Future of Courts : Is Law in Order ?


Maj. Gen. P. K Sharma(Retd)
Prof. & Director Amity Law School
Dean Faculty of Law
Amity University Gurugram

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” depicts the significance of law and order in any society and the imperative need for a well-functioning Judiciary. Independence of its Judiciary is one of the greatest strengths of India. Judges have not been shy in striking down provisions of law or executive actions when those have violated the Constitution of India. India has faced many challenges in the past, ranging from affordability to reachability of Courts and COVID 19 has been one of the most disruptive hurdles. Indian Judiciary is the largest common law judicial system in the world and has considerable ramifications on social, economic and political scenario in the country, affecting the lives of every citizen. Thus, it needs to be far more adaptive and transparent in its rulings, keeping alive the Rule of Law on whose shoulders the foundation of our democracy stands.

According to the Law Minister, Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad, the total number of pending cases in the Supreme Court is 60,603, in various High Courts is 46.15 lakhs, and 3.19 crore cases in District and Subordinate Courts in India (data as on March 3, 2020). Indian Judiciary does not have the luxury to relax during the pandemic but rather it needs to come up with a solution to fulfil the promise of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)-16 encompassing promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies which provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

In all this mist, usage of digital technology seems to be the panacea but our current Judicial System appears to be inapt in adopting the same. Plagued by myriad of shortcomings, such as no Standard Operating Procedures for emergencies like COVID 19, has resulted in latency to restart functioning. Lack of funding for digitisation of Courts and ill-trained judicial system to adopt technology too, have proved to be time consuming when it comes to dispute resolution.

There is a definite need to make more concentrated efforts towards ‘DIGITAL INDIA’. The Supreme Court’s decision to have live streaming of cases is a step in the right direction but again the implementation has been a bag of mixed results. Therefore, the most conspicuous change needed in functioning of our Courts in future should be faster adoption of digital technologies, which would augment the e-Court initiative of the present Government. It would be a much more streamlined and an integrated approach to make our system further robust. Undoubtedly, the number of cases would increase when economic activities rebound and new domain of cases in health insurance to digital security would require a lot more manpower, which might nudge the Government to introduce All India Judicial Services under Article 312 of the Constitution of India.

In the corporate realm, “time is money” and present lockdown has created huge economic losses to business and  industrialists, instead of going to the traditional Courts, may increasingly adopt ADRs (Alternative Dispute Resolutions) like Arbitration, Conciliation and Mediation, which are a cheaper and faster way to reach a judgment than traditional Courts. The establishment of ‘International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution’ in New Delhi by the Parliament is also facilitating for ADR adoption which in turn helps our ‘Ease of Doing Business’ rankings.

Courts are not only for the rich but also for the poor and India’s 70% population still lives in rural areas. For them Courts might take the form of Lok Adalats and Gram Nyayalaya. This is not only for door-step delivery of justice but is also affordable and less time consuming for the poor. Inevitably, via ‘Domino Effect’, the cases at higher levels of judiciary might also reduce resulting in de-clogging of the system.

Indians have always believed in ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ i.e. entire world is a family. This has motivated legal volunteers to donate their time and expertise to the poor on pro-bono basis. ‘Nyaya Mitra Scheme’, which uses Common Service Centres (CSCs), would be seeing a higher acceptance rate as the poor people are hit worst during pandemics and other such miseries; thus, many would come to help them via this Scheme. Courts would hence, morph into such smaller CSCs from the Conventional Courts.

As Justice Malimath Committee rightly said that, “Entire existence of orderly society depends upon sound and efficient functioning of criminal justice system” and the Courts are an indispensable part of it. Future of Indian Courts mainly hinges on the digital domain along with a much more decentralized delivery so that in any subsequent emergency the whole system does not come to a stand-still. COVID 19 has been a reminder that we not only need reforms in the system but we need it quickly and the time has come to act upon it.

Amity Law School