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Report No. 245

5. Efficient Deployment of Judicial Resources:

The Commission recognizes that apart from increasing the judge strength, there is also need for efficient deployment of the additional judicial resources. While the rate of Disposal Method indicates how many additional judges are required it does not indicate how these additional judicial resources should be allocated (e.g., which Courts, which districts, what types of cases) to best meet the goal of delay reduction.

Further, the Commission also recognizes that the most efficient allocation of resources will depend upon various local factors and micro level analyses, for which pan-India recommendations may be inappropriate. Therefore, the Law Commission recommends that once appointments are made, High Courts should make appropriate allocation of judicial work, keeping in mind the following factors:

a. In this report, all cases pending for less than a year have been treated as current cases. All cases pending for more than a year have been categorized as backlogged cases. The Commission recognizes that this division is ad hoc. However, as elaborated earlier in this report, we do not have any established metric for determining when a case can be considered delayed for purpose of counting only delayed cases in the backlogged category.

In the absence of this information, a time frame of one year has been taken as the period for considering a case as current or backlogged. It is possible that a Court with high pendency of backlogged cases might have many recently filed pending cases whereas another Court with a relatively lower backlog may have a high proportion of very old pending cases. High Courts should, therefore, allocate more resources for Courts with more old pending matters than those with relatively new case loads.

b. It is also important to note that not every case requires the same amount of judicial time or resources. A petty case may be considered delayed if it takes more than 3 months whereas a murder case may be considered disposed of well in time if it takes 6 months for disposal. However, the rate of Disposal Method does not take this complexity into account.

The Commission has taken one, two and three years as the time frames within which pending cases should be disposed of. However, one year might be too much time for some cases, and too little for others. A benchmark to determine delay and the requisite age wise break up of cases by subject area, can help to determine what percentage of cases are delayed and hence require targeted intervention. On the general principle of first in, first out for each type of case, High Courts should allocate more resources for Courts with more delayed pending cases.

c. Similarly, even if a Court has a relatively high rate of disposal, some cases in that Court might be very old and moving at a very slow pace, compared to the bulk of the case load, which may be simpler and moving at a much faster rate. Since the overall rate of disposal averages out the rate of disposal of specific types of cases, a high overall rate of disposal may mask the fact that some cases such are stagnating for long periods within such a Court. Therefore, even if some Courts have a very high rate of disposal, the High Court should not re-allocate judicial resources in those Courts, without first determining how current their case loads are.

d. Relatedly, even though the general picture that emerges lets system know how much extra judicial time is required to clear up the backlog and prevent the system from getting backlogged in the near future, the Rate of Disposal Method does not tell anything about how judicial time and effort should be spent so as to cater to the needs of the socially and legally marginalized who are often likely to need more judicial resources in order to meet their basic legal needs.

The method does not provide a way to tailor judicial resource allocation based on the different needs of different groups. It treats all cases as similar from the point of view of delay reduction regardless of the nature of the right being asserted or the person making the assertion. Therefore, High Courts should provide guidelines to Subordinate Courts to ensure that older or more complex or more priority cases (for example, those relating to sexual violence) do not stagnate in the system.

e. Finally, even if judges of a particular category are disposing of cases at a high rate, this indicates nothing about the quality of decision-making of such judges. The focus of the method is on the quantitative output without compromising the current qualitative standard. However, there might be trade-offs involved between the quantity and the quality of decision-making that the model does not take into account.

If some judges are actually compromising on the quality of decision-making and are thus being able to dispose of more cases, the model will recommend a lesser number of additional judges, compared to the additional judges that would be required to dispose of the same number of cases in a more qualitatively sound manner.39 The Commission, therefore, recommends that in allocating the additional judicial resources, High Courts should pay heed to the quality of decision making in the Courts concerned.

39. It is pertinent to note that in its order dated February 1, 2012, in the present case, the Supreme Court noted that "access to justice must not be understood in a purely quantitative dimension. Access to justice in an egalitarian democracy must be understood to mean qualitative access to justice as well. Access to justice is, therefore, much more than improving an individual's access to Courts, or guaranteeing representation. It must be defined in terms of ensuring that legal and judicial outcomes are just and equitable."

In sum, therefore, the rate of Disposal Method described in this report should be seen as giving an approximation of required judicial strength that can then be adjusted and allocated on the basis of other considerations, which can include, but are not limited to: (1) adjustments made for inaccuracies in available data; (2) a particularly large number of cases that have been pending for an excessive period of time which may indicate a need for more judicial resources and (3) relevant feedback about pendency and judicial functioning in the State and particular districts from stakeholders.

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