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Critical Analysis Of District Court Situation In India

District Courts: A Facet Of Justice

District courts are lower than High Courts or Supreme Courts. They are the purest in their form and expected to be as these are the places where justice is served. District Courts have vast area of jurisdiction. Judges in these courts have ample powers in their hands which can not be taken away. The functions of district courts are multi-fold which they are performing since their establishment, there is no doubt on that.

The practical procedure followed in imparting justice is somehow different from higher courts and is rigid. There has been wide and wide contribution of district courts in imparting justice which they are doing now too. There are total 672 district courts in India. It can be in form of 1 district court for each district or for 2 or more districts according to rules already framed.

But the main question lies here:
  • Are district courts facing any drawbacks or brings total satisfactory results?

    The basic answer lies in a single statement i.e. 'There are many loopholes in functioning of district courts'. Obviously all district courts are not same but the problem is highlighted for some of them.

    The sub-questions to this main question are:
    1. Is pendency of cases in district courts a major hurdle in their development?

      This point needs most of the attention as this is a major hurdle in justice delivery system. India is a country where there is huge pendency of cases which ultimately leads to hardships for all the persons associated with the case i.e. victim, accused, their family members, witnesses etc. Pending cases leads to increased litigation costs as advocates charge exorbitant amount of fees from their clients.

      According to National Judicial Data Grid and SC, on April 15, 2021, there were 3.81 crore pending cases in district courts.[1] According to a report on access to justice (2016) lower judiciary operates with the sanctioned workforce of 20,558 officers and actual working strength of 16,176 officers, with judicial vacancy raging between 4,382 and 4,589 for the same period.[2]

      Solutions:
      • More appointments of officers will be of great help.
      • Specification regarding the time consumption in dealing with any particular case.
      • Help of All India Judicial Services can be taken to benefit the subordinate courts which may lead to reduction in the problem of pendency.[3]
         
    2. Are district courts maintaining hygienic environment?

      As far as noticed, district courts are not having a clean environment. For hygienic environment, a place needs to have clean and organized toilet facilities, proper garbage disposal, neat and clean floors, clean and filtered water supply and much more than that and district courts are failing to be on this level. On a daily basis there are thousands of people visiting any particular district court and unhygienic environment is the root cause of diseases and harm to reputation of these courts. And also lack of hygiene reflects failure of public schemes.

      Solutions:
      • Functioning of specified schemes for hygienic environment in district courts and keeping a check on their application.
      • Central and State govt. to regulate hygienic environment.
         
    3. What about physical infrastructure in district courts?

      It's sad to accept this bitter truth that India's district courts are facing the problem of poor infrastructure whether in the form of poorly maintained buildings, court rooms, chambers, libraries and other rooms. The lower judiciary is operating under a deficiency of 5,018 court rooms.[2]

      The standard level which is expected from these courts are not at all maintained. Because of renowned reputation of district court, a layman or a law student who had not visited there have high expectations from this place which eventually comes to an end after a single visit. Justice Dipak Misra while delivering a lecture on the topic ''Technology, Training and Infrastructure: Key to Speedy Justice'' said that 'Infrastructure gaps in judicial system must be addressed at the earliest before it leaves scar on justice administration, and fiscal constraints must not be used as an excuse."

      Solutions:
      • There is need for greater allocation of funds for maintenance of infrastructure in district courts which are being neglected.
      • The superior authority to district courts should maintain a proper check on these courts. High Court is the superior authority so there is a need of keeping an eye on the infrastructure development of district courts and if need arises even to set an infrastructure bench for the same.
      • Infrastructure development is an essential demand for independence of judiciary so there is an ultimate need of resources.
      • The duty will be well performed by the Executive authorities who hold funds leading to unavailability for judicial infrastructure development.
         
    4. Is there a situation of excess crowds?

      District Court is the place where there is excess crowds of advocates, clients, clerks, general public, police officials due to various reasons like maximum cases are first heard in district court, pendency of cases, clients come with their families and the result of overcrowding is congenial atmosphere for judicial work which leads to waste of time, energy and money.

      Solutions:
      • There should be a waiting area with adequate seating and ventilation for public and litigants so that overcrowd near the courtrooms can be avoided.[4]
      • Obviously, speedy justice will be of great help in reducing crowds in court.
         
    5. Is there any rioting in district courts?

      Sadly there is. It happens between advocates/ clients/ advocates and clients/ others. There are rising violent behavior in district courts. The reasons are professional misconduct by lawyers, lack of response to clients etc. If this continues, the standard level and the respect for these courts will suffer.

      Solutions:
      • Strict penalties in case of violation of rules framed under Advocates Act,1961 with regard to professional misconduct.

    6. Is there any need to tackle corruption from district courts?

      Over 45% of Indians believe that judiciary is corrupt, a view shared by external assessments. People seek short cuts through bribery and favours. In 2013, 36% citizens reported paying bribe to judiciary. A 2007 survey reported that 59% of the respondents paid bribe to lawyers, 5% to judges, and 30% to court official for speedy and favorable judgments.[5] Corruption is a serious issue in the lower judiciary and if it continues the percent will reach 100 soon

      Solution:
      • There should be an online complaint portal where general public can report their grievances for district courts.
      • Regular social audit of court complex.
      • Strict application of rules governing giving and taking bribes.

