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Science begins with counting. To understand a phenomenon, a scientist must first describe it; to describe it objectively, he must first measure it.

– Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies

These words, written by Mukherjee in his seminal biography of cancer, aptly characterise the principal purpose of DAKSH’s Rule of Law Project, which is to understand the justice-delivery system in India using a data-driven approach.

In 2016, DAKSH released a report, titled State of the Indian Judiciary (SoJR), in which we focused on the most visible face of the justice-delivery system in India — the judiciary. In evaluating the work of the judiciary, we considered its primary challenge — pendency in the courts — as a means to understand how delays in the progress of cases affect citizens and the economy. We also presented findings from our pioneering survey on access to justice, which recorded litigants’ perceptions of, and experiences within, the judicial system.

As we pondered on the composition of DAKSH’s second report, we decided to retain the two principal aspects of the SoJR — delays in the judicial system and access to justice — as the fulcrum of this year’s report also, but examine them both more deeply and broadly. While the SoJR explored the systemic issues of administration and accountability in the judiciary, this year’s report is an in-depth scrutiny of the performance of courts, with an emphasis on their workload, case flow, and efficiency. While the SoJR reflected on access to justice, and in particular, its institutional dimensions (mainly relating to the judiciary), this year, we consider ‘justice’ more expansively — in terms of its underlying ideas, its administration and delivery by non-judicial bodies, as well as the various approaches to it in India.

Shruti Vidyasagar and Ramya Sridhar Tirumalai in Introduction to Approaches to Justice in India (2017)

The complete report has been indexed on SCC Online here:

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench of the Delhi High Court comprising of Vinod Goyal, J, directed the trial court to expedite proceedings in a pending criminal case in exercise of it’s inherent powers under Section 482 of the CrPC.

The petitioners had approached the Court aggrieved by an inordinate delay in disposal of a criminal trial arising out of an FIR filed by the first petitioner’s late father for offences under Sections 419, 420, 468 and 471 r/w Section 34  IPC. The petitioners pointed out that out of 36 listed witnesses, the prosecution had not called forward even one. Further, it was stated that the matter had been dragged on for more than 17 years since the FIR. The counsel for the petitioners argued that justice delayed is justice denied.

The Court acknowledged that the right to a speedy trial is an indispensable extension of the right to liberty and right against arbitrary detention. The Counsel argued on the basis of landmark cases of Rattiram v. State of MP, (2012) 4 SCC 516 and Kartar Singh v. State of Punjab, (1994) 3 SCC 569 among others to establish the Supreme Court’s stand on the right to speedy trial.

The Court took careful note of the circumstances, namely, that the trial had not commenced even though the charge-sheet was filed on 17.08.2001. The petition was hence, disposed of with the direction to the ACMM (North), Rohini Court, Delhi, before whom the trial was pending to make all endeavors necessary and at his command to record the prosecution evidence and conduct expeditious trial. The petition was disposed of accordingly. [Bir Singh v. State of NCT of Delhi, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 10919, decided on 18.09.2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: A seven-Judge Bench of the High Court through an order in a suo-motu matter issued directions regarding? establishment of video conferencing facilities in all the district courts and jails of the State so as to provide better connectivity, installation of CCTV cameras for ensuring security in court premises, installation of independent power feeder lines to ensure uninterrupted supply of electricity during court hours and for enhancement of the strength of the district judiciary to meet directions which were issued by the Supreme Court in Brij Mohan Lal v. Union of India, (2012) 6 SCC 502. The High Court has issued these directions and taken up the matter suo motu in the wake of spurt of incidents resulting in obstruction and derailment of work in both the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad and in the District Courts across the State.

The High Court directed the State Government that the time lines which were indicated by the Chief Secretary and Finance Secretary of the State before the Court shall be strictly observed and the installation of video conferencing facilities in fifty district courts in any event shall be completed by 31 December 2015. It was also directed that while installing video conferencing equipment in the district courts, the equipment that is installed shall have the capability of preserving data records for a period of not less than sixty days so that any objections to the modalities which have been followed in a particular case can be dealt with by the Judge concerned on the basis of the recording which is preserved.

The High Court also directed that requisite steps should be taken to ensure that the working strength of the district judiciary in the State is enhanced to 2500 judges during 2016-2017 from the current strength of about 2000. The High Court further directed that in order to ensure that the projects relating to the district judiciary are duly and appropriately monitored, State Government should constitute a Monitoring Committee which should consist of at least two Principal Secretaries of the State Government besides the Registrar General of this Court to facilitate periodical monitoring and resolution of problems which may arise. [In Re: Zila Adhivakta Sangh Allahabad, decided on 29.10.2015]