J&K soft-paddling on formulation of development plan for courts

Without robust infra judiciary will fail to deliver desired results: SC
Committee framed but not even single meeting convened

Mohinder Verma

JAMMU, Nov 5: Despite being aware of the fact that a sound infrastructure is the linchpin of a strong and stable judicial system, the State Government has yet not shown any seriousness towards the judgment of the Supreme Court of India whereby directions were issued for formulation of development plan for the courts.
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that in the Interlocutory Application No.279 of 2010 in Writ Petition titled All India Judges Association and Others Versus Union of India and Others, the Supreme Court Bench comprising the then Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A M Khanwilkar and Justice Dr D Y Chandrachud had on August 2, 2018 directed that in order to provide basic infrastructural facilities, amenities, utilities and access oriented features in all the court complexes, the States should formulate development plan for the courts.
The copies of the judgment were forwarded to the Chief Secretaries of all the States by the Registry of the Supreme Court requiring them to constitute a committee of which the Secretary of the Department of Law should be a member to formulate the development plan and present the status report.
The Jammu and Kashmir Government, while acting on the directives of the Apex Court, constituted a committee headed by Principal Secretary Finance Department vide Order No.1329-GAD dated August 31, 2018 to formulate the development plan for the courts especially subordinate courts in the State.
“However, the seriousness towards the Supreme Court judgment has remained confined to this step only as the committee has not met even once during the past over two months”, sources regretted, adding “even the State High Court has not nominated any officer for being member of the committee, which otherwise was the explicit direction of the Supreme Court in its judgment”.
The other members of the committee are Principal Secretary Planning, Development and Monitoring, Commissioner/Secretary Public Works and Secretary Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Departments.
When contacted, a senior officer in State High Court Registry confirmed that no communication regarding convening of the meeting of the committee has been received from the Government till date. “We will nominate member as and when meeting of the committee is fixed”, he added.
The development plan is required to be of three components—a short term or annual plan, a medium term or a five year plan and a long term or ten year plan.
While focusing on judicial infrastructure due regard has to be given to adequate and model court building, furniture, fixture, judges chamber, record/file storage, adequate sitting and recreation arrangement for staff and officers, sitting/waiting room for litigants and bar members, latest gadgets and technology.
“The core factors in the design of a court complex must reckon optimum working conditions facilitating increased efficiency of judicial officers and the administrative staff; easy access to justice to all and particularly to the underprivileged, persons with disability, women and senior citizens and safety and security of judges, administrative staff, litigants, witnesses and under-trial prisoners”, sources said.
The dilly-dallying approach on the part of State Government is notwithstanding the fact that Supreme Court had observed in the judgment that the responsibility for securing justice to the citizenry of country rests upon the judiciary which makes it imperative upon the State to provide the judicial wing the requisite infrastructure commensurate with the constitutional obligation of the judiciary.
“Without a robust infrastructure, the judiciary would not be able to function at its optimum level and, in turn, would fail to deliver the desired results”, the Apex Court had mentioned, adding “when people are aware of their rights, their desire to get the rights realised is enhanced and they would like to knock at the doors of the court to shape their aspiration into reality”.
The Apex Court judgment further read: “The consumers of justice expect prompt and effective delivery of justice in an atmosphere that is acceptable. Therefore, infrastructure enhancement will go a long way in strengthening functioning of the court and would improve the productivity in the justice delivery system”.
“A court complex is not just a building. It is the building of justice which breathes and infuses life into the exalted and sublime ideals of justice. The widening gap between the ideal and the real and between the vision and the pragmatic realization of justice has to be bridged by proper access to justice for all”, the Supreme Court said.