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Judicial accountability
Law Minister Veerappa Moiley, reveals plan of using ICT for precise monitoring of number of arrears in each court. The expectation is for average case time to reduce as proper accountability mechanisms are put in place.

From the outset, Veerappa Moily has signalled his intent to etch his legacy in the law ministry. In the year that he has occupied office as the law minister, Moily has spoken out strongly for legal reforms, including on contentious issues such as the accountability of judges. In an interview, Moily spoke on this and a range of other issues; he justified the need to include caste in the ongoing census as a measure to not only ensure better targeting of reservations, but also to prevent the so-called creamy layer from reaping the benefits of caste-based affirmative action. Edited excerpts:

You have signalled your intent on legal reforms. What can we expect in the next few months?

We have laid the foundation for taking our reform measures forward. First, it relates to judicial reforms with particular focus on disposal of cases... Then we worked out a blueprint for (a) national legal mission which has been presented to the cabinet for an in-principle approval. It consists of the road map for judicial reforms. We have big plans to create e-courts, introduction of e-governance and also a national arrears grid. The national arrears grid ascertains the exact number of arrears in every court on a scientific basis and seeks to oversee continued reduction of arrears. The focus is how to reduce the (duration of the) case to less than three years. Now a case goes on for (an average of) 15-17 years.

We require judges and infrastructure. For this, we will have an SPV (special purpose vehicle) which will look after the funding part of it. We also have the programme of fast-track courts. We have extended their period as they were to expire in March. We would like to introduce this kind of a concept of fast-track courts for many other cases like that of senior citizens, women, children and cases involving terrorism. The idea is that innocent people should not suffer. At the same time, people who have committed crimes should be punished...

We are also devising a national litigation policy which will be operationalized by the law ministry. The fact is that the government today, at every level, whether at the state level or Central, is the biggest litigant.

What happened to the judicial accountability Bill?

As of now, the accountability standards of the judges are only dealt under the Judges (Inquiry) Act of 1968, which only refers to the impeachment proceedings and, very rarely, this happens.

Not a single case has been tried. Now two cases are pending, I do not know how long will it take. That is why, after a good consultation and deliberation spreading over about six-seven months and talking to all the stakeholders, including the judiciary, we have proposed a more comprehensive Judges Standards and Accountability Bill, which will consequently repeal the Judges (Inquiry) Act of 1968.

Source: The Mint