The Supreme Court Wednesday asked the Centre not to leave high courts at state governments’ mercy for funding of judicial infrastructure and to develop a centralised mechanism where money goes directly to them as per needs and requisitions.
The apex court also said that at times judiciary is unable to utilise all funds allocated to it, and commented in the lighter vein, ”We can say judges are misers. They don’t know how to spend…” The top court underlined further that at the time when the government is talking about ease of doing business, speedy disposal of corporate cases, settlement of disputes through arbitration and inviting foreign direct investment, it is imperative that the Centre has a centralised mechanism for development of the infrastructure and allocation of funds.
It appreciated the Centre’s efforts of taking into its hand the computerisation of judiciary, as funds have not been a problem, 17,000 courts have been computerised and judicial officers have been given laptops to ensure seamless connectivity.
It said the Centre can contemplate creating an umbrella body which will look at creation of judicial infrastructure as required.
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A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, Surya Kant and Vikram Nath batted for creation of specific cadre for tribunals and said that the Centre can contemplate creating an All India Tribunal Service for effective administration of tribunals.
The bench said: “We have found that infrastructure work gets completed fast when funds are allocated by the Centre. We appreciate the efforts of the Central government for speedy allocation of funds for creation of court infrastructure.
”We recently held a meeting of Chief Justices of different High Courts and all of them said one thing that they don’t know when the funds will be allocated by the State government. So, don’t leave the High Courts at the mercy of state governments for funds. You must create a centralised mechanism for development of judicial infrastructure.” The top court was deliberating upon the recommendation of Justice (retd) A K Sikri made in his report on the National Court Management System.
The bench said: “You see, we have inherited our judicial infrastructure from the British. Till the 1970s and 80’s the approach was to increase the strength of the judiciary by creating new vacancies and filling them.
”Now after that period, the approach of the judiciary and government has also changed. Now, at the time when the government is talking about ease of business, speedy disposal of corporate cases, settlement of disputes through arbitration and mediation and inviting foreign direct investment, it also understands the need for creation of additional infrastructure.” It asked Additional Solicitor General K M Nataraj to seek instruction on creation of an umbrella body like National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation, a sub-committee at the national and state levels and a central mechanism for allocation of funds for creation of infrastructure.
“We cannot wait for the Chief Justices’ benches to take up the matter of creation of judicial infrastructure. Several Chief Justices’ benches have passed certain directions in the past. Some Chief Justices have longer tenure and some have shorter tenure. It is very difficult to pursue the matter,” the bench said.
It accepted that the problem is also at the end of the judiciary as even if the funds are allocated, they remain unutilised, as the judges are unable to spend it. “In that sense, we can say judges are misers. They don’t know how to spend it. Judges are not supposed to do these things and they have other work to do. They are reluctant to get into all this. They will have to issue a tender and then oversee completion of work on time”, it said.
Nataraj said that courts can seek information from the high courts as to how many vacancies are not filled for want of adequate infrastructure.
The bench said, “Is this your case, that the judiciary is not filling vacancies because there is no adequate infrastructure. You cannot say that the judiciary should first fill the vacancies and then you will create judicial infrastructure”.
It said that a problem in tribunals is that there are no specific cadres and besides judicial members, people from various departments are made non-judicial members.
“In consumer tribunal, besides judicial members, people from other fields and departments are made members. The presiding officer does not have disciplinary control over them. All it can do is to recommend repatriating the member to the parent department. Hence, there is a need for creation of specific cadres under the All India Tribunal Service, which will cater to the needs of various tribunals. Like it is in the UK Her Majesty’s Tribunals Service”, it said.
The bench said that every time a central legislation is passed there is a creation of special courts and the burden of cases on judiciary is increased.
“You see, like for NDPS, PMLA and commercial matters, special courts are created. But where are the judges. Every time a central legislation is passed it increases the burden on the judiciary. For commercial courts, no specialised training is imparted to the judges. You should have a centralised training institute, where judges are trained on the subject”, it said.
Senior advocate Vibha Datta Makhija, who has been appointed amicus curiae in the matter, said that creation of a sub-committee at the national and state levels under the umbrella body will help in expeditious creation of infrastructure.