts, and legal aid authorities through open standards and APIs; And finally, building new governance institutions such as the National Forensic Technology Board to increase the ecosystem for forensic technology.
The situation in terms of delay, of course, remains bleak. According to data referenced on the National Network for Judicial Data (as of April 13, 2021), the number of cases pending judgments is 3.81.44088 in lower courts, 57.51.173 in higher courts and 67279 in courts. Supreme court. But there is a new mindset and a new political approach in place that could change the dynamics and put India in a position of readiness that makes life easier, facilitates doing business and most importantly, ease of doing business. Access to justice.
Before we get to the updated changes we’re seeing now, it’s important to think about how difficult the status quo is. Despite the extra work and the swift settlement of cases, the courts were still unable to reverse the trend of increased suspension. In 2019, the Supreme Court ruled in 45,787 cases, the higher courts ruled 1917,049 cases, and the district courts ruled a good number of 18,371,774 cases. Although large, there was no breach, as evidenced by the increasing number of cases in India.
Another challenge to achieving equity is the cost of litigation, which makes affordability a barrier to entry. Daksh, a research center specializing in legal policy, conducted a survey in 2016 to determine the cost individuals bear in litigation due to ineffective court procedures. The study states, “On average, per day, civil litigants spend Rs 497 on court hearings and suffer a loss of Rs 844 due to lost wages. Criminal litigants spend Rs 542 on hearings and incur a cost of Rs 902 due to lost wages.”
From the point of view of ease of doing business, entrepreneurial activity is one of the categories most vulnerable to suspension challenges. A study by Manaswini Rao in 2020 covering about 60 lakh cases in 195 local courts with a large sample of 13,928 companies showed that sales revenue, payroll and profits are negatively correlated with a longer average duration of business handling of the business. Research also shows that the low rate of case exclusion presents major challenges to the economy. Amrit Amirabu in his article “Delayed Justice Denies Growth: The Impact of Slow Courts on Relationship Industries in India” Calculates that in India “If the portion of cases resolved in less than a year increased by 0.2 species, this would have resulted in Rs. 5.43 crore.” Additional GDP in 2018. ‘
India is ranked 163 in the “Contract Enforcement” in the World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business Ranking. Capital and technology are largely encouraged through a rigorous contract enforcement system, as illustrated brilliantly by Michael Seitz and Martin Watzinger in their article “Contract Enforcement.” And investment in research and development. “
As the Indian economy grows and is formalized and digitized, companies will become multi-level, innovative units of operations will be designed, transactions will intensify and inevitable disagreements will arise. Lack of effective conflict resolution mechanisms hinders entrepreneurial efforts and suppresses intellectual, social and economic growth. It is imperative to increase the rate and efficiency of case handling, to ensure the availability of effective dispute resolution mechanisms and, finally, to utilize technology to resolve disputes amicably through mechanisms such as Online Dispute Resolution (ODR).
Immediate and long term solutions
Indian laws have a legacy of over 150 years, with the Indian Penal Code coming into effect in 1862. Old laws that lead to unnecessary litigation should be repealed as they are now with more than 1,500 laws removed in recent years. In addition, for any new legislation, the final review clause should become a mandatory intervention, with it being reviewed after a few years to see its importance in society.
The corollary of this is the widespread decriminalization of minor offenses after determining whether the public and private costs of criminalization outweigh the costs. the benefits? Failure to comply with some statutory provisions that do not involve bad faith can be resolved by financial compensation rather than imprisonment, which inevitably leads to litigation.
Finally, among the plethora of lawsuits going on in the Indian judicial system, there are a large number of them that do not require interpretation of the law by a judge, but merely a judgment on the facts. This can take the online dispute resolution method, which has the potential to avoid disputes by promoting legal education and stimulating informed options to initiate litigation and also by resorting to mediation, conciliation or arbitration and resolving disputes outside the court system. The Indian government can promote policies that include ODR to ensure an efficient and effective dispute settlement ecosystem, including government disputes.
In the words attributed to Charles Dickens’ iconic character Pip in “Great Expectations,” “nothing is acutely aware of and acutely feels injustice.” The progressive approach of the Supreme Court, the rapid amendment of online courts, the work that the Indian government is doing on multiple fronts, and the rapidly changing landscape of law and technology make this the most important opportunity for change. We knew the problem from the start. Now we can actually work on solutions for tangible and lasting results.
The authors are OSD (Law), Chief Access to Justice, and NITI Aayog Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, respectively. Opinions are personal
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