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This article is written by Aparna Jayakumar, from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University. This article talks about the duties of the Centre under Article 247 of the Indian Constitution.

Introduction

The Indian Constitution established a democratic welfare state that would provide equal opportunity to all, without discrimination of any kind, for personal growth and contribution to the nation’s cause; a system of governance based on the principle of “for the people” but more importantly “for the people’s welfare.”

India is said to have one of the world’s most fair and just legal systems. In light of the judgments handed down, this is not an unreasonable statement. Nonetheless, promptness and consistency of access to justice are a requirement of the accused’s Constitutional rights and the whole judicial system’s legitimacy. Justice should be delivered quickly and at a reasonable cost.

According to statistics, the backlogs in all courts equal several crores of cases, and it would take several decades for the existing courts and judiciary to fully resolve them, without any further case institution.

Power of Parliament under Article 247

Article 247 of the Indian Constitution gives parliament the authority to establish new or additional courts for the administration of justice. It specifically empowers parliament to create any additional courts for the better administration of parliamentary laws or any current law pertaining to a matter included in the Union List. However, this article does not imply that parliament lacks the authority to enforce union laws by state courts.

The Constitution 42nd (Amendment) Act, 1976 added Entry-11A to List III, allowing parliament to make laws concerning “administrative justice; constitution and organization of all courts, except the Supreme Court and High Courts.” 

Article 323A empowers the Parliament to create administrative tribunals, and Article 323B empowers the Parliament to establish tribunals for other matters such as revenue, foreign exchange, industrial and labour disputes, and so on.

Article 323A of the Constitution states that the parliament can create tribunals for the adjudication of disputes involving the recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed to public service by a central, state, local, or other authority, or a government-owned and regulated corporation. The jurisdiction and procedure of these tribunals may be specified in a law enacted by parliament for this reason. Article 323B empowers the legislature to establish tribunals in areas such as taxes, foreign trade, industrial and labour disputes, land reforms, urban property ceilings, and elections to the parliament or State Legislature.

The aim of these clauses is to relieve the courts of some of their responsibilities. For example, writ petitions are currently used to bring a large number of service cases before the High Courts. The creation of these tribunals would also aid in the successful execution of certain legislation, as tribunals will make decisions much faster than courts. These tribunals, however, do not bar the High Courts’ and Supreme Court’s jurisdictions under Article 226 and Article 32, respectively. 

While these tribunals can be released from the control of the high courts, it is recommended that legislatures not do so in every case, particularly when it comes to tribunals enforcing penal penalties, since many people would be unable to appeal tribunal judgments to the Supreme Court, resulting in a denial of justice to them.

Establishment of additional courts by Laws enacted by Parliament

India has made great strides. Increased economic development, globalization, and legal obligations under numerous international treaties have all fueled legal activity, resulting in new and more complex disputes and conflicts. The State’s responsibility does not end with the passage of legislation. Statutory provisions aimed at achieving social justice must be backed up by a mechanism that enforces the rights and responsibilities established as a result.

Experience has also shown that new legislation establishing new rights and responsibilities is enacted without an assessment of the amount of new litigation that will be generated in the future and without a corresponding increase in the numerical strength of the courts to prepare them to take on such additional responsibility. The litigation resulting from Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act is a classic example in this sense.

Mounting arrears of cases in court

The number of cases filed in the Supreme Court is mind-boggling. There is no other apex court in the world that hears as many cases as are taken by the Supreme Court of India. The same applies to the number of cases brought before high courts and subordinate courts. The number of cases filed is a source of strength for us because it demonstrates people’s trust in us. 

Because of the large amount of pendency, our weakness is also numbers. It is essential to address the issue of long delays as soon as possible and to provide justice to the people of this country in a timely manner. When a criminal case, civil suit, or writ petition takes ten to fifteen years to resolve, it can be considered a lack of true justice.

