National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms was set up in August, 2011 with the twin objectives of increasing access by reducing delays and arrears in the system and enhancing accountability through structural changes and by setting performance standards and capacities. The Mission has been pursuing a co-ordinated approach for phased liquidation of arrears and pendency in judicial administration, which, inter-alia, involves better infrastructure for courts including computerization, increase in strength of subordinate judiciary, policy and legislative measures in the areas prone to excessive litigation, re-engineering of court procedure for quick disposal of cases and emphasis on human resource development.
The major steps taken during the last eight years under various initiatives are as follows:
Improving infrastructure for Judicial Officers of District and Subordinate Courts: As on date, Rs. 9,13.21 crores have been released since the inception of the Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) for Development of Infrastructure Facilities for Judiciary in 1993-94. The number of court halls has increased from 15,818 as on 30.06.2014 to 20,993 as on 30.06.2022 and number of residential units has increased from 10,211 as on 30.06.2014 to 18,502 as on 30.06.2022 under this scheme. In addition, 2,777 court halls and 1,659 residential units are under construction (as per MIS data). The Centrally Sponsored Scheme for the Development of Infrastructure Facilities for Judiciary has been extended till 2025-26 at a total cost of Rs. 9,000 crore, out of which central share will be Rs. 5,307 crore. Besides, construction of Court Halls and Residential Units, it would also cover construction of lawyer’s halls, toilet complexes and digital computer rooms.
Leveraging Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for improved justice delivery: Government has been implementing the e-Courts Mission Mode Project throughout the country for information and communication technology enablement of district and subordinate courts. Number of computerized District & Subordinate courts has increased to 18,735 so far. WAN connectivity has been provided to 99.3% of court complexes. New and user-friendly version of Case Information Software has been developed and deployed at all the computerized District and Subordinate Courts. All stakeholders including judicial officers can access information relating to judicial proceedings/decisions of computerized District & Subordinate Courts and High Courts on the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG). As on 04.07.2022, litigants can access case status of over 20.86 crore cases and 18.02 crore order/judgments pertaining to these courts. eCourts services such as details of case registration, cause list, case status, daily orders & final judgments are available to litigants and advocates through eCourts web portal, Judicial Service Centres (JSC) in all computerized courts, eCourts Mobile App, email service, SMS push & pull services. Video Conferencing facility has been enabled between 3,240 court complexes and 1,272 corresponding jails. With a view to handle the COVID- 19 challenges better and to make the transition to virtual hearings smoother, 500 e-Sewa Kendras have been set up at court complexes to facilitate lawyers and litigants needing assistance ranging from case status, getting judgments/orders, court/case related information and efiling facilities. Rs. 5.01 crore has been allocated for providing equipment in video conferencing cabins in various court complexes to facilitate virtual hearings. Rs. 12.12 crore has been allocated for 1,732 Help desk counters for efiling in various court complexes.
Twenty virtual courts have been set up in 16 States/UTs viz. Delhi (2), Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala (2), Maharashtra (2), Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jammu & Kashmir (2), Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Meghalaya, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tripura and West Bengal to try traffic offences. As on 03.03.2022, these courts have handled more than 1.69 crore cases and realized more than Rs. 271.48 crore in fines.
Video conferencing emerged as the mainstay of the courts during the Covid lockdown period as physical hearings and normal court proceedings in the congregational mode were not possible. Since Covid lockdown started, the District courts heard 1,28,76,549 cases while the High Court heard 63,76,561 cases (totalling 1.92 crore) till 30.04.2022 using video conferencing. The Supreme Court had 2,61,338 hearings since the lockdown period upto 13.06.2022.
Filling up of vacant positions in Supreme Court, High Courts and District and Subordinate Courts: From 01.05.2014 to 15.07.2022, 46 judges were appointed in Supreme Court. 769 new judges were appointed and 619 additional judges were made permanent in the High Courts. Sanctioned strength of judges of High Courts has been increased from 906 in May, 2014 to 1,108 currently. Sanctioned and working strength of judicial officers in District and Subordinate Courts has increased.