    7. Are safety protocols for women maintained in district courts?

      Sexual exploitation of women at workplace is quite common to notice. But district courts whose purpose is to impart justice which includes justice to women become a cause of sexual exploitation in the premises of courts. There are rising number of female advocates as in this era women are more inclined towards working.

      The rising female advocates has resulted in rising female exploitation on which there is no one to keep an eye and the women are the only sufferers. Clients reach more often to male advocates and if some reach females they do not treat them with much respect owing to their sex. Sometimes even litigants demand sexual favours from their female clients as a condition precedent to solve their case.

      Solutions:
      • Strict application of Sexual Harassment of women at workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 in the premises of court.
      • Legislature to make a separate law dealing with sexual harassment of women in court premises.

         
    8. Is there organized parking facilities in district courts?

      District courts are the places where there is huge amount of rush which results in clogging and ultimately leads to clogging of vehicles of judges, advocates, clients, workers, clerks etc. There is no parking facility available in district court premises and if there is, that is not organized which result in congestion of vehicles and blockage. This even leads to noise pollution in the premises of courts which disturbs the public peace in such areas.

      Solutions:
      • There has to be separate parking attendant dealing with the parking spaces, ensuring vehicles are parked in open spots and maintaining cleanliness in parking areas.

         
    9. Is there proper navigation facilities in district courts?

      According to NCMS report, A court complex should have a guide map, a reception centre along with a facilitation centre and a document filing counter at the entrance of the complex.[4] Basically the facilities of navigation includes readable placed signages, guidemaps, help desks to enable general people to know the complex locations in courtrooms.

      Solutions:
      • Guidemaps at entrance as well as main building so that litigant can consult the guidemaps to find way around court complex.
      • Minimum 1 helpdesk either at the entry or main building to require human resources.
      • There should be more e-case display boards and signages.

         
    10. Is there qualified staff in district courts?

      In district courts, there are maximum number of unqualified staff who are given technical work to do which leads to poor quality of work performance. There is no check on the appointment of staff in lower judiciary. And also there is shortage of staff as compared to workload in district courts. A single staff member have to perform work of more than 1 staff leading to deplorable work performance and problem relating to scheduling, notice of court date and unsound manner of listing of cases. 41,775 positions for secretarial and support staff are lying vacant in lower courts.[2]

      Solutions:
      • States have to make new legislations to increase the number of staff in district courts.
      • There is a need to have training facilities for the working staff.
      • Recruitment Policy and Standard Staffing need to be settled.
      • High Courts should do their function of being superior courts to district courts and establish a Human Resource Department.

         
    11. Do websites provide sufficient information for district court litigants?

      Websites are useful in accessing vast information especially for litigants. It is advantageous than access of information by person-to-person interactions as it saves time and energy and is an easy method. If a litigant is relying on a website, there are various things which has to be provided in a website like cause list, court fees, case status, certified copies, orders and judgments, online filing court information etc. There are states especially in north- eastern region which are lacking in this basic facility leading to disadvantages for a litigant. [4]

      Solutions:
      • Courts should make their website more interactive and inclusive for all, where online applications can be filed more rapidly, judgments or orders can be downloaded more conveniently.
      • Central and State govt. should coordinate for upgradation and designing of district court websites.
      • Court papers and files have to be digitalized as physical files are stored haphazardly in the court premises.

         
    12. Is a stable check maintained in district courts and if yes how?

      District court is a lower court to High Court or Supreme Court. High Court or Supreme Court being superior to district court have the power to keep an eye on the working of lower judiciary and frame rules and regulations for the efficient working of district court which they are bound to follow. There are many loopholes (some are highlighted above) in the functioning of district court which is sought to be regulated by these superior courts.

      Solutions:
      • Judicial performance of district courts has to be timely evaluated which will enhance the transparency and accountability.
      • The performance review system i.e. Annual Confidential Reports has to be filled up regularly and conducted in a non-transparent manner.[6]

Conclusion

There is no doubt on justice delivery system of district courts. But the problem highlighted has to be cured for more efficient and better quality of justice. The solutions are wide but Central and State govt. need to work on this to make it possible for Indian lower judiciary to remove these loopholes. There is an urgent need of more resources for the subordinate judiciary. The problems and solutions highlighted are not conclusive and there are more like that. There is a need of reform in district courts to meet the expectations of general public from these institutions.

References:
  1. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pending-cases-in-india-cross-4-4-crore-up-19-since-last-year/articleshow/82088407.cms
  2. Subordinate Courts of India: A Report on Access to Justice (2016), Centre for Research and Planning Supreme Court of India
  3. https://www.latestlaws.com/articles/how-to-reduce-the-pendency-in-the-courts/
  4. https://vidhilegalpolicy.in/research/building-better-courts-surveying-the-infrastructure-of-indias-district-courts/
  5. https://globalanticorruptionblog.com/2016/02/12/the-indian-judiciary-on-trial-tackling-corruption-in-indias-courts/
  6. https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/How-to-judge-the-judges/article15833130.ece

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