Causes and remedies to deal with arrears under Article 247

  1. The Law Commission stated in its 120th Report (1987) that India had 10.5 courts per million people, compared to 41.6 judges in Australia, 75.2 in Canada, 50.9 in England, and 107 in the United States.
  2. The Supreme Court ordered in the All Indian Judges Association v. Union of India case in 2002 that the number of courts per million population in India should be increased from 10.5 to 50 in a phased manner over the next five years. If the number needs to be increased to 50 per million, the subordinate courts alone should have 50,000 judges.
  3. The existing backlog of proceedings, however, cannot be accommodated due to a lack of courtrooms. When it appears that the number of cases is growing beyond the capacity of existing courts, new courts should be created. 
  4. The expansion of fast-track courts is a good start, but it needs to be accelerated significantly.
  5. The insufficient ‘Judge-Population Ratio.’ This aspect has been highlighted by a number of commissions and committees, as well as judicial orders. 
  6. At all levels, there is an urgent need to strengthen the judiciary. 
  7. In India, there are just 10 to 15 judges per million people, and they are often overworked by up to 500% on a daily basis.
  8. The government’s complacency is directly responsible for this imbalance. 
  9. Beyond a refusal to fund, the requisite expansion of the judiciary, delays in the appointment of judges when vacancies arise are common, and can only be attributed to governmental disorganization, as the exact date of judges’ retirement is known well in advance. 
  10. There are over 140 vacancies of judges in the high courts and over 2,000 in subordinate courts.

Parliament should not only establish additional courts, but it should also include the appropriate mechanisms for their operation. As a result, well-trained judges must fill the vacancies. For a long time, the question of financial autonomy has been unresolved. Though the judiciary has been blamed for mounting court case backlogs, it has no control over financial resources, nor does it have the authority to establish new courts, hire court personnel, or expand the facilities needed by the courts. In these matters, ideally, the judiciary should have autonomy. The growing backlog of cases and the consistency of the judgments issued are inevitably impacted by these funding gaps.

Article 247 empowers the parliament to create new courts in order to improve the administration of justice. The government must authorise the necessary funds, infrastructure, and staffing in order to construct additional courts. Despite the fact that a significant number of such additional courts have been formed and are performing admirably, the fact that the financial sanction is solely in the hands of the government often slows down the establishment of the courts. As a result, if the judiciary is granted any financial control, it is possible. It will help to speed up the system, which is urgently needed.

Recent case law

Re: Expeditious Trial of Cases 

According to a five-judge Constitution bench led by Chief Justice S A Bobde, the centre has the power and the responsibility to create additional courts to deal with cheque dishonour cases under the provisions of the Negotiable Instruments (NI) Act under Article 247 of the Constitution. The bench held that the power conferred by the said article is accompanied by a duty on the part of the central government to direct the establishment of new courts.

As per Article 274, the parliament has the authority to issue orders for the establishment of additional courts in relation to the matters mentioned in the Union List. This preliminary view of the bench was observed in a suo moto case filed to devise steps to speed up the trials conducted under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, which deals with check bounce cases.

The apex court took suo moto cognizance because cheque dishonor accounts for approximately 30% of all pending cases at the trial stage. Previously, when the Central Government sought input on this subject, the Additional Solicitor General submitted a note outlining alternative steps, as suggested by the Union Ministry of Finance, to address the problem. 

The SC decided against implementing the suggestions made by the Union Ministry of Finance. The bench issued an order establishing a committee of Secretaries from various Ministries to investigate the matter. The said committee will be chaired by a former judge with extensive experience in trial matters.

Conclusion

The power granted to parliament by the Constitution in Articles 247, 323A, and 323B is significant and should be used in the right spirit to ensure justice for all. The Government of India is required to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights of its people, and as such is obligated to take all positive steps, both in conduct and outcome, to correct any institutional irregularities that obstruct the administration of justice. The state’s responsibility does not end with the passage of legislation. 

Statutory provisions aimed at achieving social justice must be backed up by a mechanism that enforces the rights and responsibilities established as a result. The additional courts created by Parliament have significantly aided in the administration of justice, which is the primary goal of empowering Parliament to create additional courts.

According to statistics, the additional courts have significantly aided in the expeditious resolution of disputes that would have taken decades to resolve in civil or criminal courts alone. There is once again the issue of the government’s financial burden in establishing such additional courts, but in the interests of the public and the administration of justice, which is the government’s aim, the government should take all reasonable steps to establish them.

References


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