CJI highlighted four issues of legal profession

GS Paper II

News Excerpt: 

CJI highlighted four issues within the judiciary on the Foundation Day address on the Supreme Court’s 75th year of establishment, that will have to be addressed through “difficult conversations.”

About India’s Supreme Court and its Foundation:

  • The Supreme Court of India came into existence on 26th January, 1950 and is located on Tilak Marg, New Delhi. 
  • On the 28th of January, 1950, two days after India became a Sovereign Democratic Republic, the Supreme Court came into being. 
  • After its inauguration on January 28, 1950, the Supreme Court commenced its sittings in a part of the Parliament House. 
  • The Court moved into the present building in 1958.
  • The Supreme Court of India comprises the Chief Justice and 33 other Judges appointed by the President of India.

More about the news:

CJI mentioned following 4 issues to reform Indian Judiciary:

  • Adjournment culture and its effect on justice delivery:
    • An adjournment refers to the court practice of delaying a scheduled hearing to a later date. 
    • Order XVII of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 provides rules for courts to follow when faced with adjournment requests. 
      • It states that courts shall not grant an adjournment to a party more than three times during the hearing of a suit.
    • The 239th Law Commission Report (2012) listed causes for delay in criminal cases at the trial court stage. 
      • It stated, the heavy workload in the courts is taken advantage of by the advocates to press for adjournments.
      • This presents a vicious cycle where adjournments lead to heavier workloads, which lead to even more adjournments.
  • Keeping the length of oral arguments in check:
    • Often in constitutional bench matters (cases that require 5 or more SC judges to decide an important question of law), the court will direct the parties to confer and create a time schedule for oral arguments. 
      • This is to ensure efficiency and so that arguments are not repeated by lawyers on the same side. 
      • This practice can be traced back to the Ayodhya title dispute.
    • The 99th Law Commission Report (1984) suggested limiting the time of arguments to half an hour.
    • The 230th Law commission report (2009) suggested limiting the time of arguments to one and half an hour, unless the case involved constitutional interpretation or a complex question of law.
  • Alternatives to long court vacations
    • The CJI referred to the possibility of alternatives like flexi-time for lawyers and judges. 
      • This is a practice where employees are allowed to choose their daily working hours so long as they work for a set total number of hours in a given period.
    • The last time the SC took action on vacation length was in 2014. 
      • The court notified the new SC Rules which state that summer vacation shall not exceed seven weeks (reduced from 10 weeks). 
        • This was in line with suggestions in the Malimath Committee Report (2003), which recommended an increase in working days at the SC by three weeks.
  • A level playing field for first generation lawyers:
    • The CJI also stressed the need to provide a level-playing field for first-generation lawyers and those from marginalised segments who have the “will to work” and “potential to succeed”. 
    • Highlighting recent progress, CJI said that 36.3% of the judges in district courts and over 50% of candidates selected in the recruitment exam for junior civil judges are women. 
      • 41% of law clerk candidates at the Supreme Court were also women.

Why is there a need to reform the Judiciary in India?

  • Judicial Delay and Backlog: Judiciary in India is burdened and remarkably slow. Backlog and delays in legal proceedings contribute to immense suffering for litigants. 
  • Under-Trial Prisoners: India has a high number of under-trial prisoners, with over two-thirds of the nearly 4.2 lakh inmates awaiting trial. Prolonged legal processes contribute to the large population of under-trial prisoners. 
  • Citizen Turn to Extra-Legal Alternatives: Frustration with the slow judicial system has led citizens to seek extra-legal alternatives. Lack of timely justice encourages individuals to explore non-legal means for dispute resolution.
  • Dependence on Judiciary for Justice: The propagation of justice in Indian society heavily relies on the judiciary. The credibility of the judiciary is crucial for maintaining civil order and ensuring social justice. 
  • Need for Judicial Credibility: The credibility of the judiciary is central to citizens' belief in court mechanisms. As long as citizens have faith in the integrity of the judiciary, it remains the interpreter of laws and the determinant of social.

Suggestions for the reformation for the judiciary system in India: 

  • E-Courts Project: The e-Courts project, started in 2005, aims to make the justice delivery system more efficient through the use of technology. This project can serve as a model for leveraging technology to improve the functioning of the judiciary.
  • Comprehensive Reform: Reforms should seek to remake the administrative functions of the judiciary in a comprehensive manner, accommodating various stakeholders’ ideas and interests over time. This includes the establishment of a National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation to focus on the judiciary’s administrative functions.
  • National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms: The National Mission for justice delivery and Legal Reforms was set up with the objectives of increasing access by reducing delays and arrears in the system. This involves better infrastructure for courts, computerization, an increase in the strength of the subordinate judiciary, and policy and legislative measures in areas prone to excessive litigation.
  • Appointment System: There is a need to reform the judges' appointment system, including the collegium system of appointing judges to High Courts and the Supreme Court. The appointment process should be transparent and based on merit to ensure that only deserving candidates are selected.


CJI has identified critical issues within the judiciary, emphasizing the urgent need for reforms. From tackling the adjournment culture and optimizing oral arguments to exploring alternatives for court vacations and ensuring a level playing field, these challenges require open dialogue and proactive measures to enhance the efficiency and inclusivity of the Indian judiciary.

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