News Excerpt
Several lawyers wrote to Chief Justice of India seeking to resume regular physical hearing, saying that the virtual hearing system has failed to adequately serve the effective justice delivery system.

•    Lawyers feel helpless because they have no accessibility to the judges, which they used to have earlier, to express their concerns before the judges.
•    Majority of members of the Bar are not well versed with this virtual system due to which they are suffering the most and also defeating the purpose of free and fair justice delivery system.
•    Network connectivity issues, no proper management by the Registry regarding virtual hearing, no response to the calls by the dealing officers, dismissal of mentioning of urgent matters by the mentioning branch without providing any justiciable reason.

Other issues
    Comprehensive analysis of India’s manpower and capacity for justice delivery has painted a bleak picture of the ecosystem in terms of its various elements —police, prisons and judiciary.
    The country’s capacity to deliver justice has serious deficits with under-capacity and gender imbalance plaguing these three pillars and a funding crunch affecting state services like free legal aid.
    Women are poorly represented in police, constituting only 7% of the force in 2017. They accounted for 10% of prison staff in 2016 and 26.5% of judges in high courts and subordinate courts in 2017-18.
    There is a high level of vacancies in the justice delivery system ranging from 22% in police, 33-38.5% in prisons and 20-40% in judiciary. Prisons are over-occupied and 68% of the occupants are undertrials awaiting investigation, inquiry or trial.
    The legal aid system mandates that 80% of the Indian population is eligible to avail free legal services. But unfortunately, from the 1.25 billion population, only 15 million have been able to avail its benefit since 1995," says the report, adding that the per capita spend on legal aid was just ₹0.75 in 2017-18.
    Poor Judge to people ratio; frequent adjournments due to inexplicable reasons; incompetent/unethical lawyers; fraudulent litigations;under-resourced and overburdened system; poor infrastructure; delay on the part of investigative agencies.
    Lack of court management systems: Courts have created dedicated posts for court managers to help improve court operations, optimise case movement and judicial time. However, only few courts have filled up such posts so far.
    Malimath Committee Report on police: Excessive workload; Inadequacy of logistical and forensic backup support; Interrupting investigation by being withdrawn for L&O work during investigation (National Police Commission Recommendation); Lack of coordination with prosecution.

Steps taken in recent times
    National e-Court Project  
    Court Cases Monitoring System
    CCTNS
    National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) Act, 1987 which provides for organizing Lok Adalats.

Way Forward
    Re-engineer procedures: Identify & remove bottlenecks; Categorization & clubbing of cases; Greater requirement of financial resources.
    Leverage ICT tools: Database; Modernization and digitization; E-courts
    Focus on HRD: Staffing & recruitment; Bridging the demand & supply; Training & performance management
    Increasing access by reducing delay.
    Enhancing accountability through structural changes & setting benchmarks.
    Strengthening the Institutional framework at 3 stages i.e., awareness generation, acceptance, and implementation, in order to make ADRs more effective and successful.
    As per the recent gender equality policy of the Punjab government it has become mandatory to include women judges in the local administration committee of district judges. Such steps will bridge the gap.
    Raise the retirement age of the High Court judges to 65 years from the current 62 years.

An effective and inclusive justice delivery system is crucial to ensure the constitutional guarantee of speedy, free and fair trial, which is a fundamental right under Article 21.